Simple Steps to Fix Your Credit
We know sometimes people feel overwhelmed with the credit repair process and want to ask a live person a question if they get stumped. The information provided on this page is intended to 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. It is perfectly legal to challenge ANYTHING on your credit report. Anything at all.
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.
To obtain free copies of your report, read our page, “Credit 101- An Intro To Credit Repair”. 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.
1. Analyze Your Credit Report
After obtaining your credit reports, make sure to downloaded them and save them to your computer. You can use the free credit report analyzer which may have been provided with your credit report to figure out which items are lowering your credit score. After reviewing your credit reports, print them out and then highlight everything you see as a negative listing along with what the computer analysis pointed out.
2. Rank Questionable and Negative Items on Your Credit Report
We covered how to identify items on your credit report as being either positive or negative. Now that you have your list of negative items, you should rank each item according to the amount of damage it is doing to your overall credit score. Rank the most damaging first, followed by the next most damaging, followed by those items which are neutral. Do this for each credit report, and remember, they may not all have the same information on them. They may even have duplicate information on them. 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 “most damaging” to “least 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.[/note]
3. Request Corrections and Dispute 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 initial dispute on a negative listing whenever possible as “not mine”. There is a complete list of the most common dispute reasons further below.
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.
4. Mails Letters Registered or Certified
This is important, as you must be able document when the letters were sent and received. This gives you some leverage with the CRAs if they don’t respond in the time frame required by law. Here are some certified mail tips. DON’T USE THE ONLINE DISPUTING SERVICE PROVIDED BY THE CREDIT BUREAUS. You need to be documenting everything, and you want to make sure that you have a complete record of your disputes.
5. 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.
6. Wait for the Credit Bureaus to Investigate
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 FTC says that inaccurate credit reports are the number-one source of consumer complaints, and 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 last 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.
7. Analyze the Results
You did save the original credit report your ordered, didn’t you? And each item you challenged? Good, you will need them to evaluate how well you did. That is all part of step above, documenting your efforts.
When you get your updated credit report back from the credit bureaus, they will summarize what changed on your credit report due to your challenges. You can compare this report to your notes or to the previous credit report.
The results of each item will have been resolved in one of the following ways:
If the listing is not mentioned in the results list, you must have forgotten to include it, or your request was not sufficiently clear. You will need to dispute that item again in your next dispute letter. The bureaus are legally obligated to respond in writing within 30 days, so if they don’t, it is highly unlike they are ignoring you.
The disputed item was investigated but verified. If the item was not removed, most likely, the credit bureaus just gave you a cryptic reason like “item verified”. We know the credit bureau never actually talked to the information furnisher, but has used eOscar. The law states the bureaus can accept any proof you would like to submit and they will pass this documentation on to your creditor for consideration. So, be sure to send any and all documentation, if you didn’t do it the first time. I would also hit them up with the method of verification technique, which is going to force them to expose the fact that they are using eOscar. You could also try disputing the listing again at a future time. Who knows, you may get lucky, and a different employee of the creditor may not be able to verify the item. If the account does come back as “verified”, I recommend you try disputing the listing with the original creditor immediately.
The disputed listing was investigated as to the correctness of the information within the listing (such as late pay notations) and the listing was found to be inaccurate or unverifiable. Remember, if the creditor doesn’t respond to the bureau at all, this is the same as the listing being unverifiable. In this case, the negative listing will now show up as a positive listing, or it will be deleted from your report all together. This is the best possible outcome.
8. Repeat Your Credit Bureau Dispute
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 delete the entire listing. You will need to change the reason for the investigation so the credit bureaus will have something new to investigate. The order of the reasons should be:
Not mine or 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 of these.
Wrong high credit – the highest amount you used.
For example, the first time you challenge a listing, you might say the account is “not mine.” The second time through, you could say “never late.