Can I really fix my credit?
Of course you can! Many of our readers (even yours truly) have cleared up a few blemishes on their reports by the technique(s) on this page. By the way: everything a credit repair clinic can do for you, you can do for yourself at little or no cost.
Now that we have the disclaimer out of the way, we know that sometimes people feel overwhelmed with the process and want to ask a live person a question if they get stumped. If you do, we recommend Lexington Law firms. We're had a relationship with them since 2000, have visited their brick and mortar facilities and have been shown their credit repair process. They offer a free credit consultation, you might as well take advantage of it.
What the information provided in this page does is help you fix ERRORS on your credit report and clean up those "questionable" items. While no one can legally remove accurate negative information from a credit report, the law does allow you to request an investigation of information in your file that you dispute as inaccurate or incomplete. On the other hand, *nudge* *nudge*, *wink* *wink*, it is perfectly legal to challenge ANYTHING on your credit report.
There is no charge for requesting an investigation. The whole key to the credit repair procedure is that if the credit bureaus cannot verify information on your credit report they must remove it. For instance, if a credit bureau cannot contact a collection agency which is reporting a collection on your report, they cannot verify the information, and the credit bureau must delete the entry.
1. Get your credit report.
To obtain free copies of your report, please see Getting and reading your credit report. Please note: when you get a free report, you are not going to see your credit score, which is a crucial tool in getting your credit in shape. Here is a comparison chart of online credit score purchase options.
2. Analyze your credit report.
You can analyze your credit as outlined in "Decoding Your Report".
3. Rank questionable/negative items
Step 2 covered how to identify items, both positive and negative on your credit report. Now you have this list, you should rank each item according to the amount of damage they are doing to your overall credit picture. Rank the most damaging information first, followed by the next most damaging information, followed by those items which are neutral. Do this for each credit report, as remember, they may not all have the same information on them. They may even have duplicate information. If this is the case, you will need to write to each credit agency individually for each duplicate item.
The items here are listed in order of descending importance with the first item being the "most damaging" to your credit.
Past due payments
Also, if your creditor has NOT notified you of negative information they have recently placed on your credit report, they are currently in violation of the Fair Credit Reporting Act. You can use this to pressure the original creditor to remove the listing by reminding them they are in violation of the FCRA by not notifying you.
4. Requesting Corrections and Disputing Your Credit
What should you challenge?
Everything, and you should always shoot for a complete deletion. In your initial challenge, don't dispute the information within a collection listing, charge-off, court record, repossession, foreclosure, or settled account. Save disputing the information within the listing for the NEXT ROUND OF DISPUTES. Start off the reason for your dispute on a negative listing whenever possible as "not mine". For a list of the most common dispute reasons, go here.
What items are the toughest to get off your report?
You will have the toughest time getting bankruptcies, judgments, child support and foreclosures off of your credit report as these things are so easy for the credit bureaus to verify electronically through e-Oscar. In the case of a bankruptcy, you most likely will have a few trade lines saying "included in Bankruptcy". If you want to challenge your bankruptcy, you need to clear off all credit lines mentioning a BK FIRST.
5. Make sure you send everything registered or certified mail.
This is important, as you must be able to tell when letters were sent and received. It gives you some leverage with the CRAs if they don't respond in the time frame required by law.
6. Document Your Credit Repair Efforts
As soon as you have ordered your credit reports and photocopied your order letters and checks, you must create a precise organizational system to track your correspondences with the credit bureaus and your creditors. Why is this necessary? Unfortunately, credit items you have worked so hard to remove mysteriously reappear. If this happens, it is usually easy to have the items deleted permanently if you show your complete records on the first removal. Why take a chance?
As you proceed through these steps, keep copies and records of all correspondence you send and receive. Copies of all correspondence are a must, as well as notes on all telephone conversations! Also, if you should encounter any special difficulty and would like help in repairing your credit, you will need these records to proceed.
Every time you have a telephone conversation with a creditor, you must document the conversation by recording the name of the person to whom you spoke, his or her position, the date and time of the conversation, what was said in the conversation, and what was agreed upon.
7. Wait for the credit bureau to finishing investigating
Once the credit reporting agency has received your dispute letter, they are obligated to investigate. This obligation is not contingent upon you having been denied credit. According to the Fair Credit Reporting Act, the credit bureaus must take the following steps:
The credit reporting agencies must resolve consumers' disputes within 30 days limit, unless you have used the services of annualcreditreport.com, then the bureaus can take up to 45 days.
In response to consumers' complaints that documentation in support of their disputes was disregarded, the credit bureaus have to consider and transmit to the furnisher all relevant evidence submitted by the consumer the first time.
Consumers will receive written notice of the results of the investigation within five days of its completion, including a copy of the amended credit file if it changed based on the dispute.
Once information is deleted from a credit file, the credit bureaus can not reinsert it unless the entity supplying the information certifies that the item is complete and accurate and the credit bureau notifies the consumer within five days.
The Federal Trade Commission says that inaccurate credit reports are the number-one source of consumer complaints, and that it is quite common for problems to take six or more months to be resolved. All of the big-three agencies are working on making sure that all disputes are handled within 30 days.
If the new investigation reveals an error, you may ask that a corrected version of the report be sent to anyone who received your report within the past six months. Job applicants can have corrected reports sent to anyone who received a report for employment purposes during the past two years. However, this is unlikely to repair any damage done when your credit report was first pulled, so don’t waste your time or energy on this approach.
8. Evaluate the results of your credit repair efforts.
9. Repeat your credit bureau dispute:
It's a good idea to keep disputing negative listings with the credit bureaus. If you hit on the right dispute, the listing could get completely removed from your report. For instance, if you dispute the date the account was opened, and the credit bureaus can not verify this information they may pull the whole listing. You will need to change the reason for the investigation so the credit bureau will have something new to investigate. The order of the reasons should be:
Not mine (not my account)
I didn't pay late that month
Wrong account number
Wrong original creditor
Wrong Charge-off Date
Wrong Date of Last Activity
Wrong Credit limit
Wrong Status (there are about 20)
Wrong High Credit (the highest amount you used)
10. Specialized techniques:
Depending on the type of listing, you may also want to try these separate techniques:
Collections - This is actually an easy type of listing to deal with. We recommend five different methods for removing collections.
Charge-offs. Try disputing the information within the listing, like the date the account was opened, the high balance, the amount owed, etc. If any of the information is incorrect, you have a good chance of getting the whole thing deleted off of your report. Also try the Disputing Listing With Original Creditor method of dispute.
Judgments. If you were never served for a judgment, you may have a chance of getting it vacated (voided), or there may be other technicalities that you can use. Check out our new section on how to do this.
Disputing directly with the credit card/mortgage company. If well-spread out disputes with the credit bureaus does not work - use our Disputing a listing with the Original Creditor method.
11. Free Sample Letters for Credit Repair
12. What if a removed negative item comes back on my credit report?
Ok, you’ve removed a listing and are breathing a deep sigh of relief. Then you get a letter in the mail from a credit bureau telling you the item has been added back on. What happened?
This is actually becoming more commonplace: since the new credit laws require that the bureaus investigate and resolve your disputes within 30 days, they will sometimes remove the negative information temporarily until they get the information verified as true. Then they will put back any information verified to be true and notify you of this. By law, they can do this, but they have to notify you in writing.
If they DO NOT notify you in writing, it is an instant violation of the FCRA with a $1000 file PAYABLE TO YOU. Many of our readers have had great success earning some easy cash by suing the credit bureaus for reinserted listings. Not only do you earn $1000, but that listing is removed from your report as well.
Tips for resubmitting your credit dispute
Be persistent! Become more insistent, but not more threatening, with each dispute. Make sure your letters are clear and to the point. Remember, an employee at one of the credit bureaus has about 4 minutes to enter the dispute into the computer for analysis by e-Oscar. Remember if you call the company, this resets the clock on how long they have to get back to you. If you are on day 29 of the 30 days that they have to get back to you and you call, the clock resets and they have 30 more days because you "provided them with more information". Just like any other consumer, you can become frustrated and threatening as time passes. You may threaten to hire an attorney, you may threaten to complain to the FTC and your state's attorney general, etc. But don’t overdo it.
Be creative - Create and utilize other techniques that help further the idea that the dispute letter is from a truly wronged and disadvantaged consumer. The checker is only interested in investigating disputes that truly are erroneous and damaging.
Do not bombard the credit bureaus with disputes (about the same listings, that is). Sending one dispute right after another is wasteful and counterproductive, even if you do use a different reason in your dispute. Again, you must remember to change the REASON for the dispute each time you submit. Otherwise, the dispute can be deemed frivolous and the credit bureau is under no legal obligation to take action. Also remember, that credit repair is a time consuming operation requiring great patience. The rule of thumb is to wait 60 days between disputes of the same listing WITH A DIFFERENT REASON FOR DISPUTING.