□ Get a copy of your three-in-one credit report

□ Highlight any incorrect, outdated, and incomplete accounts

□ Create a filing system for your dispute letter(s).  Follow these recommendations for getting organized.

□ Choose a credit repair technique

□ Write your dispute letter(s) using these tips.

□ Send your letters certified mail with return receipts.

□ Get in the habit of pulling your credit score every 2-3 months to check for progress.

Not sure where to begin with the credit repair process?  Start here by choosing which of these 4 options fit best with your situation:

SELF CREDIT REPAIR
First, take the time to understand the 3 laws that govern what the bureaus and creditors can do and your rights throughout the process.  These are the Federal Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), Credit Repair Organizations Act (CROA), and the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA).  Use standard dispute procedures to remove inaccurate trade lines from your credit report.  Your best chance of success with this method is by mailing dispute letters to the credit bureau in which the inaccuracy on your report was found.  Follow these recommendations to increase your chance of success. 

PAY OFF YOUR BILLS
Settle your outstanding negative accounts with creditors and collectors for a complete deletion of negative information.  After that, get in the habit of paying off your credit card balances each month and never falling into delinquency with creditors.  PLEASE NOTE!  In many cases, paying collection accounts will lower your credit score.  For this reason, we can’t stress the importance of becoming educated on the law before beginning your credit repair journey.  What makes common sense doesn’t always make credit sense!

BECOME OUR CLIENT
A personal advisor will review your credit profile to determine how our program will effectively increase your credit scores.  We work together throughout each step you need to take in order to maximize your score.  A credit report is like a finger print – it’s unique to everyone!  That’s why we recommend all clients to at the very least sign up for our free credit consultation.  In that consultation we speak to you specifically about the items on your credit report and how to best navigate the process.

GO TO COURT
If the credit bureaus violated the Fair Credit Reporting Act by not removing inaccurate information from your credit report, you can consult with an attorney regarding a possible lawsuit.  

What is a credit score, anyway?

Your credit score is a snapshot of your payment history for all credit transactions that you have from age 18 until present day.  It is important to guide teens towards responsibly developing good credit upon turning 18.  This system of credit rating began in 1989 and is a system scoring the likelihood a person will pay their debts.  

What information is in my credit report?

Your credit report details when you applied for credit, how many positive and negative accounts you have, who has viewed your report, and your personal information (full name, phone number, address, social security number). 

How can my life be impacted by my credit score?

A fair or poor credit score (640 or below) leads to paying higher rates – even denied access - to credit cards, auto loans, bank loans, mortgage loans and insurance.  Some companies deny employment based on poor scores.  Understand what constitutes negative items on your report with this guide.    

How often should I check my credit report?

We recommend reviewing your credit report every four to six months.   This gives you a chance to check for identity theft, inaccurate accounts, and any incorrect information – all of which could have a significant negative impact on your credit.  Hint: program bi-monthly ‘don’t forget to check your credit report’ reminders on your phone to help you remember.   Still don’t think you’ll remember?  Sign up for a paid credit monitoring service.

How do I get a copy of my credit report?

Currently there are 3 main credit bureaus - Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion, and you should request a report from each as each may contain different information.  You are entitled to 1 free report a year, additional copies cost from $15-$20.  The bureaus also offer the option for a 3-in-1 credit report where all 3 scores are merged into one.  These cost between $30-$40.  You can request your report online, by mail, or by phone.  If you request a copy by mail, be sure to include a copy of your driver’s license, social security card and a current utility bill.

TransUnion (800-916-8800)
Equifax (800-685-1111)
Experian (888-397-3742)
For mailed inquiries - Annual Credit Report Request Service, PO Box 105281, Atlanta GA  30348-5281

Here’s a template for you to follow if you’re requesting your credit report by mail:

What kind of information is on a credit report?  If you’ve never seen a copy of one, the information provided on this quality-of- life impacting document is probably a mystery to you. 


COVER PAGE
- Your Name
- The Report Date
- The Report Number
- Address of the Credit Bureaus
- Federal Trade Commission Disclosures

CREDITORS AND COLLECTION AGENCIES
- Name and Address of Creditor or Collection Agency
- Partial Account Number to Protect From Identity Theft

TYPE AND RESPONSIBILITY
- Loan Type
- Who’s Responsible for the Loan

DATE OPEN AND DATE OF STATUS
- Account Open Date
- Date the Creditor or Collection Agency Reported Your First Payment to the Credit Bureau

REPORTED SINCE AND LAST REPORTED
- Date the Creditor First Reported Your Payment History
- The Last Date Your Status Was Reported

CREDIT LIMIT AND ORIGINAL AMOUNT
- Credit Limit on the Date Account was Opened

RECENT BALANCE AND HIGH BALANCE
- Your Most Recent Account Balance
- The Highest Balance You Had With the Trade Line.

STATUS AND ACCOUNT HISTORY
- Are Your Bills Current
- Account Closed or Paid
- Payment History.

COMMENTS
- Creditor Notes Who Closed the Account 
- Other Comments

HISTORY OF YOUR ACCOUNTS
- Your Account’s Paying History
- Your entire paying history since you opened the account,
- Each Account Held

RECORD OF REQUEST FOR YOUR CREDIT HISTORY
- Who Request to Evaluate Your Credit Report 
- Most companies looking at your information are your current creditors and collection agencies. 
- The Shared Inquiry Area - Companies Trying to Offer Pre-Approved Credit Applications 

PERSONAL INFORMATION
- Your name
- Address
- Date of Birth
- Telephone Number
- Co-Applicant’s Name
- Employer’s name

PUBLIC RECORDS
- Bankruptcies
- Judgements
- Tax Liens
- Civil Lawsuits
- Overdue Child Support Payments
- Criminal Records

THE REMAINDER OF YOUR CREDIT REPORT
- Addresses of Companies Requesting Your Report
- Federal Trade Commission Laws
- Contact Numbers
- Occasionally Dispute Forms

No single report can give you the whole story of your credit – that’s why we recommend pulling a 3-in-1 report versus only choosing to look at a report from just one of the three credit bureaus.  In one report combined report, you find out where your credit score stands with Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.  This report gives you the essential information you need to understand your overall credit history.  Benefits of the 3-in-1 credit report include:

  • You can request a 3-in-1 report rather than dealing with Equifax, Experian and TransUnion individually.
  • You can more easily compare account information from all three bureaus. This is important because each report might not contain the same information!
  • The combined report is relatively affordable – Equifax currently charges $29.95 and Experian is $39.95.
  • Since time is money essentially you’re saving money!
  • A more environmentally conscious option – there is significantly less paper to deal with.

What’s the best method to efficiently and accurately repair your credit?  It’s simple – get organized. 

- Keep correspondences between each bureau in a separate folder.  File copies of letters you’ve sent along with your certified return receipt from the Post Office.  Whenever you receive responses, place them in the appropriate folder. 

- Keep track of your efforts with a dispute tracking form like this:

- Record the time and money spent on your efforts to clean up your report.

- Record the date and amount of time taken off from work to do credit repair related issues.

- Write down names, dates and phone calls made to and from the credit bureaus. 

The Fair Credit Reporting Act states that if you dispute the accuracy of any item or data in your credit reports, the credit bureau shall conduct a reasonable investigation within 30 days to determine if the challenge is correct.  After the 30 days have expired, if the credit bureau has not verified or completed the investigation, the disputed item must be deleted. 

The most important reason to follow the steps above is to prepare for a potential lawsuit against the credit bureau for failing to investigate your disputed items.  Plenty of documentation will be needed in order to have sufficient evidence to win. 

Did you know?  Each credit bureau has smart computers that scan your dispute letters, looking for indications that your letters are frivolous.  Bypass these computers so that a human being reads your letter!  By doing this, you have a better chance of getting that inaccurate item removed from your credit report. 

TRY THESE TECHNIQUES:

- highlight, underline and bold certain words.
- hand write your letter instead of using printing one from your computer
- use an odd shaped envelope

Making it obvious your letter is not fraud or frivolous will increase chances of it being read by a real person, not tossed out by a computer.  Try the techniques above – if you can’t make progress with disputing inaccuracies on your own, contact us for help.

I just received my credit report and need to review it.  Where do I start? 
A credit report might look alien to you upon first glance, but don’t worry!  It’s easy to get started.  First, grab a highlighter pen so any inaccurate information you find can be marked.  Start by reviewing the entries in your personal information section.  Check your name, date of birth, present and past addresses, current and past employers and Social Security number.  Within your credit report, look for the following discrepancies:

DISCREPANCIES REGARDING ACCOUNTS AND INQUIRIES
- unauthorized users
- customers listed as deceased
- former spouse’s name
- inaccurate accounts from your divorce
- inaccurate negative cosigned accounts
- unauthorized inquiries
- illegally re-aged collection accounts reporting an incorrect last date of activity
- foreclosure attempts
- consumer credit counseling loan indications

DISCREPANCIES REGARDING BALANCES AND ACCOUNTS
- incorrect balances
- credit limits listed incorrectly
- duplicate collections
- accounts listed incorrectly
- credit lines not listed
- paid accounts still showing that you owe
- closed accounts shown as open
- closed accounts should say ‘closed by consumer’ and not ‘closed by creditor’.

DISCREPANCIES REGARDING INACCURATE TRADE LINES
- late payments of 30, 60, 90 and 120 days
- collections
- charge-offs
- tax liens
- judgements
- debt consolidation marks
- bankruptcies not saying withdrawn or dismissed
- repossession indication when it should say ‘voluntarily surrendered’

If you discover inaccurate information in any of these sections, the next step is composing and sending dispute letters to whichever credit bureau’s report contains the discrepancy.  Check out the sample dispute letter form at the bottom of this page – that's a good place to get started! 

I’ve got several inaccuracies on my credit report – which one do I dispute first? 
If you reviewed your credit report and found multiple inaccuracies, you might be confused or overwhelmed with which you should tackle first.  Let us help you!  Dispute the easiest items first, then move on to the hardest ones.  Contact us if you have questions about an inaccuracy you’re unsure of.

EASIEST ITEMS TO DISPUTE
- outdated accounts
- inaccurate late payments
- inaccurate accounts that were late but are now paid off
- inaccurate charge-offs and settled accounts
- inaccurate authorized user accounts
- accounts that do not belong to you

HARDEST ITEMS TO CHALLENGE
- inaccurate bankruptcies
- inaccurate foreclosures and repossessions
- inaccurate unpaid tax liens and judgements
- inaccurate recent charge-offs and new collections
- inaccurate new late payments of 30, 60, 90 and 120 days
- inaccurate late child support payments

HOW TO KNOW IF AN ITEM IS DISPUTABLE
- the account is not yours
- you have no record of being late
- the trade line displays the wrong amount
- the account number is incorrect
- the accounts are unverifiable
- the original creditor is wrong
- the charge off date is inaccurate
- the date of last activity is wrong
- the credit limit is incorrect
- the status is wrong
- the high credit is wrong
- the charge off amount is wrong
- the balance is wrong
- the items are questionable or misleading
- the accounts are erroneous
- outdated
- inaccurate or incorrect

TIP!  In order for the credit bureau to start a NEW investigation after they have verified that the inaccurate account is yours, you must give them a new reason to investigate if you feel that the account is wrong.  When you do this, it prevents the bureau from marking your disputes as frivolous or irrelevant.