Today’s online edition of the Wall Street Journal has an article entitled "Dealing With Debt That Refuses To Die" (free now, but might require sub later).
The problem: Old debts, which are typically forgiven by the courts in a bankruptcy filing, are still being reported as active on many consumers’ credit reports… The judge for the case, David O. Carter of the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, has given the bureaus until Oct. 1 to revamp their systems. Experian and TransUnion say they have already updated their credit files to be compliant with the court order, while Equifax declined to comment. TransUnion also sent notices to some customers saying they "may experience a slight change" to their credit scores if any of their accounts are updated because of a bankruptcy…. "There’s no question that having a Chapter 7 bankruptcy has a negative impact on your creditworthiness," says Michael Sobol, one of the plaintiffs’ attorneys on the class-action case. "But when you have a bankruptcy, and you also have debts showing up as overdue and not paid — that is a double hit."
The court order stems from a class-action lawsuit alleging that each of the credit bureaus violated the Fair Credit Reporting Act by failing to maintain reasonable procedures to assure the accurate reporting of debts that have been discharged in bankruptcy. The lawsuit could now move to a trial to determine liability and damages if Judge Carter decides later next month to give the damages portion of the case a class-action status.
Everyone should check their credit report at least annually, and follow the instructions for disputing incorrect entries. One resource is annualcreditreport.com.