Getting financially fit is a popular New Year’s resolution, but where to begin? Here are our six tips for improving your credit scores now and throughout 2017:
Stop the Collection Calls
One of the biggest hurdles most people face when it comes to fixing their credit is just getting up the nerve to start the process. When you are constantly harassed by debt collectors, it can feel difficult if not outright impossible to move forward.
So before you begin your credit repair journey in 2017, take the time to write letters to collection agencies and make an official request that all communications be handled through mail only. This will not only give you valuable breathing room, it will establish a paper trail that you can use when you start repairing your credit.
Review Your Current Credit Files
Now that you’ve stopped bill collectors from constantly calling and harassing you over the phone, you can turn your attention to reviewing credit profile. The first step to improving your credit is knowing where you stand. Each year you can get a copy of your credit report from each of the three credit bureaus for free. You can also receive a free copy of your credit report if you are denied credit or employment based on information in your credit report. While you are not entitled to a free credit score by the government, Lexington Law offers a free credit score as well as a free credit consultation. You can reach them at 800-220-0084.
Because TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian may not have the same information reported, it’s essential to order all three credit reports to get a full picture of where you stand. Later on, as you keep your credit profile clean going forward, you may want to stagger your free requests in order to keep a current picture of where you stand throughout the year.
Once you have your credit profiles, highlight the entries that are currently negatively impacting your scores and get ready to prioritize.
Identify Your Biggest Problems
Not all credit issues are created equal. If you have a bankruptcy, judgments, or liens on your credit profile, you’ll want to address these first if at all possible. If there are any errors in the way these negative items are reported, such as the dates, the amounts, or other discrepancies, you can dispute these items both legally and ethically.
Double-Check for Zombie Debt
As you are going through your credit report, pay attention to the dates and confirm that any negative items are still eligible to be listed on your account. Re-aged accounts may be listed with more recent dates that are inaccurate – this is a common tactic that debt collectors use to try to force you to pay for a debt that is past the reporting limit. In some instances, this debt may also be past the statute of limitations for collections in your state.
In cases like these, disputing the debt is your best option, as paying the debt may have little to no impact on your credit scores whatsoever.
Get Prepared to Dispute
We’ve written up several guides on disputing erroneous information on your credit reports, but if you need a simple refresher, here’s what you need to do:
1. Send a certified letter requesting debt validation from the creditor.
2. Wait for a response.
3. If no response received within the 30-day timeframe, file a dispute with the credit bureaus asking them to remove the inaccurate debt.
4. If you receive a response, you may still be able to dispute if the information provided is incomplete or inaccurate.
If It’s Too Much to Handle, Hire a Pro
Some types of debt may be removed through other means, such as pay for deletion, or goodwill letters to the appropriate creditors. However, keeping track of the laws, timelines, and written disputes can often be a hassle.
If you’re worried about handling your credit repair yourself, speak to a reputable credit repair specialist to get yourself on track. Often, these paid services can handle everything for you, which means you have more time to focus on enjoying your new found financial freedom.
If you need help choosing a reputable credit repair company, take a look at our reviews and recommendations to find the right company for you.