Information about any credit account you hold will typically stay on your credit report for seven years, whether it's bad or good. You can't have information removed from your file that's been accurately reported. However, you can get rid of accounts that have been on your report for seven years or longer or lines of credit you didn't open.
Ask the credit bureau that's reporting the rogue account to scrub it from your records. You'll be able to do this by using the agency's online dispute reporting pages. The bureau will contact the creditor that owned the account and complete its investigation within 30 days. A lender will notify a credit bureau if its records show a mistake. The disputed account will stay on your file if you've messed up and it should have been there all along.
Contact any collections agency you've settled a charged-off account with if the payment hasn't shown up on your report. Although this won't get the account removed from your file, you'll be able to ask the debt collector you paid to tell the three major credit bureaus -- Equifax, Experian and TransUnion -- that you've paid up. Your account will then show on your report as being settled. An unsettled charge-off on your file can seriously hurt your chances of getting credit in the future. Collections agencies can sometimes be a little tardy in sending updates to credit bureaus.
Add an explanatory note to any account you can't get removed. If a credit bureau refuses to remove an account you think should not be on your file, you have a legal right to have a comment added to your report. There's no guarantee this will influence any lender you make a credit application to, though.
File an identity-theft report with your local police department if somebody has fraudulently opened an account in your name. This report will be passed to the three major credit bureaus. Information relating to any fraudulent activity will then be kept off your credit file.
- Federal Trade Commission: Building a Better Credit Report
- Balance: How to Remove Credit Report Inaccuracies
- Fox Business: How to Remove Charge-Offs From Credit Report?
- Federal Trade Commission: Should You File A Police Report If Your Identity Is Stolen?
- National Consumers League's Internet Fraud Watch: Internet Fraud Tips
- If an account opened by someone with a similar name to yours has managed to find its way onto your report, the entry on your file will show the other person's address and date of birth. This will make it easy to prove it's got nothing to do with you.
- If you want to get rid of an account you closed more than seven years ago, you may need to supply evidence you paid it off.
- If you want to do away with an account that was charged off more than seven years ago, you'll need to wait seven years and 180 days since your creditor wrote off your debt.
- Don't pay for the services of a credit repair firm to get accounts removed from your file. These companies won't be able to do anything beyond what you'll be able to do yourself.
Michael Roennevig has been a journalist since 2003. He has written on politics, the arts, travel and society for publications such as "The Big Issue" and "Which?" Roennevig holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from the Surrey Institute and a postgraduate diploma from the National Council for the Training of Journalists at City College, Brighton.