If you’ve had collections listed on your credit report, then you know it can drop your FICO score significantly.
But how do you remove collection accounts from your credit profile?
This article provides some proven strategies to help you get collections removed from your credit report and increase your credit rating.
How long before a collection is reported to the Credit Bureau?
Once an account goes about 150 days past due, a creditor will turn the account over to collections. They will either pass it on to their in-house collections department or sell the debt to a collection agency for pennies on the dollar.
The collection agency will attempt to collect the debt from you. Usually, you are given a few weeks to settle the debt before reporting to the Credit Bureaus. However, they may also report it immediately.
If at all possible, it is best to work out a settlement arrangement with the collection company before it is listed on your report. They will work out a payment arrangement with you. This way, you can avoid the account from hurting your credit history.
Disputing inaccurate collections directly with the Credit Bureaus
If you notice any information on your credit report that is inaccurate, you can dispute it with the Credit Bureaus directly.
You can dispute anything on your credit report with all three Credit Bureaus by mail, online, or phone.
Credit Bureau Dispute Information
TransUnion Consumer Dispute Center
- P.O. Box 2000 Chester, PA 19016
- Tips for disputing your Transunion credit report
- Online: https://dispute.transunion.com
- Phone: 800-916-8800 – 8am-11pm EST
- P.O. Box 4500 Allen, TX 75013
- Tips for disputing your Experian credit report
- Online: https://www.experian.com/consumer/upload/
- Phone: (714) 830-7000
Equifax Information Services LLC
- P.O. Box 740256 Atlanta, GA 30374
- Online: https://www.equifax.com/personal/disputes
- Phone: (800) 846-5279
Will paying off a collection improve your credit score?
Actually, this is a common misconception. The fact is, paying off a collection account will not improve your FICO score. Collection agencies and debt settlement companies will tell you the opposite because they want your money. When you pay off a derogatory account, the balance will be reported as paid, but your credit score will not increase.
The number of collection accounts you have, regardless of the amount owed, counts against your credit rating the same. The older these accounts get, the less impact they will have on your score, but paid or unpaid, it doesn’t matter.
The only way you can increase your credit score is by having the collection completely removed from your credit report.
6 Ways to Remove Collection Accounts from Your Credit Report
1. Ask the Collection Agency to Validate the Debt
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) regulates collection agencies and requires them to produce consumer requests to validate the debt be provided within 30 days. Otherwise, they are subjected to substantial fees and fines.
You can find a sample debt validation letter that you can mail to the creditor here.
Make sure you send it certified mail. If they fail to respond within 30 days, you will have documentation to include in your report. You can initiate a complaint here.
2. Dispute the account with the Credit Bureau even if it’s accurate
The Credit Bureaus will launch an investigation on anything you dispute unless they consider it to be frivolous. Also, if a debt collection account is yours and is accurate, you can still dispute it. You will have to claim the account isn’t yours or that is inaccurate in some way.
The Credit Bureau will launch an investigation and has 30 days to verify the account belongs to you, or it must be deleted from your report. This is the basic principle behind credit repair companies.
They simply dispute the negative credit items and hopes the creditor fails to validate them within 30 days. Medical debt is one of the easier types of debt to remove from your report because of the HIPPA privacy laws.
You may be able to get 50% or more of your medical collections removed from your report simply by disputing them. Other types of accounts are less frequently deleted, but getting half of them deleted is not uncommon.
3. Try to set up a “Pay for Delete.”
If steps 1 and 2 don’t work and you’re not able to get collections deleted, the next step is to negotiate a pay for delete. This is when a collection company agrees to remove a collection account from your credit report if you pay off the balance.
The Credit Bureaus have cracked down on collection agencies allowing pay for deletes. Credit Bureaus don’t like this type of practice, and many creditors no longer allow this. But there are still many debt collectors that will remove collections from your report.
It’s worth asking if they will do this for you. If so, it’s the easiest way to get collection accounts removed.
Click here to view a sample pay for delete letter
4. Settle the debt and dispute it again
Many debt collectors will allow you to settle the debt for less than the amount owed. Since they purchased the debt for pennies on the dollar, they can accept half of the balance and still make a significant profit.
Just call the collection company and tell them you wish to settle the debt. Usually, they will want the full payment and will knock between 20%-60% of the balance to settle the account in full.
When you pay the debt, it does not help your score and doesn’t delete your report’s account. But, you will now be able to go back to the Credit Bureau and dispute the item again and hope the creditor does not go through the hassle of validating a debt that’s been paid. They have no incentive to do, so they may not respond to the Credit Bureaus request.
5. Wait for the account to be sold to another agency and dispute it
Debt is continually being sold and re-sold from collection agencies. When one collection agency can’t get a payment on a debt, they may choose to sell the debt to another collection agency to try and collect.
At this point, the creditor listed on your credit report no longer has your account information, so you can dispute it and may have luck having it deleted.
6. Wait a few months and dispute the account again
If you failed to get the collection removed from your credit report by this step, don’t lose hope. Let a couple of months pass by and try to dispute the account for another reason.
You can dispute accounts for several diffident reasons, and the older the paid collection gets, the more likely the creditor will ignore the Credit Bureaus requests.
When you get a collection account reported to your credit report, you shouldn’t panic. It’s not the end of the world. These steps can help you get the collection removed from your credit report.
Even if you’re not able to remove the account from your report, the older the derogatory account information gets, the less impact it has on your FICO score.
If you settle a debt and still aren’t able to get it deleted by disputing it, only time will help, and you should rebound reasonably quickly if it’s just a single collection.