How To Remove Collections From Your Credit Report
Hanna Kielar5-minute read
PUBLISHED: May 16, 2023
Defaulting on a loan can have various consequences, one of which could be your lender sending your debt off to a debt collection agency. The collection account will go away after a certain amount of time but can be removed sooner if the account is there in error. The most certain way to remove a collection account from your credit report is to successfully dispute inaccurate information. If the debt has been repaid already, you could also request what’s called a “goodwill deletion.”
Let’s take a deeper dive into how to remove collections from your credit report – and ways to make this happen.
Can You Remove A Collection From Your Credit Report?
As mentioned already, a collection can be removed from your credit report if you can prove an error was made. However, if the collection account on your report is accurate, your chances of having it removed are much lower.
When lenders hire debt collectors to retrieve unpaid debts, the collections are reported to the three main credit bureaus – Equifax®, Experian® and TransUnion® – and stay on your credit report for 7 years from the start of the delinquency, or your first missed or late payment.
After those 7 years, the collection will fall off your credit report naturally. If you believe you have a case for removing it sooner, though, you’ll want to read on to uncover your next steps.
How To Get Collections Removed From Your Credit Report
Your odds of successfully removing a collection account from your credit report can be largely influenced by whether the account has been paid or remains unpaid, and your next steps can vary as well.
Review the below steps for getting a collection account removed from your credit report.
1. Check Your Credit Report For Errors
To start, you should check your credit report with the three credit bureaus. Doing this will let you know which bureau – if not all three – is reporting the collection. You’ll also be able to see the name of the debt collection agency and original creditor, how long the account has been on your report and whether it’s been paid, unpaid or is a charge-off.
Compare what you find on your credit report to your personal records, or payment history with the original creditor. If you find discrepancies and want to correct them, proceed to the next step.
2. Determine If The Account Is Legitimate
Use what you find on your credit report to determine whether the debt actually belongs to you or you’ve already paid it. If the collection account appears accurate, you can only do so much. However, if the information on your report is inaccurate and you can prove it, you could dispute the error and possibly have it removed.
3. Dispute The Inaccurate Account
The Fair Credit Reporting Act gives consumers the right to dispute – directly with the source – inaccuracies or errors on their credit reports. You can dispute with debt collectors and creditors/credit card issuers over the phone or through the mail – and it might be worth using this dispute letter sample from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) as a guide. More easily, you could submit a dispute through each credit bureau’s website, which features a submission form for credit report disputes.
If one or all of the credit bureaus made the error, they have 30 days to investigate and respond to your dispute, after which the account could be removed if your dispute is deemed valid. If the collection agency made the error, you can request the debt collectors provide debt validation. After 30 days, the collection agency must be able to validate the debt is yours or remove the account.
4. Ask For A Goodwill Deletion
Let’s say the debt does belong to you but you’ve already paid it off. You can request to remove paid collections from your credit report by sending the debt collector or original creditor a goodwill deletion letter. This is less a dispute and more the consumer asking to remove a collection because it’s been paid off, so collectors and creditors have no obligation to grant an early removal. Still, it never hurts to try.
5. Send A Pay-For-Delete Letter
If you want an unpaid collection removed from your credit report, you could attempt to negotiate a “pay-for-delete” agreement with the debt collection agency. Similar to a goodwill deletion letter, a pay-for-delete letter offers full payment of the collection in exchange for its removal from your credit report.
Unfortunately, it’s rare that debt collectors agree to this exchange. Since the collection is legitimate, the collection agency and credit bureaus will likely want your collection to serve the full 7 years on your report.
6. Wait For The Collection To Fall Off
When all else fails, you may just have to wait until the collection goes away on its own. There’s nothing to dispute if the collection is legitimate, and debt collectors, lenders and credit bureaus aren’t obligated to grant requests for deletion when collection reports are accurate.
Again, a collection remains on your credit report for 7 years from the start of your account’s delinquency. However, it can have less of an effect on your credit score as you near the end date.
7. Check Your Credit Report Again For Changes
If you’ve successfully disputed an inaccurate collections report or convinced the original creditor or debt collector to delete a paid account, you should follow up after 30 days to make sure the changes went through on your credit report.
If all looks good, then you can celebrate the collection’s removal as you please.
How Collections Impact Your Credit
Collections can cause real damage to your credit score and particularly your payment history, which makes up 35% of your FICO® Score. More recent collections can have the biggest effect on your score and have less of an effect over time, especially if you’re continually paying the debt down. As noted, though, even a paid account can affect your score if it remains on your credit report for the full 7 years.
Take steps to repair your credit while waiting for a collection to fall off your report. Work on paying down your outstanding debts or diversify your credit mix with new accounts such as a personal loan.
FAQs For Getting Collections Removed
Now that we’ve looked at multiple options for removing collections from your credit report, here are some frequently asked questions about the process.
Can paying off collections raise my credit score?
Paying off a collection account has the potential to raise, lower or have no impact on your credit score. However, if your credit is in good shape aside from the collection, then paying the debt down could give your score a slight boost.
Does paying off collections remove them?
No, credit bureaus will still keep a collection on your credit report even after you’ve paid them. The rule is that a collection remains on your report for 7 years if the account is legitimate and you’re unable to dispute or delete it.
How do I remove collections from my credit report without paying them?
You could remove a collection from your credit report without paying it by writing a goodwill deletion letter to your original creditor or debt collector. In the letter, you may explain your current financial situation or show how your payment history has improved. This method rarely leads to the collection being removed, however.
Can a delinquent account be removed online or by mail?
If a delinquent account is inaccurate or doesn’t belong to you, you can submit a dispute form through the website of any of the three credit bureaus. Disputing with a collector or creditor typically happens over the phone or by sending a dispute letter by mail.
After 30 days, check your credit report again to confirm an inaccurate collection has been removed.
The Bottom Line
A collection on your credit report can cause serious damage to your credit score and ultimately make it difficult to qualify for future loans and credit. If you can’t wait the full 7 years for a collection to fall off and you have a good case for removing it, review your options and take the next steps. If the collection account is legitimate, though, you may not be able to get it removed.
To avoid future collections, take steps to pay down your debt before missing a payment.
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