Credit Score Management
Credit score management involves fixing bad credit. But when most people use the term ‘credit repair’, they’re referring to the process of disputing errors on credit reports. You can go through this dispute process for free with each of the credit bureaus on your own. This normally involves filing a formal dispute with the credit bureau(s) online or by mail.
That formal dispute should provide a detailed explanation of the error and you’ll want to include any supporting documentation you have along with it. (You can learn more about disputing errors on your credit report here.)
Many people, however, don’t have the time or don’t understand how to make their case, so they look into hiring a credit repair company to dispute errors on their behalf.
These companies can charge a fee for their legwork (more on how that works in a minute), but there are times when the extra help can certainly be welcome. (Say you have multiple errors across credit reports or you’ve been the victim of widespread identity theft.)
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A Federal Trade Commission study found that 1-in-5 consumers have an error on at least one of their credit reports. You can check your credit reports for errors by pulling them for free every 12 months at AnnualCreditReport.com. You can even get an action plan with tips on how to improve the credit factors that are pulling down your score. Checking your own credit reports and scores does not hurt your credit score in any way.
What Do Credit Repair Companies Do?
A good credit repair company will first pull your credit reports from each of the three major credit reporting agencies to pinpoint your credit issues. Why all three? Because each credit reporting agency has its own “data furnishers” (aka lenders, credit card companies, debt collectors, etc.), who report your credit information to them. And there may be errors that appear on one of your credit reports, but don’t appear on the others.
Once those errors have been identified, you’ll then give a credit repair company any supporting documentation you might have or need. For example, if there’s a bill on your credit report that your husband or wife was actually responsible for under your divorce decree, you can use that document to prove it shouldn’t be impacting you.
In some cases, it might be difficult to determine what to include as far as supporting documentation goes — that’s another way a credit repair company can help you. For example, if you’re a victim of identity theft and a fraudulent account is appearing on your credit report, it can be tough to prove it isn’t yours since you naturally don’t have any documents relating to the account.
When the bureaus and data furnishers receive the dispute and supporting information, they will then work with the credit repair company to determine if the item should be removed from your credit report. The major law dictating your rights when it comes to credit reporting is the Fair Credit Reporting Act, but it isn’t the only law on your side when it comes to credit repair. “A good credit repair company will scrub questionable credit report items against other laws — like the Fair Credit Billing Act, which regulates original creditors; the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, which oversees collection agencies; and others that address medical illness, military service, student status and other life events.”
How Long Does Credit Repair Take?
Getting negative and inaccurate information off of your credit reports is one of the fastest ways to see an improvement in your scores. Since credit bureaus have to respond and resolve a dispute within 30 days (there are a few exceptions that may extend this to 45 days), it’s a short timeline. Especially when consumers want to buy a house, get a new car, or open up a new credit card soon and don’t have the time to wait to build good credit in other ways.