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Summary: Learn how credit reports work, how long debt remains on them
and how to correct errors.
There are no quick or easy cures for a poor credit history. If a credit repair company promises you it can clean up your credit report, remember the following:
these credit bureaus can legally report accurate negative credit information for seven years and bankruptcy information for ten years;
accurate items that are within the seven (or ten) year reporting period
cannot be erased from your credit record by companies advertising
"credit repair" services;
if you have a poor credit history - even if your past problems were due to illness or unemployment - time is the only thing that will heal your credit report;
the only information in your credit report that can be changed are items that are actually wrong or beyond the seven (or ten) year reporting period;
if there are genuine mistakes or outdated items in your report, you can
fix them yourself.
WHAT'S IN YOUR CREDIT REPORT?
If you're having trouble getting credit, try checking your credit report yourself. The credit report tells how you've managed your credit in the past. Companies examine your credit report before deciding whether to give you credit. When a company denies your request for credit because of your credit report, it must tell you so and identify the bureau that supplied the report.
Credit bureaus are required by law to share with you any information they have on file about you. You can find out what's in your credit report by taking the following steps:
1. Contact local credit bureaus. You can find them listed in the
telephone Yellow Pages under "Credit Bureaus" or "Credit
Reporting Agencies." Your local bank or retailer may also be able to
2. Ask for a copy of your credit report. There may be a fee of $5 to $20,
but if you've been denied credit within the past 30 days, your credit report
3. Most credit bureaus will mail you a copy of your report. Under the law, you also have the right to visit their offices to review your credit report in person.
Review your credit report for any mistakes or information more than seven
years old (ten years for bankruptcy). If you don't understand something, ask.
The credit bureau is required by law to explain your report to you. If there are
mistakes, you can take the following actions:
1. Notify the credit bureau of the problem and provide as much
information as you can about what is wrong with the report. The bureau
must-at no charge to you-reinvestigate the disputed information. It then
must correct any mistake or delete any information it cannot verify. At your
request, the bureau must send a corrected copy of your report to anyone who
received the incorrect version within the past six months.
2. Sometimes, it is also helpful to contact the creditor directly to
ensure that the creditor's records are correct.
3. If these steps don't resolve things, you can file a written statement
of up to 100 words with the credit bureau explaining your side of the story.
This explanation will be included in your credit report.
For More Help:
Federal Trade Commission
Credit Practices Division
Washington, D.C. 20580