Cleaning Up Your Credit Report

Many companies promise credit repair.  Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!  There are steps consumers can take to correct and improve their credit report and scores while working within the Fair Credit Reporting Act. Remember, there ARE some good  Credit Repair Companies… so talk to them and get references if you want to same some time and skip these ideas!

Cleaning Up Your Credit

Mortgage lenders generally check with three credit bureaus in order to evaluate your past payment history.  Your goal in cleaning up you credit report should be to clean up each of the three bureaus.  If you only work on one, this does not effect the reporting to the other bureaus.

Get a Copy of Your Credit Report

The first step is to get a copy of your merged credit report, which shows all three of the major bureaus, Experian, Equifax, and Trans-Union.  Most mortgage lenders will obtain data from all three of these bureaus in analyzing your credit history.  The exception is that some portfolio lenders (usually adjustable rate lenders) may only review one.

What to Say When You Call Your Creditors

There are two efforts that must be made.  First, call any creditors reporting a negative and ask them to remove the negative item.  Ask in a nice calm voice and do not get upset when they say no.  Simply repeat your request over and over in a nice pleasant voice.  If you get nowhere, then ask to speak to the supervisor.  Make sure you keep a log of your conversation, noting the date, time, who you spoke to and what they said.  Repeat this procedure over and over.  In a high percentage of cases, it works.

Get Written Confirmation of Agreements

Be sure to ask for a letter by mail or fax that shows the creditor is correcting the negative information.  You may need this letter for two reasons.  First, they may not actually make the changes.  With the letter, you can appeal directly to the credit bureau and they will make the correction.  Second, if you are applying for a mortgage before the changes actually hit the credit bureau’s report; your lender will need this documentation.

If you have a charge off or collection account that shows as unpaid, don’t just send them a check and pay it off.  Call the creditor on the phone, explain that you have the funds to pay the account in full, and calmly explain why it should not have been reported on your credit in the first place.  Then ask if they will provide you a letter deleting the account entirely from all credit bureaus if you pay off the account.  Try to get them to fax it to you.  As before, be sure to document all of your telephone contact and always keep a nice pleasant tone in your voice.  In a large percentage of cases, this also works.

Disputing the Report — When Your Creditor Will Not Remove an Item

There will be cases when the creditor does not agree to remove the negative credit item.  If it is an item that is definitely yours, call the credit bureau immediately (except for Equifax, who only responds by mail).  When on the telephone, do not discuss any negative items that are accurate.  Do not discuss any items that may be accurate in general but have some small error in detail that you can dispute by mail.  Once you confirm any accuracy at all, you cannot dispute it later by mail.

For the remaining items, you need to dispute them by mail, writing directly to the credit bureaus.  Write a letter to the appropriate bureau including your name, social security number, address, disputed accounts, and account numbers.  You must sign the letter.  Inform the bureau that you are disputing the data as it appears on your credit report.

Mistakes on Your Credit Report

Almost every item on your credit report will have some mistake, even if only slight.  Do not acknowledge any of the accuracies, but be sure to note all inaccuracies.  Write next to each item something like, “not mine,” “not accurate,” “mistaken item,” “complete error,” or whatever is most appropriate.  Request a copy of the corrected report within thirty days.  If they do not respond within 30 days, send another letter.  In this letter, you will include a copy of your dated original letter and a new letter firmly requesting they remove the disputed information.  Include a cc: to the Federal Trade Commission.

Do Not Call the Credit Bureaus – Write Letters

The credit bureau may write a letter asking you to call.  Do not call under any circumstances.  Your phone call will be recorded and a log will be made of the conversation.  Simply write back with copies of your original letters, telling them of the original date you submitted your request.  Keep a file of all correspondence to and from the credit bureau and follow through continually.

Do not get discouraged, as this will be worth your while.

What happens is that the credit bureaus forward your dispute to the individual creditors who have forty-five days to respond.  If they do not respond within the allotted time, the item must be removed.  However, if they do respond at a letter date with information that documents the credit report is correct, the item will be placed back on your credit report.

Bankruptcies

For those of you who have filed bankruptcy in the past, the items that were discharged will normally show up as a charge-off or uncollected debt.  You will want to write to the credit bureaus, providing a copy of your complete bankruptcy papers and request that they show the debt as “discharged in bankruptcy.”  This looks better and raises your FICO score.  FICO scores above 680 make it easier to obtain mortgage loans.

Conclusion

You may not be able to clean up every item on your credit report using these methods, but you will certainly be able to improve the way it looks to potential creditors.