You should first check the statute of limitations in your state for breach of contract. To report on credit is 7 years. If you are beyond the statute, go to all the credit agency and register. You can dispute online. When the reporting creditor responds to the dispute and it stay on your credit, you will have a cause of action when and if you apply for credit and it is denied.
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Yes, you can dispute these debts without making a payment. It would not make much sense to send a payment and a dispute at the same time. Sending a payment will usually eliminate the point of disputing, and the payment can reset the credit reporting time period. First submit your disputes, and only if you see that the debts are valid, then you can consider making a payment if you feel it would be beneficial. I have no reason to believe that banks keep records for 4 years, and credit card companies for 3 years. If the debts are old, your best bet may be to wait until they age sufficiently to fall off your credit report, if your credit score is what concerns you. If you seek assistance, you would be better off with the help of an in-state attorney rather then a "credit repair consultant". In general, I do not recommend the nationwide credit repair law firms or private companies that you will find advertising aggressively on the internet.
This is not legal advice. Seek a consultation with an attorney in your jurisdiction. An attorney/client relationship is not sought or formed by the participation in this website. I am licensed to practice law in New York and New Jersey.
Please do not confuse statutes of limitations for a law suit with credit report time limits. Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, information about an account may be posted only for the last 7 years' time. Talking to debt collectors or not has no bearing to this conversation. And the debt can continue to be reported for 7 years after the default date, even if you can not be sued in court.
Record keeping in this modern age is not as difficult as it was say 10 years ago.
Sometimes, collectors try to keep an account on a credit report for more time by selling the accounts amongst themselves, and then reporting the debt as though it was a new transaction, but that would be improper, as it is the activity on the account in the way of payments and charges that can be reported and not the sale of the account. Your issues will be with the credit bureaus, not the creditors who do the reporting. If you dispute the information with the credit bureau based upon the fact that the information is stale, t is up to the credit bureau to verify WHEN the account activity took place, not IF there is a debt. If they determine the information is stale [more than 7 years old] then they should delete the notation. If it has been more than 7 years and the notation is not deleted, you can then sue the credit bureau.
As for the statute of limitations, generally, the term is 4 years if there is no written instrument and 5 years if there is. The thing is whether those "cardholder agreements" sent with the card counts as a written agreement. The language is "use or retention of the card constitutes acceptance of these terms", or something similar. You do not sign anything. But you are on notice by way of a written document. I have seen judges go both ways on this issue as to whether a credit card account is based on a written instrument. However, if the law suit is for "account stated" or "open account" and no cardholder agreement is attached to the complaint, then, generally, the 4 years statute would apply.
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