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Write the various reporting bureaus with the explanation of your circumstances and ask for removal of the item. If they are not willing to remove the information, you have the right under the Fair Credit Reporting Act to attach personal statement (up to 100 words in most states) explaining the circumstances. Depending upon the type of information reported by the bureau, your credit record and score may be affected up to ten years.
Understand your credit score. This number, ranging from 300 to 850, represents your creditworthiness. Software developed by FICO and used by the credit reporting agencies determines the score. The scores between agencies should be similar, but there may be differences. It's important to make sure that your information is correct for each reporting agency.
In 1993, the Financial Counseling Association of America (FCAA) was founded as an alternative to the NFCC. The FCAA focuses on some of the newer technologies and allows counseling by phone and online. Consequently, credit counseling agencies can reach a wider geographical area. CCCS agencies may be a member of the NFCC or the FCAA but aren’t required to operate under either organization.
Beyond that is creditor information, which makes up most of your reports. This includes different accounts you have—loans, credit cards, etc.—and their status (open/closed, in collection), balances, credit limits and payment details. It can also include dates of missed payments or late payments and when the accounts were sent to collections. It’s this information that’s used to determine your credit scores, which are broken down into five major areas:
If you’re not disciplined enough to create a budget and stick to it, to work out a repayment plan with your creditors, or to keep track of your mounting bills, you might consider contacting a credit counseling organization. Many are nonprofit and work with you to solve your financial problems. But remember that “nonprofit” status doesn’t guarantee free, affordable, or even legitimate services. In fact, some credit counseling organizations — even some that claim nonprofit status — may charge high fees or hide their fees by pressuring people to make “voluntary” contributions that only cause more debt.
Start with derogatory marks like collection accounts and judgments. It's not uncommon to have at least one collection account appear on your report. I had two from health care providers I used after having a heart attack; my insurance company kept claiming it had paid while the providers said it had not, and eventually the accounts ended up with a collection agency. Eventually I decided to pay the providers and argue with the insurance company later, but both collections wound up on my credit report.
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In a DMP, you deposit money each month with the credit counseling organization. It uses your deposits to pay your unsecured debts, like your credit card bills, student loans, and medical bills, according to a payment schedule the counselor develops with you and your creditors. Your creditors may agree to lower your interest rates or waive certain fees. But it’s a good idea to check with all your creditors to be sure they offer the concessions that a credit counseling organization describes to you. A successful DMP requires you to make regular, timely payments; it could take 48 months or more to complete your DMP. Ask the credit counselor to estimate how long it will take for you to complete the plan. You may have to agree not to apply for — or use — any additional credit while you’re participating in the plan.
There are a lot of reasons that your credit may be in rough shape. Most are related to your spending habits. And, if you missed a few payments or your debt levels are too high—think over 30% of your total available credit limits—disputing errors won’t help you. You’ll have to make some changes to improve your credit scores instead. And you may have to wait a bit to see an uptick.
American Consumer Credit Counseling (ACCC) provides nonprofit credit counseling, debt management plans, debt consolidation and financial education services to consumers nationwide. Our certified and professionally trained credit counseling team assists consumers by providing workable solutions to their financial problems. We offer debt relief to individuals and families that are suffering from stress related to credit card debt by providing effective credit counseling, helping to consolidate debt, and advising on debt management.
Hint: If you pay a credit card off on time regularly, your issuer will likely see you as a good credit risk and increase your credit limit. Don’t however start charging more. Simply charge the same basic amount. Doing so will keep your utilization lower! Say you started with a $2,000 limit and charged just $200 a month, you had a 10% utilization. If your limit is raised to $4,000 and you continue to charge just $200 a month, your utilization is now just 5%.
Each of the nationwide credit reporting companies — Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion — is required to provide you with a free copy of your credit report once every 12 months, if you ask for it. To order, visit annualcreditreport.com, or call 1-877-322-8228. You may order reports from each of the three credit reporting companies at the same time, or you can stagger your requests throughout the year.