Know the original default date
Seven years after the original default date, all mentions of a debt -- no matter who has bought the debt or when -- have to come off your credit report, says Maxine Sweet, vice president of public education for credit bureau Experian.
According to the Fair Credit Reporting Act, debt collectors can't change the account number and consider it a "new obligation," and they aren't allowed to "re-age" that debt, says Tracy S. Thorleifson, attorney with the Federal Trade Commission. Seven years from the original default date -- that's it, she says.
One exception is judgments. If a creditor sues and gets a court judgment against you, they can keep the judgment on your credit report for seven years or until the judgment expires, says John Ulzheimer, president of consumer education for SmartCredit.com. However, as a matter of practice, credit bureaus keep judgments on a credit report for seven years from the judgment filing date, he says.
In other words, while the original obligation and any listings by subsequent collectors will come off within the original seven-year period, the judgment can have its own independent seven-year life span.