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When does old debt fall off credit reports?

How do I find out the timeline on my debt? I know after six or seven years the debt is taken off. I would like to know if there is a way to see whether it is gone.

Here's how you know whether a debt has vanished: Check your credit reports. Make sure to check all three of them because each may have different information. You can view your credit reports from the three major credit bureaus — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion — for free once each year. You can access your reports by visiting AnnualCreditReport.com.

Once you receive your credit reports, you can check to see which debts are still showing up. The Fair Credit Reporting Act states that most negative items must be removed from your credit reports seven years from the first date of delinquency. Some exceptions to the seven-year rule include Chapter 7 bankruptcy filings (10 years), judgments (seven years or until the state statute of limitations expires, whichever is longer) and money owed to or guaranteed by the government (unpaid taxes or student loans remain on your reports indefinitely or until seven years from the date paid).

The way your question is worded, I believe you may also be asking how long until the debt goes away entirely. With that in mind, the Fair Credit Reporting Act rules apply only to the reporting life of a debt, not the collecting life span. Your state's statute of limitations for collecting a debt governs how long the debt can be legally collected using the courts. However, collection companies can attempt to collect the debt outside of the courts past the statute of limitations date.

So if you are hoping the debt will go away not only from your credit reports but also from your life, you may not get your wish. Oldie but goodie debts are called "stale debts" in the industry. They represent a thriving business, as they are often sold and resold for pennies on the dollar. The only sure way to get rid of a debt is to pay what you owe or at least an agreed-upon portion of what you owe.

If your ultimate goal is to put your debt behind you and move on with a clean slate, I recommend that you contact the collectors listed on your credit reports for the accounts you know are yours. Make sure you know the amount you owe and come to a payment agreement. Before you call to negotiate, I strongly suggest that you know what you can realistically afford to pay per month or in a lump sum. If you negotiate a payment for less than the full amount owed, be sure to get the payment agreement in writing before you send in any payment.

When does old debt fall off credit reports? 02/07/14 [Last modified: Sunday, February 9, 2014 7:25pm]
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