Dear Dr. Don,
I disputed an inaccuracy on my credit report in May 2008. It was with Dell Financial Services. When I called the representatives at DFS, they told me that my account was charged off and that I didn’t owe them any more money.
I thought by sending a dispute with DFS to all three credit bureaus, it would increase my credit score. Instead, it has negatively affected my credit score. As of right now, the credit score through Equifax is the lowest at 592. My Experian credit score is 725 and my TransUnion credit score is 751.
I’m really trying to improve my credit score. Is there anything else I can do to improve my credit score? I pay my bills on time and all my credit cards are paid off.
— Charles N. Charge Off
When a creditor charges off an account, it doesn’t mean you don’t owe the money — it just means that the company no longer reasonably expects to collect on the account. It doesn’t make any sense that a DFS representative would say you no longer owe the money.
It is possible, however, that you no longer owe the money because of statute of limitation, or SOL, considerations on the account. The Bankrate feature “State statutes of limitations for old debts” isn’t the last word on this topic, but will give you an overview of SOL contract considerations.
Disputing information on your credit report has the potential to increase your credit score only if you win the dispute. Losing the dispute keeps the information as originally reported and doesn’t hurt your credit score. Negative information on your credit report that is correct stays on the report for seven years.
Charge offs show the account wasn’t paid as agreed. Even paying the amount won’t eliminate the negative information because the late payments stay on your credit report.
You’re doing all the right things in trying to rebuild your credit rating. Making timely payments on your accounts and managing your debt load wisely will turn things around.
Read the myFICO publication “Understanding Your FICO Score” for more information.