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Credit Repair Help: Repairing or Improving Your Credit

Know how to recognize a scam.

This field is filled with scam artists who are anxious to take your money. They promise help they cannot deliver: Erasing accurate negative information from your file. They run ads that sound like this shown in the box:

"We can remove bankruptcies, judgments, liens
and bad loans from your credit file, FOREVER."

"We can erase your bad credit -- 100% guaranteed."

"Create a new credit identity -- legally."

Every week, thousands of people with bad credit respond to ads like this, pay their fee, and end up no better off than they started. Do not be one of them.

Rule one of credit repair is that if you have accurate negative information on your file -- such as legitimate unpaid debts and bankruptcies -- there is no legal way to remove it or mitigate its impact on your credit rating. None.

The only way to mitigate the impact of accurate negative information is to stop adding more negative information by keeping up to date with your bills, and to wait. Almost all negative information has a time limit (seven years is common, but there are many exceptions). When the time is expired, the information will be removed from your file.

Also, the older your negative information, the less weight it is given by lenders. Every year that passes with no negative information, the better your credit worthiness becomes.

What you can do to make sure your credit record is as good as it can be.

First, get a copy of your credit reports from all three national credit reporting agencies (TransUnion, Equifax and Experian). You are entitled to one free report per year from each agency. Not all creditors report to every agency so your report from each agency is likely to be different in some respects.

These reports include the following:

  • Name and address and social security number
  • Employment information
  • Payment history, showing every account and whether or not you paid on time.
  • Inquiries, listing all creditors who have asked for your credit history in the last year and anyone who has asked for your credit history for employment purposes for the last two years.
  • Public record information, such as bankruptcies, foreclosures and tax liens.

Review all of the entries carefully. Often you will find one or more that are incorrect. Fixing these mistakes will help your credit.

The next step is to dispute any incorrect items. Under the law, both the Credit Reporting Agency (CRA) and the original creditor are obliged to correct inaccurate or incomplete information in your report. To get them to act, you must tell the CRA in writing what information you believe to be inaccurate. (Some of them say that you can do it at their web sites, but how do you enclose necessary information?) To do this you should make a package that includes:

  1. A copy of the page in the report that contains the incorrect entry.
  2. Copies of any documentation you may have to support your contention that is inaccurate (such as a receipt for payment or a letter from the creditor).
  3. A letter like the one below.

[[Date]]
[[Your name]]
[[Your address]]
[[Your city, state and zip code]]
[[Complaint Department]]
[[Name of Credit Reporting Agency]]
[[Address (You should use the address on the free credit report you received. If that does not work, see the list below.)]]

 

Dear Sir or Madam:

I am writing to dispute the following information in my file. I have circled the item(s) on the enclosed copies of the report you sent me.

The item (identify the item) is inaccurate or incomplete for the following reason(s).
[[List the reason(s)]]

I am requesting that it be removed from my file (or changed) so that my credit report is accurate.

I am enclosing copies of the following documents to support my assertions:

[[list enclosures.]]

Please investigate this matter and report to me as soon as possible.

Thank you,
[[your name]]

SEND THIS LETTER CERTIFIED MAIL, RETURN RECEIPT REQUESTED SO THAT YOU HAVE EVIDENCE OF ITS RECEIPT

IF THE CRA DOES NOT RESPOND, WHICH OFTEN HAPPENS. YOU SHOULD ALSO SEND A COPY TO THE ORIGINAL CREDITOR, CERTIFIED, RETURN RECEIPT REQUESTED.

If the CRA follows the law, they will check your claim and correct their files.

If you request it they will also notify anyone who has checked your credit in the last six months that your file has been changed.

If you do not get a response within 30 days, send the whole package again with a note saying that this is the second time it is being sent, and you are also sending a copy to your state Attorney General's office. In some states (like Massachusetts) the AG's office offers a mediation service to try to settle disputes like this.

If the dispute is not resolved in your favor, file a statement.

If the CRA responds that it does not have enough evidence to support any change in your file, or the original creditor disputes your claims, you have the right to file a 100 word statement that must be appended to your file for all creditors to read.

Once again, create a letter to the CRA, and include a copy of the page containing the item you dispute, all your personal information, and the statement you wish to append.

Such a statement might say:

...
The only reason that I did not pay this bill is that I believed the charge to be incorrect. I moved from my apartment and canceled my electric service. The company claims I did not cancel and billed me for six months when I did not live in the apartment. I have tried to fix this with them to no avail.
...
-OR-

...
I do not believe I owe this bill because the product was defective and I returned it. The company offered only a merchandise credit. I insisted on a cash refund, which they refused to give me.
...

-OR -

...
I paid this bill within 90 days of issue. I was never credited with the payment. I have submitted evidence of payment which they have rejected.
...


This package should be sent to the same address as the original dispute, certified mail, return receipt requested.

 

Credit history is not the only factor in your credit rating.

Once you have made sure your credit history is accurate, you have taken care of the most important factor in your ability to get credit from lenders. But there are some other things you can do.

All three CRA's give you a single number credit score, and while all of them use a different, private algorithm to determine that score, we can make a good guess at the factors they include. Review these, and find out what, if anything, you can do to improve the other factors and get a better credit score.

Contacting the three national Credit Reporting Agencies (CRA's) in the mail is not easy, but here is what we have found.

You would think that it would be easy to get the correct addresses to which to send credit report disputes and statements, but if you go to the web sites of the three national CRA's, it is extraordinarily hard to find any addresses. Unfortunately, in my experience, this is indicative of the difficulty of working with these agencies. I find that they do their best to ignore you, despite the requirements of the law. Your best weapon is persistence.

The best thing to do is to order your free credit reports using the new single site. Your report should have an address on it if you want to file a dispute or a corrective statement. Use that address. If that does not work, you can try the addresses below.

Credit Reporting Agencies

  • TransUnion Consumer Relations
    www.transunion.com
    P. O. Box 2000 Chester, PA 19022
  • Experian Corporate HQ
    www.experian.com
    955 American Lane Schaumburg, IL 60173
    847 517 5600
  • Equifax
    www.equifax.com
    Po Box 740241, Atlanta, GA 30374
    (800) 437-4951



Alternative Resources:
CreditMagic.org is an example of a site with a community area where you can get free credit repair advice from a number of experts on credit solutions.
It has a good amount of free information regarding handling debt problems. We cannot endorse any specific paid services from this site, but it is a source
of information for consumers seeking a resource for better management & maintenance of good credit

For Australian visitors, Credit Cards Australia offers credit tips and articles focused on managing credit cards.

For our visitors from the UK, SecuredLoansCompared.com helps you to choose the most suitable credit repair services.


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