How Do I Deal With My Old Debt I Owe? – Sarah

“Dear Steve,

I am looking to improve my credit score which is around 600 now. I currently have a judgement against me that I am working to settle on, but I have credit card and medical debt that is also hurting my credit. Some of my debt is over 7 years old, and I am going to write the credit report agencies to have it removed. However, most of my credit card debt looks more recent than I remember it being. For instance, I quit paying on my cards in 2005, but they show on my credit reports as late as Dec 2006, making the statute of limitations at least a year out to have them removed. I also have a credit card that says ‘paid as agreed’ on one report, but derogatory in others as of 2006. I can say now that I have never paid on that card since 2005, and it has a balance on it still.

I am looking to improve my credit, but I have no idea how old my debt really is. I got a ton of credit cards when I was 18 and quit paying on them soon after. Since I’ve always just ignored collection letters, I have no idea what month I truly quit paying on them or what my statute of limitations are. I quit paying in 2005 on all of them, but some of them show up on my credit reports as charged off or closed in 2006-2008. I want to have them removed from my credit report, as I am currently attempting to clear up more recent delinquencies, like medical bills, which I have acquired in the last 3 years. But how do I have them removed when I have no idea if the statute of limitations has passed? From my memory, the only bills I have current is a judgement against me and medical bills, which I am working on paying off or settling.

Here’s my question(s)- how do I find out how old my debts really are, when I don’t even remember what cards I had? Also, if I settle with medical bills, can I request to have the settlement removed from my credit reports? Do I have to call the collection agencies and request paperwork on my debt, or would that be a bad thing to do?

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I do have my current credit report from all 3 credit reporting bureaus, and now I am more confused than ever… I just want to get that old debt out of the picture, but have no clue of validating how old the debt really is. Please help, and thank you!


Dear Sarah,

If you have recent copies of reports from all three bureaus then follow the dispute process they individually give you to ask to have any debt you don’t recognize, removed. Your credit reports will also give you contact information for the creditors listed on your credit report.

I prefer using a consolidated credit report simply because it makes it easier to read and compare.

A few issues you mentioned need clarification.

1. A negative item is removed after seven years, not when the statute of limitations has passed.

2. You can ask to have a negative item removed when paid but there is no obligation for them to do it and in fact it would be against their agreement with the credit bureau.

3. The seven year (technically up to 7.5 years) clock starts when the account first goes delinquent. If the account is still delinquent after that it can still appear on your report until the account is removed. For example, you went delinquent on a debt in 2006 and remained delinquent. The account would show delinquent on your credit report into 2013.

4. A judgment can be reported for longer than seven years in the public records section of the credit report.

Please post your responses and follow-up messages to me on this in the comments section below.


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Steve Rhode is the Get Out of Debt Guy and has been helping good people with bad debt problems since 1994. You can learn more about Steve, here.
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