How to Clean Your Credit Report
My Credit Card Nightmare
I applied for an alumni credit card and got a real surprise. The representative informed me that I was denied and, upon inquiry, said that it was due to my bankruptcy. I nearly hit the ceiling: what bankruptcy? So I did the next best thing and requested my credit report and discovered—to my horror—that my good name and credit history had been severely compromised.
I had not only experienced bankruptcy but I also owned a few vehicles, a boat, a very costly lawnmower, and property (some of these were in default); and I was also paying alimony as well as child support. These are what I remember.
The Three Credit Agencies
I contacted the credit agencies to learn what could be done. I was told that I had to dispute any questionable information in writing and wait for a decision. That sounds easy but it wasn’t. I lived in Japan at the time. Even calling the agencies was a maneuver on account of my work schedule and the time difference.
I had to correct any bad information with each of the three credit agencies—Equifax, Transunion, and Experian. Then, when the decisions were made and finally got back to me around the world, there was often something that still wasn’t correct and I would have to dispute again until it was right.
It took me one solid year to get my credit clean of that fraud.
Ways to Clean Your Credit
Here are the basics. Your credit is absolutely important—I don’t think I need to explain this. But many people don’t know what creditors are seeing when they pull up their history, and there is no reason for this.
The government—the Federal Trade Commission that oversees the credit agencies—allows everyone one free credit report each year from each credit agency. (Just click the link below to the FTC’s website. I advise you to call the toll-free number right on the page rather than going through an online offer that might come with further annoyances and stipulations. It’s what I do every year.)
You don’t have to get all three of your reports at one time either: You could stagger them and get one perhaps every four months as a way of keeping check on them all, although creditors may not report information to all three agencies. If you need more reports, you must purchase them from the agency; and this may be necessary if you’re correcting information.
I implore you to save yourself the headache of false information and the possibility of identity fraud. My situation was no fun but certainly not as bad as it can get. What is good is that the dispute process is becoming easier. Now the credit agencies are beginning to allow online disputes and even disputes by phone, which greatly speeds the process.
I cleaned my credit so completely that when I returned to the States and attempted to make a purchase, after a credit check I was told, “Uh, you can get anything you want!” So what are you going to do right now? That’s right—click the link below to get your free credit reports.