Here's a quick checklist to develop an action plan for doing your own credit repair.
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.
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:
As that wise saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure! When it comes to protecting yourself from credit fraud and identity theft, that ounce of prevention comes in the form of taking the 10 simple and free steps below.
Let's be honest, the time it takes to clean up a credit fraud or identity theft mess is a hassle! If you've ever been a victim, you know how much time it takes to clean up your thief's handiwork. Follow the tips above and you'll be closer to protecting yourself from becoming a target.
If you've never lost a credit card or had one stolen from you, you may feel like credit fraud is not your problem. But the truth is, credit fraud affects us all! Defined as theft and fraud committed using a payment card, when criminals obtain goods or cash through credit fraud it is the credit card issuer (Chase, Amex, etc) that bears the burden of the loss by charging all cardholders higher fees and interest rates. A stolen account number can often be just as effective for a criminal as a stolen credit card, especially if information such as the expiration date or your billing address is also available to the thief.
And if you don't check your accounts daily, you might want to reconsider that habit! You may not know someone is using your account until unexpected charges or cash advances show up on your monthly statement. Criminals can steal credit account numbers in many different ways:
- Collecting them in telephone or Internet scams
- Copying them from credit cards when the owner isn't looking
- Gathering them from discarded receipts or account statements in people's trash (dumpster diving)
Identity theft describes when someone uses your personal information, such as your name and Social Security number, to either take over current credit accounts or open new ones using your identity. Gathering info via dumpster diving, described above, is a tactic used often by identity thieves. A thief can rent an apartment, take a job, or even commit crimes using your name. Sadly, the identity fraud generally involves using your good credit rating - without your knowledge. Two Tactics used by identity thieves include:
- Stealing personal information and then using it to apply for credit
- Stealing pre-approved credit card offers from your trash and sending them in with a change of address.
A clever identity thief can use your name and information for months without your knowledge, often making the minimum payments on any accounts they've opened so as to keep that credit line available longer. You might not find out what is happening until they max out YOUR credit and stop paying the bill. At that point, the creditor sends collectors out to find you to settle the debt.
Checking your credit report regularly is one of the few ways to catch identity theft before it goes that far. Just as reviewing your credit card statement can reveal charges you did not make, reviewing your credit report can reveal activity on accounts you don't use or new accounts you did not open, alerting you to the possibility of identity theft. Stay tuned - next week we'll discuss 10 FREE things you can do to protect yourself from credit fraud and identity theft.
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.
- 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.
- 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
- Your name
- Date of Birth
- Telephone Number
- Co-Applicant’s Name
- Employer’s name
- 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:
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.