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Credit Repair? Its All Up to You

Log onto to a search engine such as google.com and type in the term credit repair. It's likely that Google will return more than 25 pages of listings, many of which will be companies claiming they can "erase bad credit," "create a new credit identity ? legally," " credit problems ? no problem." "quick credit repair," and on and on.

Here's the good and bad news of credit repair, according to the U.S. Government ? nobody but you can repair your credit.

If you do respond to one of these credit repair offers, here's what to look for to know it's probably a scam:

? The company wants you to pay for credit repair services before they provide any services.

? The company does not tell you what your legal rights are and what you can do for yourself.

? The company recommends that you do not contact a credit reporting company directly.

? The company suggests you create a new credit "identity" and then a new credit report by applying for an Employer Identification Card to use instead of your Social Security number.

? The company advises you to dispute all information in your credit report or take an action that seems illegal ? such as creating a new credit identity.

The truth is that no one can legally remove accurate and timely negative information from your credit report.

The law allows you to ask for an investigation of information in your file that you believe is wrong or incomplete. There is no charge for this. Everything a credit clinic can do for you legally, you can do for yourself at little or no cost.

So, what can you do?

Let's suppose you apply for and are denied credit, insurance or employment. The most likely reason for this is that one or more companies provided negative information about you. This could be a credit card company or mortgage company reporting that you missed payments or that some of your payments were 60 or more days late. Or it could be a report that you wrote checks that were returned for insufficient funds.

If you believe the information was inaccurate, you should first request a copy of your credit report. You need to ask for this report within 60 days of when you were denied credit or turned down for insurance or a job. This report will be free.

If you find negative items on your credit report that you believe are mistakes or outdated, you can dispute them, also at no cost. Both the reporting company (Equifax, Experian or TransUnion) and the company that provided the negative information about you are responsible for correcting any information you can prove was inaccurate or incomplete.

To take advantage of this, you need to contact the company with the negative information on your credit report, and the company that provided the information to that company. For example, if the credit report with the negative information came from TransUnion and the company providing that information was your mortgage holder, you need to contact both TransUnion and the mortgage company.

Start by telling the consumer reporting company (TransUnion, Experian or Equifax) in writing, what information you think is wrong or incomplete. You should include copies (not originals) of any documents that support your position. Make sure you provide your complete name and address, and that you identify each item in the credit report you dispute. State the facts and explain why you disagree with the information. Be sure to request that the information is removed or corrected.

The consumer reporting company must investigate the items you questioned ? usually within 30 days ? unless they consider your dispute frivolous. They must also send all the your information to the company whose information you dispute. In turn, this company must investigate your claim and report the results back to the consumer reporting company.

If the information provider finds the disputed information is, in fact, wrong, it must notify all three nationwide consumer-reporting companies so they can correct the information in your file.

This is how you repair your credit if the "bad" items in your credit report were inaccurate.

On the other hand, if the negative information was correct, the only sure cure is time. A consumer reporting company can report most accurate information for seven years, and bankruptcy information for 10 years. Information about an unpaid judgment against you can be reported for seven years or until the statute of limitations runs out, whichever is longer.

Here's the better news. Just because you have a poor credit report doesn't mean you won't be able to get credit. Creditors set their own credit-granting standards, and not all of them will look at your credit history the same way. Some may look only at the more recent years when they evaluate you for credit, and they may grant credit if you bill-paying history has improved.

For FREE help with debt and credit problems, get Douglas Hanna's free email newsletter "8 Simple Steps to Debt Relief" at http://www.all-in-one-info.com

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