Help, I'm clueless about how to fix my credit.
This article was updated in May 2021.
Are you thinking about contacting a "Credit Repair" company for help? Or maybe you're already paying for credit repair services?
It's time to rethink your decision.
Credit Repair companies are popular because they make big promises. They claim can “clean up your past” or “fix your mistakes.” It's understandable that these kinds of vague promises are appealing - it’s like they've got a time machine, but one that specifically takes you back to erase stuff you did with money.
Wanting to improve your credit is a great thing, but using a time machine is not a *real* option. Here’s what you need to know about Credit Repair...
The 411 on Credit Repair
Credit Repair companies, in short, are companies that promise to fix your credit for you. They claim that they have the magical power to remove negative information from your credit reports, thereby improving your credit scores and making you 23% more physically attractive. J.K. about that second claim.
In reality, they do something you can easily do for yourself, for free: they file lots and lots of “disputes” against information on your credit reports.
Hop in the Delorean Marty, we’ve got some credit mistakes to erase.
Side Note: It’s easy to confuse Credit Repair with Debt Settlement companies. Debt Settlement companies do something much more complicated and alarming. We’ll talk about them in a separate article.
In order to explain how completely absurd this, is we have to have a little talk about what disputes are...
What’s a Dispute?
Have you ever found incorrect information on your credit reports? Maybe a family member’s social security number is on one of your reports, or there’s a collection account that isn’t yours. These kinds of credit reporting errors are unfortunately common.
According to the law, you have the right to get incorrect information removed from their credit reports *yes, we actually need a law for that.*
Whenever you find an incorrect item on your reports, you can have the error removed by filing a dispute. Filing a dispute is 100% free and it’s really, really easy to do. It's so easy, in fact, that you might as well do it yourself. In most cases it only takes about 5 minutes.
How Do I File a Dispute For Myself?
Take a good look at your credit reports (here’s how to get all three of your reports for free). Make a note of any material errors, like debt that doesn't belong to you. Then look for the link to file a dispute. It's usually hidden near the credit bureau's contact information at the end of your report.
Visit the credit bureau's website. In short, you'll answer a few security questions and submit a brief statement about what's wrong with your report.
Credit reports are like a box of chocolates. You never know what kind of nutty stuff you'll find inside.
Pro Tip: When filing your dispute make sure you focus on factual evidence. Including documents is the best way to make your case. Your written statement should read less like, “This info is wrong!” and more like, “I did not receive X service on Y date as evidenced by Z document I’ve attached.”
What Happens After I File?
When you file a dispute, the credit bureau is obligated to investigate your claim within 30-45 days and then send you a written response. If they can't verify the information on your report, they have to remove it… at least until they can prove it's accurate. This is the loophole that Credit Repair companies take advantage of.
Instead of disputing incorrect information, Credit Repair companies dispute every negative item on your report. By overloading the credit bureaus with disputes, they sort of jam up the system, and thus your negative information is removed... temporarily.
Those erroneous disputes are gonna come back to haunt you!
But Sarah, I’ve Had Great Results With a Credit Repair Company!
I hate to be the bearer of bad news but the results may not be what you think. I’ve worked with a handful of people who claimed that Credit Repair was working for them. Unfortunately, I had to inform them that the fix was temporary.
Once the credit bureau locates your accurate information, it will reappear on your reports. In other words, you can’t simply dispute your way out of missed payments or collections accounts. These things can only be fixed with time or money. Contact me if you’d like to figure out what your best options are.
Bow down to me, lowly Credit Repair Company.
In Summary, Credit Repair companies are not worthy.
If it’s not already clear, Credit Repair companies are just another of the many scams out there. It takes more effort to contact a Credit Repair company and set up service/payments than it takes to file disputes on your own. Plus it's an expensive and temporary fix.
In full disclosure, I harbor a bit of personal resentment against Credit Repair companies. They distract people from working with qualified professionals *like me* to make real credit improvements.
Don't want to take my (biased) word for it? The Federal Trade Commission and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau have both written guides on avoiding Credit Repair companies and how to get better help with your credit issues.
As always, I love hearing your questions and comments.
Leave me a little love note down below.