Dismay over disputed late payment
As of January 2007, a 120-day late payment for a student loan appeared
on my credit report from December 2004 to February 2005. I believe
this loan was deferred on those dates and never had a reason to
think otherwise as no one attempted to collect and it was not showing
on my credit report, which I check regularly. I filed a complaint
with each credit agency and was told that the report was valid and
the late payments would stay on my credit until September 2011!
I am currently trying to resolve this with the original issuer of the student
loan but am getting nowhere. How many years later can lenders report things
on your credit?
-- Cynthia Credit
The lender's decision whether or not to pursue collection measures
isn't the standard in judging whether the money was owed and paid
late. Negative information stays on your credit report for seven
years from the date of the initial occurrence.
From what the credit bureaus have told you, that means
the initial missed payment was in September 2004. That would
correspond with the 120 days late in December 2004 to February 2005.
While it is curious why it would take more than two years to show
up on your credit reports, as long as the information is accurate
and inside the seven-year window, there's not much you can do about
The key is whether the information is accurate. If your
student loan was in deferral, then the information isn't accurate.
Your rights under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, or FCRA, include
the right to dispute the information presented in your credit report.
The credit bureaus are obligated to investigate the dispute in a
timely fashion, generally 30 days, and reply back to you the results
of their investigation. If the decision goes against you, then you
have the right to put a comment on your report explaining why you
feel the disputed information is incorrect.
It's key in the dispute process to provide information
to the credit bureaus showing why the information is wrong. Absent
that information, the investigation will be quite perfunctory and
nothing is likely to change. If your loan was in deferral, then
documentation to that effect should be submitted as an attachment
to the dispute letter.
The FTC, or Facts for Consumers Guide,
a Better Credit Report, provides a good overview of the dispute process.
The credit bureaus have systems in place that allow you to dispute information
online, but I recommend writing a letter because it gives you the opportunity
to attach the supporting documentation.
Continue working with the lender on this issue, too,
because the lender has the ability to correct the information provided
in the report if it concurs with you that the loan was in a deferral
To ask a question of Dr. Don, go to the "Ask
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