Credit Advice

Collection account does not have to appear on your credit report to be legitimate


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Credit Advice

Collection account does not have to appear on your credit report to be legitimate

Dear Experian,

I received a letter from a collection agency asking that I pay almost $3,000 for a debt that was originally a credit card opened in 1996. It seemed to come out of the blue, and when I called to get some bearings I was not given satisfactory answers or clarification. When I mentioned that this hasn't been on my credit report they replied that they don't report to the credit bureaus. Isn't that what would make them legitimate? If they don't report to the credit bureaus are they a legitimate company?


Dear JCK,

Reporting payment information to a credit reporting company is not required by law, so choosing not to do so does not mean the company or the debt is not legitimate. However, having the account will not help you build your credit history if the company does not report the payment history to a national credit reporting company.

It is almost assured, however, that the collection agency that now owns the debt will report it to Experian or one of the other the national reporting companies.

You say that you opened the account in 1996, but you don’t indicate when the payments first became late. The timeframe for reporting late payments and deleting those late payments is measured from the original delinquency date of the account, not the date the account was opened.

The date the account payments first became late and after which they were never again current is called the original delinquency date. Collection accounts can be reported seven years from the original delinquency date. 

For example, if you had the account for six years before it became delinquent, the original delinquency date would be in 2002. That means the collection agency could report the account until 2009, when it would be deleted automatically by Experian.

Federal law requires that collection agencies report the original delinquency date of the account to ensure the negative information is deleted at the correct time.

Thanks for asking.

- The "Ask Experian" team

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