Dear Bankruptcy Adviser, I filed for bankruptcy in July 2007 and it was discharged in October 2007. A collection agency posted a negative account in September 2007. Is it possible to get the collection agency to remove the negative credit reporting? They do not say this is discharged in bankruptcy. They list the account, and then after the remarks and additional information it says "bankruptcy." If the collection agency knew about the bankruptcy and refuses to remove the negative information, is there something I can do to have it removed? Are there any other options? -- Terry
Dear Terry, Yes, you can repair your credit files to make sure this entry is properly reported as "discharged in bankruptcy" on your credit reports. Challenge the negative notation directly with the credit bureaus by providing evidence that you filed bankruptcy and the account was listed on your schedule of creditors. Even if this particular collection agency was not listed, you still can have the credit report accurately reflect that the debt was discharged.
I believe you would have to show proof that your bankruptcy case was completed and discharged to make the collection agency remove the trade line from your credit report. Based on the dates you provide, when the agency reported you, your bankruptcy case was still active. So there was a chance you wouldn't receive a discharge. Reporting the account prior to the discharge seems appropriate on behalf of the creditor.
That being said, consumers constantly deal with creditors inaccurately reporting information to the credit bureaus. This is even truer when dealing with post-bankruptcy issues and inaccurate credit reporting. Once a collection agency receives notification of the bankruptcy, it has little to no incentive to accurately report the bankruptcy to the credit bureaus. While the process is simply for the collection agency to properly code your account "discharge in bankruptcy," the agency employees don't always follow through.
Credit repair companies can help correct this inaccurate information, but it's best to do it yourself. You need to review your credit report six months to one year after the court closes your bankruptcy case. This allows you to proactively view the accounts listed and ensure that the creditors properly report your account as discharged. You then challenge the inaccurate information directly with each credit reporting agency.
Tom Martin, a consumer protection attorney at our firm, says debt collectors often try to justify inaccurate reporting by claiming that they weren't included in your bankruptcy list of creditors. "But if the debt collector is pulling the consumer's credit, they are often on constructive notice of the bankruptcy by virtue of the credit reporting done by the original creditor or by other creditors," he says.
This is important to know because debt collectors generally pull your credit once they are assigned to your account. This means they likely know of your bankruptcy, but they're simply being lazy -- or worse, deliberately acting illegally by not putting the correct information on your credit report. You need to be strong and fight this inaccurate entry so your credit score can recover quicker.
I always like to tell my clients when dealing with post-bankruptcy credit cleanup, "Patience is a virtue, but persistence to the point of success is a blessing."