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Q. I'm trying to get some consumer information and thought you might be able to help me. Long story short: I have a personal bankruptcy that was discharged on Jan. 8, 2001. I know it has been on my credit record all this time and should, as I understand, drop off the credit records after 10 years ... which would be January 8, 2011. My question is this: Should I send a certified letter with a copy of the discharge to all three reporting agencies explaining what I've just told you and not just rely on their "alertness" to see that it drops off?
Ron Chappell

A.
Hi Ron, good for you for being proactive here. As you said, the bankruptcy should fall off your report after 10 years, and all three credit bureaus have measures in place to make sure it does. Still, it doesn't hurt to be extra careful, says Kevin Chern, a bankruptcy lawyer and president of Total Attorneys.

Here's what he wants you to do: Go ahead and pull your credit report shortly after the 10 years is up – so maybe mid to late January. You can do that for free from annualcreditreport.com, which allows you to pull one copy of your report from each of the three major credit bureaus each year. I typically recommend pulling one every four months or so, because that way, you stay on top of your credit file throughout the year. In this case, you want to pull them all at once so you can check the records of each agency. If the bankruptcy isn't listed, you're free and clear. But if it's still on any of the reports, that's when you should write a letter to the bureau disputing the item based on the fact that 10 years has passed. Send it certified mail, return-receipt requested. Note that all three credit bureaus also allow you to dispute mistakes online. I'd go ahead and do both, just to cover your bases. Give them about 30 days to investigate – you should receive a letter detailing what was updated on your report.

Then, Chern says to continue to monitor your credit report to make sure that no information regarding the bankruptcy is reported.

Consumer Ally problem solver Jean Chatzky is the "Today Show" financial adviser, a longtime financial journalist and best-selling author.

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