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Debt

Is It Possible to Owe Debts Not on Your Credit Report?

Dear Experian,

Everything shows on the credit report right? Every debt you owe? I currently have two debt collectors harassing me claiming I owe them money and threatening to sue me. But when I look on my report, there is nothing that is open against me. How do I get them to send me actual proof that I owe?

- JYG

Dear JYG,

While most major lenders and creditors report to at least one of the credit reporting agencies, there is no requirement to report, and not all companies do. Therefore, it is possible to owe a debt that does not appear on any of your credit reports.

Even if a debt was reported but has been removed because of the seven year reporting limit, it may still be collected. The statute of limitations for collecting a debt varies by state and does not always match the amount of time that a debt can appear on your credit report.

Collection Debt Not Appearing on Credit Report

You also should be aware that simply because a debt does not appear on your reports currently doesn't mean that it won't be reported in the future. Some collection agencies may not report the debt right away, but that doesn't mean it won't be added at a later date.

If you are unsure whether the debt they say you owe is accurate, ask the collection agency for more information and request to see copies of any documentation they may have. If the company calling you is unable to provide you with more information, you may wish to contact the original creditor directly and speak with them.

Original Account May Be Appearing on Your Credit Report

You don't mention whether the original accounts the debt collector says they are collecting for are appearing in your credit report. If they are, double check the status on those accounts. Are they appearing as past due, or do they show paid in full?

When a lender writes off a past due debt as a loss, the status on the account will show "charge off," but this does not mean you no longer owe the debt. In many cases, the original company will sell the charged off debt to a collection agency.

How Long a Collection Account Remains on Credit Report

If the collection agency does decide to report the debt to Experian, both the original account and the collection account can appear on your credit report. Once reported, a collection account can remain on your credit report for seven years from the original delinquency date on the original account.

The original delinquency date is the date the account first became late and after which it was no longer brought current. Both the original account and the collection agency account will be removed automatically seven years from that date.

If you've reviewed your credit reports and neither the original account nor the collection account is appearing, gather as much information as you can from the collection agency and the original lender to help you determine if you owe the money. The bottom line is that whether or not a debt appears on your credit report does not affect its legitimacy or the creditor's right to collect.

Thanks for asking.
Jennifer White, Consumer Education Specialist

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