With or without a credit repair service, you’re still responsible for managing your debts and improving your credit worthiness. Paying your bills on time will repair your credit over the long-term, even if you only pay minimum balances. It’s better to use a certified credit counseling agency if you want to know your options, need help making a credit repair plan or want advice as you put your plan into action.
Companies may solicit you online or by phone offering to help you if you’re in trouble. Investigate any company thoroughly if the company is not government-certified. Contacting the Better Business Bureau or the Federal Trade Commission to ask about the company will give you useful feedback about the legitimacy of the credit repair agency. Beware of any company that promises to remove negative accurate information from your credit reports. Credit bureaus do not remove accurate information items from your credit report before the statute of limitations on that item. Consider it a red flag if any company asks you to pay for help upfront.
Government-certified credit agencies offer debt management resources and guidance that can help you repair your credit and manage your finances. Agencies approved by the government follow the law and abide by a higher level of ethical standards in order to maintain their certified status. The Department of Justice website lists these agencies by state (see Resources). Certified agencies are valuable mainly because they save you the time it would otherwise take for you to learn how to repair your own credit. Even government-approved agencies, however, do not have secret tricks that can instantly raise your credit score or remove negative history from your credit reports.
Repairing your own credit starts with ordering a copy of your credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus including Experian, TransUnion and Equifax. You’re entitled to one free report from each of the bureaus each year. All three of your reports can be ordered for free at AnnualCreditReport.com. Carefully review each of your reports for inaccuracies including address, Social Security Number, employer information and past or current creditors. The Federal Trade Commission, and each credit bureau’s website, has instructions on how to file a dispute or make a correction on your credit report if you find an inaccuracy or bad information.
Credit repair takes time and financial discipline. If an accurate bankruptcy or past due medical bill is scheduled to stay on your credit report for seven years, then the credit bureau will remove it after that period of time. However, your credit report and credit score can look better to a potential creditor in the meantime if you make timely payments on current debts that get reported to credit bureaus. For example, making a vehicle payment or major credit card payment on time each month will help improve your overall credit. Communicating with your current creditors, especially when you foresee financial trouble, helps you avoid negative items being reported to the credit bureaus. Creditors that know your situation are more apt to work with you on payment arrangements that you can handle.
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