Delete Negative Items From Your Credit Report

Recently we checked out our credit report and were surprised to see a $500 unpaid charge. It was from a video store we frequented in college. (We could’ve sworn we returned Wicker Man….) The video store had never sent us any notice and the debt was sold to a collection agency, who had also never contacted us. Odd.

No matter, we clicked on the items in our online credit reports and clicked “dispute this charge.”

We selected from a drop box something like, “Never received any notice of account being due,” and wrote two sentences to that effect. Clicked the submit button, had a beer and watched some TV.

A month later, a letter from Experian arrived. It said they deleted the negative items from our credit report. Sweet. Easy peasy. We hope the other two bureaus we disputed with are such as cinch.

Now you try it, at annualcreditreport.com. Ignore any pitches for extra services, your credit report is free by federal law and there’s no reason to give anyone a credit card number. — BEN POPKEN

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  1. Chris Gibson says:

    I’ve heard a number of times that for the various credit providers, responding to disputes about bad credit reports is a cost center they prefer not to feed. That is, they don’t want to spend the money to respond to challenges, so they just ignore them, which means that the credit reporting agencies must delete the info.

    Indeed, I have challenged a number of items on my credit reports over the years, including both legitimate disputes AND legitimate negative info (that was admittedly a couple of years old), and never once has the reporting company responded, and every single time the negative information has been deleted.

  2. Theora says:

    So I went to the site, and had no trouble getting my Experian report; however, when I attempted to retrieve my Equifax report, my security questions asked about my mortgage. That wouldn’t be an issue, except that I’ve never owned a home. As I couldn’t “correctly” answer the questions (“None of the above” for both questions didn’t work, oddly enough), I was denied my credit report. I tried every phone number on the site, and it would seem that the only one that isn’t automated is “Members Only,” meaning that I would have to pay for website access to get the phone number. Shady. I encountered a similar problem with TransUnion. They claim that I have a username and password, even though I don’t. Again, denied access to my report, and if I want to talk to a live person, I better be prepared to pay.

    Good times.

  3. oudemia says:

    I had a similar sort of item deleted recently (a $27 bill from MCI in 2001??).
    Much more harrowing was the discovery that SallieMae had reported (in November of 2006) that in October of 2001 I had been more than 90 days late on repayment of my undergrad loans. In reality, I was then (and am now) in grad school and those loans are in deferment. And certainly Sallie Mae never tried to collect anything from me — since those loans are in deferment. I clicked the easy-peasy box on the Experian report. One month later I was told that SallieMae says they’re right and Experian won’t remove the derogatory info. After my head exploded, I contacted my university, got them to send me all of my “proof of enrollment” forms, and called SallieMae. After some hollering at the beleaguered staff in Bengaluru came many apologies and admissions of fault and promises to send retraction notices to all of the credit reporting bureaux. I then called them every day for a week until they actually processed the retraction. I also sent copies of my enrollment and deferment status forms to the credit agencies myself. Nothing has been officially removed yet, so wish me luck.

  4. Mauvaise says:

    What about paid collections – they are counted as a big fat negative, right? Is there a way to get those removed before they fall off on their own, seven long years later?

  5. Papa K says:

    Contest anything and everything! I got items removed simply by asking them, and they were all products of my college life indiscretion.

    Just, as per usual, don’t be an ass. Keep it simple. I’ve gotten items removed by requesting they be removed ‘as a sign of good faith’ since I was late on a payment three years ago, but haven’t since.

  6. William Mize says:

    Here’s a tip from me to you, on how to use this system to your advantage.
    On January 1, go to the above site and get your credit report from one of the three bureaus.
    I always spend the extra $7.95 to get my FICO score, but that’s just me.
    Wait 4 months. Go back to the above site, get another report from a different bureau.
    Wait 4 months. Go back to the above site, get another report from the last and final bureau.
    This allows you to keep a pretty watchful eye on your rating, activity, etc.

  7. thrillhouse says:

    Mauvaise

    What about paid collections – they are counted as a big fat negative, right? Is there a way to get those removed before they fall off on their own, seven long years later?

    Yes and no. As others have noted, if the company in question is too lazy to respond in 30 days, then yes, the reporting companies are required to remove it no matter if it is reported acurately or not. Which is just pathetic, but atleast the consumer benefits this time. If they do respond, then no, you have no leg to stand on.

  8. etinterrapax says:

    I couldn’t believe the number of errors on my credit reports (I had the same problem with Experian, Theora. I’ll send them their form, but I wish I knew what the heck they were talking about). Three wrong phone numbers (all old), several misspelled or creatively interpreted names, and a few old accounts I didn’t recognize. I was able to contest everything but the names–evidently, I have to call for that. Very enlightening. TransUnion also listed when negative information was due to drop off of the report, and most legitimate bad items were going in 2007. That’ll probably bring a flood of credit card offers, go me. ::eyeroll::

  9. Mike_ says:

    Theora, I had a similar experience. I had no trouble getting into my Experian account, but Equifax refused my request after I answered the security questions. I didn’t bother registering for a TransUnion account. Given the simplicity of the other two bureaus, it seems unnecessarily burdensome to require registration in order to see the information I am legally entitled to.

    If you ask me, the FICO score should be free. Let’s write our legislators.

  10. Scott in DC says:

    Wish I had good luck like that. I have a couple items on my credit report – and when I’ve called the company that is listed as owning the debt, not only is the phone number wrong, but they can’t find any information on the debt.

    Every time I contest it with Experian, they get back to me in days saying “Account Verified, nothing changed”.

    Something hinkey here, but I don’t know what to do about it.

  11. acambras says:

    Thanks, Ben! I just printed out my Equifax report, and made entries in my calendar to check Transunion in 4 months and Experian in 8. It feels better to have that out of the way.

  12. Theora says:

    I actually managed to dig through TransUnion’s website enough to find their phone number (1-800-916-8800), and shockingly enough (not), I was connected to an Indian woman. So now I feel extra super secure in how they’re handling my information (sure, she *could* be in the US, but come on guys, what’s the percentage of US-based company call centers in India now?) in probably another country. She *did* say that I would be receiving a hard copy of my credit report within 5-7 business days, so that was good. I thanked her profusely, and am now going to see if I can find anything remotely useful on crazy unused parts of Equifax’s website.

  13. jacromer says:

    Any truth to the rumor that waiting to dispute near the Thanksgiving/Christmas holidays increases your chances that the item will be removed due to ‘no response’ from the creditor?

    I’ve always wondered that.