Bad credit is bad news, especially in today’s strained economy. If your credit worthiness has taken a dive recently, you may be considering ways to improve your credit score. Here are a few legitimate ways to improve your credit.
First, get current copies of your credit report from all three credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and Trans Union. If you are in the United States, you can access one free credit report from each credit bureau every twelve months by visiting www.annualcreditreport.com, calling 1-877-322-8228, or completing the Annual Credit Report Request Form, which you can access at www.ftc.gov. If you choose to complete the form, mail it to: Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281. Bear in mind that the only Web site authorized to fill orders for a free credit report is www.annualcreditreport.com. Any other Web site that offers a free credit report, especially one that requires you to submit a credit card number, will likely end up costing you money.
Once you get copies of your credit report from all three bureaus, study them carefully to make sure there are no mistakes. Credit bureaus collect information about you, but they don’t necessarily check for accuracy. If you see an entry that is incorrect, outdated, misleading, or unverifiable, you can file a dispute with the credit bureau that is reporting the incorrect information. The credit bureau then has five days to contact the original creditor and 30 days to investigate the disputed item. If the item cannot be verified or is found to be inaccurate, it must be removed from your credit report. If the disputed item is verified, you have the right to add a 100 word statement to the item, explaining what happened. The credit bureau must notify you of the results and provide an updated credit report.
Another legal method of “cleaning up credit” is writing a letter to the original creditor and politely asking that a negative item be removed. Sometimes creditors will oblige the request as a goodwill gesture, especially if it was a minor or first offense and you are otherwise a good customer.
Beware of “credit repair” companies. Some of them are outright frauds. Avoid any credit repair company that requires payment for services in advance or will not tell you your rights or what you can do for free. Companies that advise you to dispute every item on your credit report or suggest that you create a new credit identity should also be avoided. Creating a new credit identity by applying for an employee identification number instead of using your social security number is illegal and if you’re caught, you can be prosecuted for fraud.
Above all, become familiar with your rights under the Fair Credit Reporting Act and the Credit Reporting Organizations Act of 1996. You can find out more about both of these laws as well as reliable information about consumer protection by visiting the Federal Trade Commission’s Web site at www.ftc.gov.
No one wants to deal with bad credit, but there may be some steps you can take to improve your credit worthiness. The Federal Trade Commission’s Web site is one of the best places to start gathering information to legally repair your bad credit. Good luck.