Can Debts Just Magically Disappear From Your Credit Report?

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Sometimes when you check your credit report, there can be some unpleasant surprises waiting for you — a bill you never knew about or an account that’s not yours. But other times, you may find a debt that you’ve known has been hurting your credit for a while has just magically disappeared.

Perhaps it’s a past-due bill you just couldn’t pay, or something that was settled but still leaves a data trail in its wake. But after a certain period of time, you check your credit report and — voila! — it’s gone.

We asked Rod Griffin, Experian’s director of public education, why this seems to happen. Turns out, there are a few reasons.

“Debts won’t ‘just disappear’ from your credit report,” Griffin said, “but they will be removed in accordance with time frames set by federal law.”

If you’ve completely ignored a bill for about seven years, this can happen. For instance, let’s consider loan payments. In technical terms, the date when one is first due and than unpaid is called the original delinquency date.

“Accounts that have become delinquent and are charged off as a loss are deleted seven years from the date they first became delinquent and after which were never again current,” Griffin said.

Most negative information, include collection accounts, foreclosures and short sales, can stay on credit reports for up to seven years, though their exact date of delinquencies can vary. Some bankruptcies can stay on your credit reports for 10 years. (You can go here to learn more about how long things stay on your credit report.) If information stays on file past the allotted timeframe, you can dispute it with the credit bureaus.

What If It Didn’t ‘Age Off’?

The other reason debts may seemingly disappear involves your creditor.

“The only other possibility for an account to be removed from a credit report is if the lender asked that it be deleted,” Griffin said. This could happen if you’ve disputed an item on your credit report, and the lender has agreed to remove it, he added.

Delinquent items on your credit report can seriously damage your credit score, which is an important factor when you’re seeking to get the best interest rate possible on a loan or credit card. It’s important to keep an eye on your credit so you know what information may be weighing your scores down. You can pull your credit reports for free each year at AnnualCreditReport.com and get a free credit report snapshot, updated every 14 days, at Credit.com.

Image: BartekSzewczyk

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