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How to Find Out What You Have in Collections

Dear Experian,

When I checked my credit report through an online service, my report showed that I had nothing in collections. When a bank that I went to pulled my report, there was one item in collections. How do I find out if I have anything in collections on my Experian credit report? I’m trying to get a mortgage and really need to make sure there is nothing in collections.

– JHM

Dear JHM,

There are at least two reasons that the collection account did not appear in your credit report but was listed in the credit report obtained by the bank.

  1. The report may have been from a different credit reporting company. To find out what you have in collections, you will need to check your latest credit reports from each of the 3 credit bureaus. Collection agencies are not required to report their account information to all three of the national credit reporting agencies. In fact, some collection agencies may choose not to report their accounts at all. This means that it is possible to have a collection account that appears on one of your credit reports, but not all of them.
  2. The collection account may have been added after you received your report. You didn’t mention when you received your report or how long after you went to the bank. Information in a credit report is constantly being updated. It’s possible that the collection account was added between the time you requested your report and when the bank requested an updated report.

How Can I Find Out What I Have in Collections??

If you obtained your Experian report recently and the account did not appear on that report, it may be that it is listed on your credit report with one of the other two credit reporting agencies, Equifax and Trans Union.

By law, you can request a credit report from each of the three national credit reporting companies once every 12 months. You are also entitled to a free credit report if you have had adverse action taken against you as a result of information in your report, but only from the credit reporting agency that provided that information.

The bank that pulled your credit report should be able to tell you which credit reporting agency they used to obtain your credit report. Some banks pull credit information from all three agencies and compile a combined report, which is sometimes referred to as a “tri-merge” report. However, they should still be able to tell you which of the three credit reporting agencies reported that particular account.

If you do find that there is a collection account appearing on one of your credit reports with an outstanding balance, you will likely have to pay that balance before the bank will approve you for your mortgage loan. Once paid, the account will be updated to show that it has been paid in full. Collection accounts remain on the credit report for seven years from the original delinquency date of the original debt.

Your credit report should show the original creditor and the new collection account. It may also show “transferred too” and the name of the collection agency with the original debt, and the collection account may show “transferred from” and the name of the original creditor.

Get Your Credit Reports before Applying for a Mortgage

In general, it’s a good idea to request a copy of your credit reports from each of the three major reporting agencies at least three to six months prior to applying for a mortgage or any other major purchase. This gives you time to take care of any discrepancies and resolve any issues before you apply.

Keep in mind that it is also possible to have an outstanding debt that may not be reported to any of the credit reporting agencies. In some cases, a lender or collection agency that does not report directly to the credit reporting agencies may go to court and file a civil claim judgment against you in order to collect the debt that is owed.

Once a judgment is filed, it will likely appear in the public record section of your credit report. Judgments remain on your credit report for seven years from the date filed, and they have a significant negative affect on your credit rating, so it’s a good idea to pay any outstanding debts before they get to this point if at all possible.

Thanks for asking,
The “Ask Experian” Team

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