Determine Which Accounts To Dispute And Gather Evidence
Any error on your credit reports can be disputed, especially if its hurting your credit score. Go through each of your credit reports and mark which ones you want to challenge. If youve been a victim of identity theft and dont recognize the accounts, or even if you see anything that is questionable, you have the right to dispute it.
If you have a lot, you might want to narrow things down in one of two ways. The first method is to only dispute a few at a time. If you choose to do this, start with the most damaging items first.
Can I Clean Up My Credit Report By Myself
By Brandon Cornett | November 23, 2011 | © HBI,
Reader question: I have a few things on my credit report that Id like to remove. I was thinking about hiring a company to help with this. But Ive heard good and bad things about these companies. Is this something I can do on my own? If so, how can I clean up my credit report by myself?
Yes, you can absolutely do this on your own. Thats what I recommend. The industry you are referring to is full of bad apples. In many cases, they will charge you an upfront fee and then fail to deliver anything of value. Or theyll charge you for things that you could easily do for yourself. So lets talk about how you can clean up your credit report on your own.
What Does Cleaning Up Your Credit Report Mean
When you clean up your credit, you get it in the strongest shape possible so lenders view you as a trustworthy potential borrower.
Each credit reporting agencyExperian, TransUnion and Equifaxhas its own process you can use to dispute information you believe appears erroneously. This could include personal information or accounts that do not belong to you.
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Keep Credit Cards Open
Most people think its a good idea to cancel a credit card once the balance is paid off. Thats not the case. Since a portion of your credit score is determined by your overall credit, eliminating a card can damage your score. For example, lets say that between your loans and lines of credit, your total available credit is $22,000. According to Money Crashers, if you use $12,000 of this available credit and $5,000 of it is from the card you are closing, your available credit drops from $22,000 to $17,000. That would probably be a good thing if the card had no balance, but if the card you are closing is maxed out, your used credit remains at $12,000. This sudden increase in your debt/credit ratio will drop your score noticeably.
More Ways To Get A Free Credit Report
You can also get a free copy of your credit report through Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion, with each bureau offering slightly different methods of obtaining your report.
When you register for an Experian account, you’ll receive a new free credit report every 30 days at sign in. Similarly, when you sign up for a myEquifax account, you’ll get free access to six additional credit reports each year. TransUnion will redirect you to AnnualCreditReport.com to order your annual free report. However, if you would like an additional TransUnion credit report, and you don’t qualify for a free or reduced rate, it will cost $11.50.
In addition, all three bureaus, through AnnualCreditReport.com, have made free weekly credit reports available through April 2021 to help those financially affected by the 2020 recession.
You’re also entitled to a free credit report if you’ve been turned down for credit because of something on your credit report, if you’re currently receiving government assistance, if you’re unemployed and plan to look for a job soon, or if you think you’ve been a victim of credit card fraud or identity theft. Some states also have laws that let you get an additional free credit report each year. All these free credit reports should be ordered directly through the credit bureaus.
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How To Check With The Data Furnisher
When you file a dispute, the Federal Trade Commission suggests also informing the company that provided the data to the credit bureaus, such as a bank, lender or card issuer, in writing. These sources of information are known as furnishers. Notifying the data furnisher may cause them to proactively stop reporting the inaccurate information to the credit bureau, although that’s not guaranteed.
Send the letter to the company using the address it listed on your credit report. If there is no address listed, ask the company for one.
The FTC notes on its website: “If the provider continues to report the item you disputed to a credit reporting company, it must let the credit reporting company know about your dispute. And if you are correct that is, if the information you dispute is found to be inaccurate or incomplete the information provider must tell the credit reporting company to update or delete the item.”
The Best Method For Credit Repair Disputes
Disputing online is often faster and easier, but leaves you with no paper trail . The same thing goes for making a dispute over the phone.
Sending your disputes through regular mail has several advantages. First, you can also send proof that supports your dispute, for example, a canceled check showing you make your payment on time. You can also keep a copy of the dispute letter for your records.
Finally, if you send your dispute via certified mail with return receipt requested, which you should do, you have proof of the time you mailed. This is important because credit bureaus have 3045 days to investigate and respond to your dispute.
Since you’ll be sending multiple disputes, you can keep a on your computer that you can modify for different disputes and different credit bureaus.
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Check Your Credit Report For Errors
Carefully review your credit report from all three credit reporting agencies for any incorrect information. Dispute inaccurate or missing information by contacting the credit reporting agency and your lender. Read more about disputing errors on your credit report.
Remember: checking your own credit report or FICO Score has no impact on your credit score.
How To Successfully Repair Your Credit All By Yourself
Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the authors opinions and recommendations alone. It may not have been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.
Digging yourself out of a bad credit hole is something you can get professional assistance with, but you can also make significant improvements on your own. This guide provides helpful tips on how to spot credit repair scams, how to fix bad information on your credit report, how to boost your credit score and more.
In this guide
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How To Remove Negative Items From Your Credit Report
Its smart to know how to remove negative items from your credit report, especially if you are soon to be applying for a mortgage or car loan.
In fact, you can remove something from your credit history before seven years pass.
Whatever youre dealing with, late payments, collections, charge offs, or foreclosures, the following techniques can clean up your credit quickly.
Why You Cant Afford To Wait For Negative Information To Drop Off Your Credit Report
Be clear that delinquencies have staying power.
Consider these time lengths that credit laws allow for negative items to remain on your credit report. These years can be like prison sentences, so understand them clearly.
- Chapter 7 bankruptcy: 10 years
- Chapter 13 bankruptcy: seven years
- Collection accounts: seven years after the first delinquency
- Late payments: seven years from the first late payment, even if youve caught up and the account is current or closed
- Unpaid tax liens: 10 years
- Paid tax liens: seven years
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What Are My Rights
As a consumer, you have several rights under the Fair Credit Reporting Act. For example, if a company uses credit information against in an insurance, employment or credit decision, you must be notified. The same requirement applies if the credit reporting agencies discover and/or fix inaccurate data in your credit report. You also have the right to know your credit reports contents. Other restrictions touch on how much and what others can see in your credit file, the fact that your consent is required before certain disclosures, and your right to sue someone who violates the law by accessing your file and using its contents without your approval.
Four: File A Dispute Online Or Send A Dispute Letter To The Credit Reporting Agency
The three nationwide CRAs allow you to dispute information in your credit reports online, which is the easiest way to file disputes. However, if you prefer, you may send a detailed letter to the CRA, detailing what is wrong and why, and including supporting documentation. You’ll have to send the letter directly to the CRA. Use the particular address the CRA sets forth for these dispute letters. You can find those addresses on the agencies’ websites.
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What Is Negative Credit Information
Negative credit information is anything that causes creditors to consider you a riskier borrower, including late payments, accounts in collections, foreclosures, bankruptcy and tax liens. Once negative credit information is introduced into your credit history, you cannot remove it on your own. However, time heals all wounds. The longer its been since the negative information was introduced, the less it will affect your credit score. In time, negative information falls off your credit history.
This list details the length of time that negative credit information affects your credit score:
Late payments: Seven yearsBankruptcies: Seven years for completed Chapter 13 bankruptcies and 10 years for Chapter 7 bankruptciesForeclosures: Seven yearsCollections: Generally, about Seven years, depending upon the age of the debt being collectedPublic record: Generally, about Seven years, although unpaid tax liens can remain indefinitely
Rather than despair over negative information, take action to improve your score.
Who Can I Talk To For Help
Contact your state or local consumer affairs bureau and ask them about resources available in areas like debt management, credit cleanup, credit correction, and debt counseling.
You can also contact, and file a complaint with, the Federal Trade Commission, the agency in charge of promoting consumer protection and eliminating anti-competitive business and lending practices.
Seek the help of a nonprofit specializing in alternatively, you can reach out to a for-profit debt management company. Contact your states Department of Financial Services or the Better Business Bureaus local branch in your residence area. Give priority to debt organizations that are registered with state officials and the BBB.
Get legal representation, especially if the amount under dispute is substantial. Seek a lawyer who is familiar with the intricacies of debt management and has covered cases of credit cleanup in the past.
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Get A Free Copy Of Your Credit Report
The Fair Credit Reporting Act promotes the accuracy and privacy of information in the files of the nations credit reporting companies. Monitoring your credit report is a necessary practice to keep in check any negative information. Consumers should obtain their free credit report and review it at least once a year to catch any irregularities on time and keep track of disputed items.
Consumers are entitled by law to a free annual credit report from each of the three main reporting bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion, and you can access all three of them through one single website:
AnnualCreditReport.com is the only authorized website through which you can gain free access to your credit report from the three major bureaus. Be wary of other sites that promise the same, as they may have hidden fees, try to sell something, or collect personal information.
|Mail: Download, print, fill out, and mail to:|
|Annual Credit Report Request Service P.O. Box 105281 Atlanta, GA 30348-5281|
Equifax made headlines in 2017 due to a massive data breach, but it remains one of the top 3 services to get your credit report. The company provides a few different service levels if you want to monitor your credit score monthly . Monitoring packages start at $14.95 per month, and the $19.95 per month options include, ironically, a host of identity-theft protection options.
Check All Three Credit Reports For Errors
Through April 2022, youre entitled to free weekly credit reports from the three major credit reporting bureaus: Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. Request them by using AnnualCreditReport.com.
There may be small differences among your reports, because some creditors dont report your account activity to all three bureaus. But if negative information has popped up on one report, its wise to see whether its also on the other two.
There is no cost to dispute credit report errors, and you can dispute as many items as you like. Filing a dispute does not hurt your credit score, but the result of the dispute may have an effect on your score.
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Watch Out For Phantom Money
Lohrenz says a consumer with a history of collections may have outstanding balances on their report that are larger than they actually are because of the booming secondary market for collections. Heres how it happens: If a consumer has a credit card balance and becomes delinquent, the issuer will try to collect for a while, then give up and sell the account to a collection agency.
The card balance should then drop to zero, and a new account, this time with the collection agency, should appear on the report. Sometimes, though, the issuer doesnt strike that balance from its records, so it will appear as if the consumer has two outstanding debts.
If the debt is bought and sold numerous times, which is common, the problem can multiply.
Another instance of phantom money can occur when a consumer has a closed bank account that has an overdraft protection line of credit tied to it. In some instances, that line of credit will remain on a persons report even after the account is closed, says Steve Bucci, author of Credit Management Kit for Dummies.
Conditions Of Delinquency Agreements
If you work out an agreement with your creditors to avoid your delinquency being reported to the credit bureaus, make sure you understand the conditions.
This is especially the case if you are asking the creditor to make huge concessions, notes NOLO.com. NOLO provides legal information for consumers and small businesses.
These concessions include asking the creditor for a:
- long-term repayment plan with reduced or no interest, or
- lump sum settlement payment at a reduced amount
Keep in mind that these options will likely lead to the, advises NOLO. In most cases, this should be considered a good thing for those who are struggling to pay their bills.
Accumulating more debt while youre struggling with paying off delinquent debt is an extremely careless, bad idea.
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Negative Information On A Credit Report
If you have bad credit and a low credit score, it is likely that there are many negative items detailed on your credit report. This negative information could include charge-offs for accounts by which you stopped making payments. A charge-off typically means that a creditor sent collection letters and made collection calls to you, but you still didnât make good on a debt. So, the creditor gave up the hope of getting paid and closed your account. This process lowers your credit score. It can also make another creditor reject a future request for new credit because they see you have a history of uncollected debt.
Your poor credit may also be a result of collection accounts in which a credit card agency or medical provider tried to collect a payment within a specified time but you did not make payment. At that point, the credit card company or medical provider turned the account over to a collection agency to collect the payment from you. Collections accounts have a negative impact on your credit history for obvious reasons.
Bring High Account Balances Below Your Limit
Your , a ratio that compares your total debt to total credit, is the second biggest factor that affects your credit score. It’s 30% of your score. The higher your balances are, the more it hurts your credit score.
Having maxed out credit cards costs precious credit score points . Bring maxed out credit cards below the credit limit, then continue working to pay the balances off completely. Your credit score responds better to credit card balances that are less than 30% of the credit limit, below 10% is ideal.
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Review Your Identification Info
The most important part of your credit report is your identifying information: your name, address and Social Security number, says Natalie Lohrenz, strategic partner liaison at GreenPath Financial Wellness in Santa Ana, California.
People obsess over tiny fluctuations in their credit score, but what they should focus on is the question: Is it accurate? she says.
A serious error such as an incorrect Social Security number can have serious consequences and needs to be addressed immediately. After checking all the identifying information, look at the accounts and make sure theyre all yours. Keep in mind that some lenders, such as the financing companies that issue store-brand credit cards, probably will have a different name than the one on the storefront.