Having a charge off on your credit report can severely impact your credit score and your ability to obtain future lines of credit with reasonable interest rates. Regardless of the reason a charge off appears on a credit report, any future lender will view this negatively and may be unwilling to lend you credit. With some effort and patience, charge offs can be dealt with and removed from a credit report.
United States law requires the three major credit reporting agencies to provide a free annual credit report to all individuals who request one. While used primarily to monitor for identity theft activity, it is also good to use the report to verify information as being true and accurate. If after reviewing your credit report you notice a charge off with a relatively small balance it might be best to simply contact the lender and pay off the bill in full.
Many financial institutions and third party collection agencies will settle a charged off debt for pennies on the dollar. How much that is depends on their willingness to negotiate and your cooperation in paying off the outstanding balance. The longer the charge off appears on your credit report the less likely they may be to settle for lower amounts so be proactive and work with lenders to resolve any charge off balances.
That's not to say that every balance charged off that appears on a credit report is completely accurate. If you paid off that bedroom set years ago and an unpaid balance was reported as a charge off to a credit bureau, you can try contacting the lender but you may need to contest the account. Ideally, the organization which incorrectly reported the charge off will remove it but that's not always the case.
Each of the three major credit reporting agencies, Experian, Equifax and TransUnion, have procedures in place to contest charge offs or other inaccurate information that may appear on credit reports. Information will be provided on their web sites outlining what is required to contest information on a credit report and where to mail the completed form. If you need additional assistance, call first so you include all necessary information in the initial mailing.
Federal law requires all contested items to be addressed within 30 days of receipt. Once you mail the completed form with any additional documentation, wait 30 days and then follow up with the credit reporting agency. The key is to document all interactions, be patient and be thorough to make sure any charge-offs which have been subsequently paid or should be corrected are repaired in a timely manner.
It is possible to delete a charge off from a credit report but it can take effort on the consumers part to make sure information is corrected and reported accurately by lenders. Don't suffer financially by letting a company incorrectly charge off loans and credit them to you. Make sure to receive your free annual credit report every year and protect your financial reputation.