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I am trying to improve my credit score and have been looking for companies to take charge of this effort. But I found them to all be shady at best so I have taken the task upon myself.

I have not yet checked my credit report, and a few years back I was aware there were a couple of things on my credit report about unpaid bills for minor amounts like $100 and $200. I don't know what these are about. (Also I am sure my ex-wife was nice enough to help add to the bad.)

Anyway, I am better financially and ready to settle these issues to have my credit score reflect my current status. I am well employed and make good money, but my credit score is anything but. I suspect its about 525 and I want to get it to 750+ zone.

The big whammies on my credit are a charge off from an old credit card my ex-wife had to the tune of $10,000. I am about to pay off a collection agency and want to get the item of my report history once settled, and then remove the minor items. With a clean slate I want to grow my score as fast as I can.

  • Where can I get a good run down of my credit stats?
  • Are there reputable companies that can help or should I go it alone?
    • If its doable, how do I take this effort on by myself?

I am looking to get started rebuilding


NOTES:

  • I don't have a credit card, just an ATM card linked to my checking account that holds loads of my cash.
  • I saw posts that said to fix existing problems, but don't detail how. This is what I am after.
  • I live within my means and want to know how to clear up past blunders ASAP and build the current situation into a healthy score.
  • I have been living like this for 4 years so my score has been the same poor number for a while. Its time to change all that!

UPDATE within about 3 months I have closed any bad items on the credit report i ran 1st from the link below. in a few weeks i got a second report ran for free, same link and see my report was at least clean of any bad items. called a credit card and got approved with a limit of 500. i called capital one, so after 5 months of paying on time i can get a credit increase. I may sign up for a few of these to get better credit sooner.

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And govt says not to trust the firms which promise to fix your credit score. ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/credit/cre13.shtm –  DumbCoder Dec 3 '12 at 15:35
    
If you want help in how to fix stuff, you'll have to tell what it is that you want to fix. You have no idea what's on your report, but you want very particular answers about how to fix stuff you have no idea exists. How about pulling your record and going over it, for a start? –  littleadv Dec 3 '12 at 18:26
    
@littleadv how can i pull my record? where? link/ url? many thanks –  kacalapy Dec 3 '12 at 18:31
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start with annualcreditreport.com –  littleadv Dec 3 '12 at 18:35

2 Answers 2

up vote 15 down vote accepted

Yes you can do this yourself. I cannot speak for all the credit repair companies, but generally they are not reputable. Even if they are trustworthy, they cannot do anything you cannot do yourself.

  1. Freeze your credit. Lock it down and prevent any new activity. This is for safety and I want you to do it so you know where you stand.

  2. Get a copy of your free copies of the three credit reports from https://www.annualcreditreport.com/ (this is the only free, official place to get your reports)

  3. Sign up for a free credit score estimation site like http://www.CreditKarma.com or http://www.CreditSesame.com (These sites make money by selling affiliate offers, but you can easily ignore them) You can't get your exact FICO score, but they letter grades they provide help you understand where you stand.

  4. Dispute anything that is not accurate. Get wrong items corrected with the credit agency.

  5. Ignore collectors who are not showing up on your report. If they aren't reporting you, so what? Let your own moral compass be your guide if you pay those debts or not.

  6. Negotiate a payment amount with the debtors you owe. If you are dealing with a debt collector, there isn't any point in paying the full amount. You owed the money to somebody else, and they sold it to the debt collector, therefore in my mind they are as whole as they feel like being. It is up to you how much you pay, but you are already going to suffer (and have suffered) the credit ramifications. No sense in wasting money when they will very likely settle for dimes on the dollar. Don't let them bully you around. I suggest understand your rights and protections as offered by the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act

  7. Before you pay anybody anything, get it IN WRITING

    • The payment amount constitutes payment in full and satisfies the debt
    • That they will remove the negative marks from your report.
    • An address you mail the payment to. YOU ONLY PAY BY CASHIERS CHECK. Never ever give a debt collector your account numbers for anything, for any reason.
    • Pay via certified mail so you have proof you paid.
    • You will keep the documentation that you paid, that they accepted the payment, and they agreed to consider the matter closed forever. You might need it later for disputes.
  8. Wait and follow up. Make sure they report it correctly.

I would probably tackle them in order of age, newest first.

Don't bother with debts that are more than, or nearly seven years old. Anything that old is or will fall off of the credit report soon, and your score will start to rise. Paying on those debts will refresh them and they will harm you longer. We can debate the ethics of that advice in the comments, but if you want your score to raise, I suggest just waiting about anything over six years old while you tackle the newer ones.

This is a SLOW process. Your credit score will still take a couple years to heal once you fix your report. But that is the point of the score after all. It is a history of how you handle money and debt.

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I don't know that you NEED it, but a secured card is your answer. Start with a credit union if you can. money.stackexchange.com/questions/873/… –  MrChrister Dec 3 '12 at 20:53
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I recommend reviewing your credit multiple times a year. Use the site mentioned above (annualcreditreport.com), but do each company at different times in the year. E.g. TransUnion in December, Equifax in April, etc. –  Mark Dec 3 '12 at 21:30
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Often, by the time it's gone to collection, the original company you owed has given up. The collection agencies buy paper by the pound, and hope to collect what they can. Often, hey have no ability to go back and fix anything on the report. Be very careful. –  JoeTaxpayer Dec 4 '12 at 0:11
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@JoeTaxpayer - don't the collection agencies themselves report? This is a great point you are making. –  MrChrister Dec 4 '12 at 0:11

Why do you want to improve your credit score? Did you want to buy something? If not, I don't see the point in improving it. If you want to buy something, you can work towards long-term solutions like others have mentioned. In the short term, you can dispute the accuracy of all the negative line items in your report. This will give you a short boost in your credit report while the line items are being investigated as they will be taken off your credit report in the mean time. If you're looking to get a car or mortgage a home, you could time your dispute with purchasing the high dollar assets. This is a trick that does work, but you have to make your move while your credit score is the best it can be.

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Credit scores are (sadly) often used for more than judging optional purchases. Your auto insurance or even your job can depend on the quality of your credit score. –  MrChrister Jan 13 '13 at 4:08

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