We always see increased activity in our Credit Talk Forum as the new year begins. It makes complete sense since the start of a new year often brings a renewed sense of urgency to get your financial house in order. And for a lot of people these days, the number one thing on their mind is cleaning up their credit reports and getting their credit scores back to an acceptable level so they can purchase a new home, car, or get their foot in the door for a new job. So how do most people start the process? They typically begin researching online, joining forums, pulling free credit reports, and wondering "when will these old debts I've been trying to ignore for all these years actually go away?" This is a question I've seen and answered in our forum at least a dozen times this month, so I thought it would be a good idea to quickly address it here on the blog as well.
What is the DOFD?
The truth is old debts never really go away until you pay them off or reach a settlement with the debt collector, but that doesn't mean they can't disappear from your credit reports before a settlement occurs. According to the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), negative entries can remain on your credit reports for 7 years from the "Date of First Delinquency" (DOFD). The DOFD is the date a consumer first becomes 30 days late, never brings the account current, and then a charge off ensues. Charge offs generally occur when payments aren't made for 6 months, which means a negative entry shouldn't remain on your credit reports for longer than 7.5 years, or 7 years from the charge-off date. The confusion arises when consumers try to find their DOFD and they get it confused with the Date of Last Activity (DOLA) or something else on their credit reports. The DOLA can be any transaction on an account, such as the date the account was sold to a collection agency, charged off, or even the date the account was updated after a consumer dispute. So here's what you need to keep in mind as you're reviewing your credit reports for important dates. While DOLAs often change for an account, there's only one DOFD.
It should never change.
Another important thing to be aware of is that it may be difficult to locate the DOFD on your credit reports. Credit bureaus may use different terms or not include the actual date at all, but the date does exist. Rest assured they're tracking it somewhere. In fact, the safest course of action is to write a letter directly to Equifax, TransUnion, or Experian requesting the exact day, month, and year a specific debt will be removed from your credit reports per FCRA guidelines. You could always call if you're not a fan of writing letters, but it's nice to have this sort of information in writing in case you need it in the future. It may take a bit more time up front, but it could save you a lot of time down the road. If you have more questions about how to determine the DOFD on an account, or cleaning up your credit reports in general, consider joining our Credit Talk Forum today. There are over 30,000 members just waiting to give you free help and support, and there's a good chance one of them has been in your situation before.