Q: When I was 17, I built up large debts on credit cards I had obtained by lying about my age. I made some payments, but while attending college, I could not afford to keep up the payments. There are still outstanding balances on those accounts.
I have since graduated and am hoping to start a new credit file. I am currently laid off, and with student loans coming due, I cannot afford to settle these past debts.
Is there anything I can do to have the negative accounts deleted from my credit reports since the debts were incurred while I was a minor?
A: You lied about your age, and you expect the lie to be grounds for canceling the debt? Your logic reminds me of the guy who kills his father and mother and then asks the judge for mercy on the grounds that he's an orphan.
Technically speaking, falsifying a credit application is a federal crime. Furthermore, if that application was sent through the mail, you've committed mail fraud. Whether the bank would file a criminal referral or the U.S. attorney would prosecute this case is open to discussion.
The credit reporting bureau cannot arbitrarily delete negative items from your record. It must first verify the accuracy of the information with the lender. And right now, the lenders will say you still owe the money.
As I see it, you have three choices:
1. Work with your creditors to pay off your past debts over time.
2. Do nothing, and wait. Negative entries can be removed from your credit file after seven years.
3. Declare bankruptcy -- which will stay on your credit history for 10 years.
I suggest you contact the creditors and ask what can be done. They may agree to lower your monthly payments or allow you to make interest-only payments.
You might also consider contacting a local Consumer Credit Counseling Service. If you cannot find one in the Yellow Pages, the Consumer Credit Counseling National Referral Line -- (800) 388-2227 -- will give you the location of the offices closest to you. These people can help you negotiate a payment schedule with creditors and provide you with efficient, low-cost debt consolidation.