When it comes to credit repair, the debate over whether it is best done independently on one’s own or with the help of a seasoned professional is just as strong as the arguments over whether or not debt is ever a good thing and whether using credit or cash is best. In this post we’re going to take a look at both sides of the issue.
First: The Basic Process
The process through which a credit history is repaired and improved is the same whether you go it alone or hire someone to help you. Credit reports are obtained. Mistakes are disputed. Debts and accounts are verified (or not). Unverified accounts are removed from the record, ostensibly helping your credit history and score improve.
It seems simple on the surface but the reality is, as always, more complicated. Here are just a few of the reasons why:
- Every single detail of the process must be tracked and unequivocally provable.
- Very specific language must be used if you want the process to be successful.
- Steps must be followed in a very specific order.
- Time matters. Nothing happens overnight but there are hard and fast deadlines that must be met.
The DIY Approach
If you want to fix your credit yourself, here is what you do:
First, get a copy of your credit report from each of the three credit reporting agencies. You are entitled to one free copy of the report from each agency for free within a twelve month period. If it has been less than a year since your last request, you will probably have to pay a small fee for each report. Even so, you need all three because each agency reports things slightly differently than the others.
Now, go through your reports and make sure that every last detail is absolutely correct. There is no such thing as an “allowable” mistake on a credit report. Report every single mistake you find to the reporting agency. Make a note of the date that you report these mistakes. The credit agencies have up to 30 days to remove these mistakes from your record.
Next, go through each account one by one and ask the account holder to verify it. It is possible to do this by disputing the items on the report within the credit agency’s system but it is better (and holds more weight legally) to send a letter through the mail. You can find sample letters for debt and account verification online. Make sure you include language spelling out the fact that they have 30 days from receipt of having received your letter to respond.
DO NOT just drop these letters in a mailbox. Instead, send them via “signature delivery” which means that someone has to sign for them. The card they sign will be mailed back to you. This is your proof that the letter was received and didn’t get lost in the system. You will need this later if the account holder tries to tell an agency that they never received your request.
Note: Print out and keep hard copies of every single thing you do to fix your credit and keep them in one place. It’s also a good idea to keep track of details like dates letters are sent, when they are received, etc on a spreadsheet so that you can better manage your deadlines.
After the 30 day deadline has passed, if the account holder has not sent you written verification of your account standing and amount owed, you can request that the credit reporting agency remove their listing from your report.
Repeat this process until your report is 100% accurate and all of your debts and accounts have either been verified or removed.
NOTE: 30 days is a general rule and the language that you need to use about their response time and the details they must provide will vary from state to state. The same is true for the statute of limitations on how long accounts can be pursued or take up residence on your record. Make sure you use the correct terms, conditions, and language for your state.
Asking Someone For Help
As you can see, it’s a lot of work to repair your credit yourself. Most people who attempt it will usually give up somewhere along the way. Sometimes it’s because they run out of time. Other times it is because creditors can be very intimidating and will do their best to bully individuals into dropping their claims. Either way, hiring someone to help you is almost always the best plan–if for no other reason than most creditors are scared of even the potential for a lawsuit and are more likely to work with a professional than they are an individual.
There are agencies that are set up to help you repair your credit (and, if need be, get you on the path toward a healthier financial future). Make sure that you choose a repair agency with legal experience. Lawyers who specialize in credit law and credit repair law are your best advocates here. They will know exactly which language to use in their verification requests and will not hesitate to go after a creditor if the law isn’t followed.
It’s also a good idea to hire a lawyer to help you if you have found yourself the victim of identity theft. Proving identity theft is tricky and isn’t something that you should try to do yourself. A lawyer can help you get ID theft items removed from your report and help you prosecute the thief.
The thing you need to take away from this article is this: repairing your credit is possible. You can even do it yourself if you want to manage your own details and have the time to do so. Most of the time, though, the best thing to do is ask for help.
(This post is by Sara Stringer)