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An old debt isn’t on my credit report – do I still owe it?

What does it mean when an old debt is not on your credit report? So, you just checked your credit report and you couldn’t find an old debt you know that you owed. Or, a debt collector just contacted you about an old student loan they say you still owe, but you checked your credit report and it’s not there. If it’s not on your credit report, you don’t owe it, right?

Wrong. There is no relationship between whether you owe a debt and whether that debt appears on your credit report.

A lot of people think differently. Many people believe that if a debt is no longer on their credit report, then it’s “stale” and they no longer owe it. Still others believe that if a debt was never on their credit report, it’s not a legitimate debt. Unfortunately, these things are not true.

Debts will only appear on a person’s credit report if the person or company the debt is owed to reports that debt to a credit reporting agency. There are many credit reporting agencies that serve many different purposes, but there are 3 main ones that most people are aware of.

These 3 main credit reporting agencies are TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax. They collect information that’s reported to them – information about you, about who your employer is, about whether there are any judgments against you, about your credit card accounts, and most of all, about the debts that you owe.

Bad debts are supposed to fall off your credit report after being on there for about 7-and-a-half years. That’s because of a rule about how credit reports work, it’s not because you don’t owe the debt. Who knows, you may or may not actually owe the bad debt, but the fact that it’s no longer on your credit report isn’t a factor in the question of, “Do I owe it or not?”

Fact is, lots of credit reports are messed up. Many of them have disputed debts on there and many have just flat-out wrong information. So you can’t really rely on a credit report as authority for anything. Unfortunately, many people who are in the business of checking your credit do rely on these reports. That’s why it’s so important to check your own credit report at least once a year to make sure everything is correct and to send letters when it’s incorrect.

Even many bankruptcy attorneys use a client’s credit report to help them find out what debts they owe. That’s fine, so long as the bankruptcy attorney asks about debts that may not appear on the credit report and goes over the whole list of debts with their client.

If you have debt problems or questions, give me a call at (201) 676-0722 for a telephone consultation.


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