Removing charged off debts can be tricky, and here’s why. There are a few things you must consider and it requires research and good communication/negotiation skills
You have to take a look at your state’s statute of limitations and them determine the last date of activity on the delinquent account. This may mean contacting the original creditor to find out this information quickly. The trick is to speak to them about facts only. I know the general hard and fast rule is that you never speak to them over the phone but I have been successful in getting the information I need without getting in hot water.
When you call them, take notes during the phone call. Confirm your information and then ask about the date of last activity on the account. If they try to have you admit that the account is yours and that you are going to pay the debt (never refuse to pay it) –DON’T. Get the date of last activity and get off the phone. Remember, you’re speaking to a debt collector and any information gained from you on the phone can be used against you later.
Then you check your state’s statute of limitations and determine of based on the date of last activity and today’s date – has the statute of limitations passed? Check the list of states, their respective limitations and the caption below:
This is what we call zombie debt. Debt that is past the statute of limitations. If this is the case, then you can either call or write them a letter detailing your state’s statute of limitations and demand that they remove the information from your credit reports and cease all collection activity. Here’s a sample letter from creditinfocenter.com.
You can also use the letter as a script to guide you in your communications on the phone with the collection agency. Again, do not agree to pay anything, do not admit that the debt is yours and do not refuse to pay. Just state that you don’t know right now, however you see here that they are legally unable to collect this debt from you. Boom, you’re done.
Another option is the small window between the time when the debt has been charged off but not yet sold to a collection agency. You may be able to negotiate a pay for delete in some cases. This is where you agree to pay in installments, settle for a lower amount or pay the balance in exchange for a deletion of the account from your credit report.
The best place to start is to get a copy of your credit report and highlight the old debt to be removed. I usually start with the collection agency original creditor and I’ve been pretty successful calling them up and getting what I need over the phone. If you prefer to deal with them through the credit bureaus once you’re certain the statute of limitations has passed, start here:
Equifax – Start here. Equifax requires that you obtain a copy of your credit report directly from their website so you will need to do that first before getting started with the dispute. Yes, this is even if you’ve obtained a copy of this elsewhere.
Experian – Start here. Experian requires the same as Equifax. Get a copy of your report directly from Experian and follow their directions to initiate the dispute.
Transunion – Start here. Rinse wash and repeat!