Where Do I Start?

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Where Do I Start? How Do I Start Repairing My Credit?

Before you can repair your credit, you need to know what needs to be addressed and fixed.  The first step, then, is to get a copy of your credit report from each of the three major credit report agencies: TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax.  By law, you are entitled to one free copy from each agency each year.  There are services available that offer to handle this for you – for a fee; but all you need to do is contact them yourself and request your copy:

Equifax Information Services
PO Box 740241
Atlanta, GA 30374

Experian Consumer Assistance
(Call for mailing address for your state)

PO Box 1000
Chester, PA 19022

It is a good idea to request a copy of your credit report from each agency. They are independent agencies so they may not all feature the exact same information.  You may spot errors in one that aren’t included in the others.

Identifying errors in your report – that’s next.  Look carefully at each entry in your report with an eye out for anything suspect.  For instance, make sure that any debts you’ve paid off are accurately recorded.  If you’ve paid off a debt, but your credit report still shows you in arrears, that’s a negative mark that needs to be removed.  

Most important, though, is making sure that all credit activity listed in your reports represents transactions you actually conducted.  If you see items you don’t recognize, there is a very good chance you’ve become a victim of identity theft and some criminal is using your name, social security number, or other identifying information to open accounts and take out loans in your name.  These errors can be the hardest to correct, since it requires proving that you did not authorize these activities.

If you spot inaccuracies in your credit history, write or call to report it to the agencies immediately.  They will have 30 days to conduct an investigation and report back to you about their findings.  Also, contact the lending institution directly.  Again, they will have 30 days to fix any errors and to notify the reporting agencies about the correction.

Follow-up.  Just because you’ve reported an error, don’t assume that the proper repairs will be made.  Keep an eye on your report and contact the agencies again if a correction isn’t forthcoming.  Also, once a correction has been recorded, ask the agencies to notify anyone who has accessed your history recently about the repair.  Next, if a reporting agency disputes whether an entry is an error – or if you are not yet able to satisfy them about an incident of identity theft – you are entitled to enter your own explanation into the report, which can remain in your file for up to two years.

Finally, keep in mind that repairing your credit is limited to removing false or inaccurate information.  There is no legal way to have negatie items - late payments, defaults, etc. -  removed from your credit report.  Any credit repair service that promises to remove legitimate items from your credit history without fixing the underlying problem (paying off an overdue debt, for instance) isn’t being honest and should be avoided.

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