Should You Do a Pay for Delete?

Should You Do a Pay for Delete?
IN THIS ARTICLE:
  • Monitor your credit report regularly.
  • Use the Credit Reporting Agencies' on-line forms to dispute inaccurate items. Accurate information drops off between 7-10 years.
  • Be careful of pay for delete offers. They could be collection scams.

Should you Pay to Clean Up Your Credit Report

Negotiating with a collection agency to pay off a debt, in exchange for removing the item from your credit report, is referred to as a pay for delete.

Should you pay to get rid of accurate items from your credit report?

According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) a government regulator in charge of guarding your consumer rights:

"No one can legally remove accurate and timely negative information from a credit report. The law allows you to ask for an investigation of information in your file that you dispute as inaccurate or incomplete. There is no charge for this."

Anyone who checks their credit report knows that the report contains a ton of information. The account history of your mortgages, credit cards, student loans, auto loans, and other retail credit make up a large part of your credit report. Your report also contains information about your employment history, where you lived, and basic personal information, such as your name, address history, and Social Security number.

Mistakes happen. To help you spend your time and money in the best manner, so you clean up your report cheaply and efficiently, you need to learn about:

  1. Mistakes and Errors on Your Credit Report
  2. Deleting Accurate, Negative Items
  3. Dealing with Debt Problems

Mistakes and Errors on Your Credit Report

Your credit report is a snapshot of your past credit history, both positive and negative. Negative information includes late payments, charge-offs, third-party collection accounts, public judgments, bankruptcy, foreclosures, and other actions that reflect poorly on your past behavior.

Make sure that you monitor your credit report. You are entitled to a free credit report from each of the major three Credit Reporting Agencies (CRAs) once every 12 months. You can get your report, which does not include your credit score, from AnnualCreditReport.com. You may want to stagger your free reports, getting one every four months from one of the bureaus, so you can follow what’s listed more frequently. Keep in mind that the information can vary from report to report, so be sure you monitor all of them.

Pay attention to errors pertaining to social security number, address, and billing entries. Here are four typical reasons MyFICO.com gives for credit mistakes, as follows:

  • "The person applied for credit under different names (Robert Jones, Bob Jones, etc.).
  • "Someone made a clerical error in reading or entering name or address information from a hand-written application.
  • "The person gave an inaccurate Social Security number, or the number was misread by the lender.
  • "Loan or credit card payments were inadvertently applied to the wrong account."

If you find errors or inaccurate information, then make sure that you file a credit dispute with the CRA. Identity theft is another issue that causes problems on a credit reports. Check your report regularly for accounts that you never opened and for any suspicious activity on active accounts. If you suspect that you’re the victim of identity theft, contact your creditors and the credit bureaus immediately.

Quick Tip

Avoid paying to delete inaccurate information by reading this Bills.com credit repair article.

Deleting Accurate Negative Information From Your Credit Report

In addition to inaccurate, negative information, your credit report may also contain accurate, negative information.

Wouldn’t it be nice if you could just erase past mistakes, push the delete button, and, presto, your record is clean. The good news is that your negative history is not permanent. In general, according to the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), negative items remain on your credit report for between 7 and 10 years. For more information about the FCRA law and the period negative items remain, read the Bills.com article about the FCRA.

Some collection agencies accept a negotiated settlement. The settling of the debt will cause a change of the manner the debt is recorded, from a collection/charge-off to a $0 balance, along with a notation that the debt was “paid in full,” or “settled for less than the amount owed,” or something similar. Paying off a collection item with a collection agency will not cause the debt to be re-aged. The 7-year clock does not start running anew, when you make a payment. Instead, the account will fall off based on the original 7-year period. Although you may be able to make your payment contingent on a deletion of the negative account, or a pay for delete, this strategy is in violation of the FCRA, which does not allow for elimination of accurate information.

Don’t confuse the the statute of limitations on debt with how long the debt can appear on your credit report. They are separate issues entirely.

Quick Tip

Before you take out a mortgage, you will need to pay off debt that is in collection status. Make sure you review your credit report before taking out a loan. If you see an account that does not belong to you, then dispute the item. Some scrupulous creditors attempt to put bogus items and then accept a pay for delete. Report any unfair actions taken by creditors to the FTC.

Pay For Delete? Or, Pay Your Debt?

Whether you are dealing with inaccurate items or negative, accurate accounts, think twice before you pay money to delete items from your credit report. Make sure that your debt is real and validated. Check to see if the statute of limitation (SOL) expired, so you don’t pay a debt that you are not legally obligated to pay.

Quick Tip

The steps described here should correct false information appearing in a credit report. However, if the consumer credit reporting agency does not delete or correct the false information, see the Bills.com method of verification article describing the next steps you can take to fix your credit report.

Don’t fall prey to fraud and pay debts that you don’t owe, just to remove an item from your credit report.

The good news is you can improve your credit score and credit record. Negative items become older and have less impact on your score as time passes. After 7 years (for most items), bad accounts drop off your report, so you can build up a positive, clean report.

If you are dealing with delinquent debts, charge-offs, and collection items, then you need to take appropriate steps to improve your situation. Use a two-pronged approach: attack your debt first, bringing all your debts down to a $0 balance, then work on building and maintaining good credit habits. If you need help to get out of debt, investigate the different debt relief options, including credit counseling and debt settlement.

Instead of paying to delete items, create and maintain a household budget, keep your debts under control, and practice good credit habits. It may take some time to build your credit score, but even the worst credit can usually be brought into very good to excellent range within two years.

Quick Tip

If you have debt problems, then use the Bills.com Debt Coach to get a personalized debt relief solution that fits your financial situation.

110 Comments

WWill B., Jun, 2014
On the "derogatory marks" section on my credit report, I have four medical collections accounts listed from one hospital visit in 2012. Two of them were paid immediately and show "closed" on the report with a $0 balance. The other two are still open and show that they were opened in Dec. 2012. One is for $103 and the other is for $116. I have three credit cards in good standing, along with an auto loan that is nearly paid off. I have a 100% on-time payment history, but my oldest credit card is only 7 years old. I have the means to pay the remaining balances. Is it in my best interest to do so? Should I contact the collectors first to see if they will remove the marks?
BBill Admin, Jun, 2014
If your only concern is what appears on your credit report and your credit score, then you have little incentive to reach a settlement with the two creditors you mentioned. Resolving the debt for either the full amount due or less than the amount due will not undo the damage caused by the delinquency, or improve your FICO credit score. (Paying an old delinquent debt will improve your VantageScore credit score.)

Reaching a settlement on the two collection accounts will prevent future collection calls and the possibility of a lawsuit filed against you. Also, loan underwriters like to see resolved debts.

The choice is yours. Should you choose to settle, read the Bills.com article Debt Settlement Advice to learn how to negotiate with the creditors who have the rights to the two debts.

Your last question touches on what the industry calls "pay for delete." You can ask for a pay-for-delete, but don't expect to succeed on this negotiating point.
WWill B., Jun, 2014
Thank you for the response. I was making payments on both accounts at one point, but one of the collection agencies stopped sending me statements and did not have a website for online payments. The other collection agency has an online payment system, but their website told me my account number was invalid. Neither of these agencies have made any attempts to call me, so for me to even make a payment will be a hassle. I understand about the pay-for-delete, as I had just read the article above. With the small sums of my two accounts, I did not think it would probably be a solution worth trying. Thanks again for the response and the useful information on your site. Other sites had suggested that if I pay the accounts off it would reset my 7 year clock. I'm glad to hear that is not the case.
JJason W, Jun, 2013
Can my debt be assigned to multiple collection agencies? I swear I have an old Capital One card and 3 different collection agencies have sent me letters. What do they expect, for me to pay all 3 of them? Ha ha.
BBill Admin, Jun, 2013
The next time a collection agent calls regarding this account, ask for his or her employer's company name and mailing address. Then send the collection agent a validation request stating that you dispute the validity of the debt. A debt that cannot be validated may not be collected.
JJason W, Jun, 2013
I don't dispute the debt. It's about a year old and I expected to receive letters from a debt collector. But what is odd to me (but could be normal) is this same card has resulted in 3 separate collection agencies trying to collect. All different company names and internal file numbers, but the amount is the same and referenced card number is correct. I just found it odd. Does this mean Capital One sold the debt or assigned the debt to 3 separate companies in the hopes I would just pay 1 of them? Seems strange.
BBill Admin, Jun, 2013
This is not uncommon, but also not intentional. Creditors have different triggers that dictate where/when an account will be assigned or reassigned and sometimes these triggers overlap and send the same file different places.

Take these two actions:
  1. Call Capital One and learn where this account is supposed to be officially. This may take a couple of phone calls and a few escalations but eventually someone will be able to say it is assigned to "x" collection agency.
  2. Check AnnualCreditReport.com to see if one, two, or three of these entities are reporting on the same account number. It's unlikely, but worth checking out as this could have adverse effects, obviously, on your credit. If this is the case you simply need to file a dispute with the credit bureaus regarding whichever entities are not supposed to be collecting on the account.
JJay Collins, May, 2013
I have 3 reports on my record that total just under $2,000. These charges are from misdemeanor court cases when I was 19 years old. I am now 22 years old and I have the money to pay off these collections, but I am wondering should I ask for a pay for delete or just pay it off?
BBill Admin, May, 2013
If the information is correct, then it will drop off your credit report after 7-10 years. I recommend that you deal with the creditor and then check your credit reports to make sure that the items are updated to reflect that they have been paid off. Your credit score has already been damaged by the collection items. Now, concentrate on building up your credit.
JJustin Russell, Mar, 2013
Do you have any advice for where to send these letters? I have two accounts I would like to attempt a Pay for Delete for but I don't want to waste the expensive postage (Certified letter, return receipt, etc.) by sending it to the wrong department. I have the last address for where to send payments but I fear that isn't the best place to send it. Should I address it to the standard corporate headquarters address of these big banks? Thanks so much and great write up!
RRobert Benn, Mar, 2013
I have an account that just hit collections. I pulled my credit report and the debt is still showing with the OC. Who would you recommend I deal with to get debt resolved? Debt is valid, I ran into some tough times and now have the ability to pay off the debt. What would be your recommendation in handling this issue?
BBill Admin, Mar, 2013
The reports you see at the big-three consumer credit reporting agencies — Equifax, Experian, TransUnion — will show a lag of 30 to 90 days for changes in collection account ownership. Contact the original creditor and ask if it still has rights to collect the debt. If so, then negotiate a settlement with the original creditor. If the original creditor tells you your account is no longer in its records, then validate the debt with the collection agent. If it can validate the debt, then negotiate with the collection agent.