Can credit burueas list a 12 year old debt?

by Roxanne
(Portland, Oregon)

I recently received Power of Attorney from my 79 year old Mom to help her out with her finances. In 1998, she closed her credit card account with Capital One with a zero balance. Nearly one year later, Capital One sent her a check for $1,000. Wary of doing anything with this check, she contacted them to find out why she received it and what she should do with it. She was informed by the agent that it was her money. There had been an error and this was a credit owed to her. So my Mom cashed the check and applied it towards her living expenses.

In August 1999, my Mom received a form letter from Capital One explaining that an error had been made. It mentioned a misapplied payment and stated her account had been debited $1,000. Capital One opened a new account in her name to put the debit balance on it. She never authorized the opening of this account.

Unfortunately, My Mom, did not really understand the letter. She thought it was a confirmation of her previous conversation about it being an error. She did not know what the term "debited" really meant. From that point on, Capital One has been sending her a monthly statement with a $1,000 balance. She has never made a payment or contacted them in anyway. In November 2010, they began to apply a late fee.

My first thought when I turned this over was that how can my Mom cash a check and expect free money, but the more I looked in to it, the more I could see how they confused everything and then came back to collect on something that was now somewhat of a hardship for my Mom to pay

In January 2011, my Mom received a notice from one of her other credit card companies that they are closing her account due to a a recent reporting on her credit report. Guess who just reported the debt from 1999? Capital One.

My question is simple, since the debt is 12+ years old and my mother has never acknowledged it in that time, can they report it as a new item on her credit report? Would the bureaus have to remove it by law if I ask them to?

Thank you

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Feb 16, 2011
Twelve year old debt added to credit report


You did not indicate how this account is being reported on her credit report, however, we can't think of any circumstance in which negative information about this account should be on her reports unless she was sued and the judgment was entered against her.

If it is listed as a late payment or a charge-off then that information should have been gone from her credit reports seven years from the date she was considered late or a charge-off occurred.

If the account has been sent to collections, it should no longer be reported either. Collection accounts may only be reported for seven years and 180 days from the date you first fell behind with the original creditor.

Please be sure to keep a copy of all records related to this problem, including a copy of the letter she received from the credit card company telling her that her account was being closed. She may have a case for credit damage.

Attorney Robert Brennan, the co-author of the California edition of our e-book Debt Collection Answers does a nice job of spelling out the procedures for disputing mistakes on your credit reports on his website at Again, be sure to keep good records of everything that transpires here.

If the credit reporting agency does not remove these items promptly, I would encourage you to talk with a consumer law attorney with expertise in credit reporting cases. This is not the first instance we have heard of capital one digging up old debts. We would encourage you to file a complaint with the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau at

Do let us know how this turns out for your mom. She's lucky to have you helping her with this.

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