Most Americans fall into two categories: those who have absolutely no idea what’s in their credit reports, and those who find inaccuracies in the reports and do nothing about it. You should not aspire to be one of these people. Instead, you should regularly check your reports. If you find mistakes, you should seek to correct them.
Follow these 10 “commandments” to make the process of DIY credit repair much smoother.
1. Thou shalt get thy reports.
You have credit reports from three different agencies–Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. Each bureau collects information from some or all of your creditors about your payment history and debts. You can get a free copy of your report from each agency from AnnualCreditReport.com.
2. Thou shalt look for inconsistencies.
Because creditors are not obligated to report to all three agencies, you may notice some differences in your reports. Take care to note accounts that show as closed by one agency and open by others, as well as differences in payment history.
3. Thou shalt make a list of errors.
Mistakes can be small, such as a simple misspelling of your name or showing an outdated address. They can also be large, including a record of a delinquent account that you settled with your creditor months ago. Document the errors you would like to change.
4. Thou shalt accumulate paperwork as proof.
This is a case where keeping good records is so important. If you see a delinquent account that is no longer delinquent, collect account statements that show the payment was made, and bank statements reflecting that the withdrawal came from your accounts.
5. Thou shalt not procrastinate.
A common blunder that people make concerning their credit is to assume that the problem will take care of itself. Creditors have no reason to fix it, and agencies don’t know the whole story. Little errors can add up to big problems when it comes to applying for a loan. So take care of it as soon as possible.
6. Thou shalt not dispute online.
It may seem as though disputing online is the most efficient route, but it’s generally not. Online disputes can often fall into a black hole. Not only do you have fewer ways of knowing if the content reached the recipient, you have no proof of what you sent.
7. Thou shalt dispute by hand.
Put your complaint in writing. Provide copies of the documentation proving your case, and refer to this sample letter for ideas.
8. Thou shalt not forget about it.
Even in writing, sometimes things fall through the cracks. The bureau has 30 days to consider your evidence and contact the creditor at the source of your dispute. If you haven’t heard back in 45 days, ask for an update.
9. Thou shalt keep a copy of the result.
When your dispute is complete, if you were successful, the agency must give you a fresh copy of your report with the corrections. It also must send updates to any institution checking your credit in the past six months. This will serve as evidence of the changes made.
10. Thou shalt obtain a new copy of your report within one year.
You should be checking your credit at least once a year. Some credit-monitoring services make it easier to see copies as often as every month. Regardless of the frequency, when you get a fresh copy, check for inaccuracies.
These rules weren’t written in stone, but they should be. If you have a mistake in your credit report, it can hurt you years after you’ve forgotten all about it. Don’t procrastinate: get it fixed now.
Nicole writes about credit and credit repair. She thinks that BestCreditRepairCompanys.com offers the most unbiased reviews on credit repair agencies.