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Bad Credit - Common Myths

If you have bad credit, here are some questions you'd like answers for:

When I pay off a past-due account, such as a charge off or a collection account, will it show "paid" and no longer be considered negative?

It is quite difficult to repair your credit without somehow satisfying your outstanding debts. However, the act of paying off a debt will not improve your credit rating much, if at all. Negative credit is allowed to stay on the credit report for a maximum of seven and one half years, except for bankruptcy which may remain on the credit report for ten years. Under the old Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), the seven year clock began ticking on "the date of last activity" or, in other words, when the last action took place on the account. Under the revised FCRA, the credit bureaus must start the seven year clock on the first payment that you missed that led to the collection or charge off status. Now, creditors and collection agencies aren't allowed to extend the reporting period by passing the account back and forth between agencies.

However, by paying an outstanding, delinquent debt you will change the account status to "paid collection," "paid was late," or "paid was charged off" - which will still stand out as a very negative listing. When you have outstanding debt, it is almost always prudent to seek professional help so that you may settle your debts without further damaging your credit. In some cases, it is even possible to negotiate the deletion of negative credit as part of the payoff.

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If I succeed in deleting a negative item, will it come right back on my credit report?

The credit bureaus have cleverly spread this myth through the news media and government agencies to discourage credit repair. In truth, the credit bureaus will sometimes temporarily delete a negative listing if they haven't heard from the credit grantor after approximately thirty days. If the credit grantor reports late, say after six weeks, and then verifies the negative listing, the credit bureau will often reinsert the negative listing on the credit report and reverse the credit repair. This is often known as a "soft delete." Usually, though, the creditor simply fails to respond and the negative listing is permanently deleted and repaired. If the item is verified by the credit grantor, either before thirty days or after, the account may still be repaired again at some future time.

Under the new Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), the credit bureaus must follow strict procedures to notify you if they decide to re-report an entry on your credit report. These new procedures have reduced the frequency of the re-reporting of listings, and they have increased the risk of lawsuit for the credit bureaus when they do it.

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Are there negative listings, such as bankruptcies and foreclosures, that are impossible to remove from the credit report?

There is no type of negative listing that hasn't been reparied and removed from a bad credit report thousands of times. Negative items, such as bankruptcy or unpaid debts, are certainly more difficult to repair and remove from the credit report, but this has more to do with the operational systems of the credit bureaus than with the severity of the bad credit item. For example, judgments and tax liens are severely negative listings, yet are, overall, easier to repair.

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I've heard that disputing a bad credit report is easy and any person can do it himself for the price of a few postage stamps. Is that true?

Disputing a bad credit report is easy. Getting results (and actually repairing bad credit) is amazingly difficult, complex, and infuriating. It isn't a coincidence that the Federal Trade Commission receives more complaints against credit bureaus than any other type of business. If you call the FTC today to report a complaint about the credit bureaus, their phone mail system will ask you if to press one if your complaint is about the credit bureaus, and press another number if your complaint is about anything else. Clearly, this situation evolved out of deep consumer frustration with the uncooperative nature of the credit repair process.

Remember, the credit bureaus are primarily interested in protecting their profits. Investigating your challenge consumes these profits. Short of sparking a large number of lawsuits, the credit bureaus seem to do everything in their power to discourage consumers from making progress with their credit repair. Repairing your own credit is like repairing your own transmission or representing yourself in court; it is possible, but you must decide if your are willing to take the time and assume the risks of doing it yourself.

Unless you hire a professional to help you, bad credit repair will have to become a full-fledged hobby.

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If I declare bankruptcy, can I begin my credit report all over with a clean slate?

Many bankruptcy attorneys do not adequately understand or explain the effects of bankruptcy to their clients. Stated simply, bankruptcy is to the credit rating what the atomic bomb is to the battlefield.

When you file for bankruptcy, every credit account that you decide to include in bankruptcy will become an "included in bankruptcy" item. Additionally, a bankruptcy filing and bankruptcy discharge listing will appear in the court records section of your credit report. Because so many negative items are attached to the bankruptcy, it becomes very difficult to remove all trace of the bad credit. If at all possible, you should avoid bankruptcy.

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Can I file a "100'word statement" on my credit report explaining my side of the story and will creditors read my statement and take it into consideration?

No known creditor considers information given in a 100-word statement. It makes one wonder why they included this meaningless stipulation into the Fair Credit Reporting Act.

Most creditors will not even look at the credit report when a credit application is made. Rather, they will simply take a numerical score from the credit report and make a determination as to whether or not they should extend the credit. This score does not take into consideration the contents of a 100-word statement.

The statement does, however, verify that some of the negative listings on the credit report are technically accurate. This just makes your bad credit repair job more difficult. Make 100-word statements the first things you delete from your credit file (if you ever added one in the first place.)

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By changing numbers in my social security number or by using an EIN tax number, can I fool the credit bureaus into creating a completely clean, new credit file under my name?

Many credit repair operators have promoted this scheme, known as "file segregation". Technically, we have seen some few people that have succeeded in using a false Social Security Number and have fooled the credit bureaus into giving them a new identity. The scheme is complicated: one must change almost all identifying information about oneself and be very careful never to use the old information again. Most often, we've seen people embark on these schemes only to slip and, at some time, provide the old information mixed with the new. Then, both credit reports merge and the consumer is left with a tangled mess of deception and suspicious credit reports.

In the worst cases, people have been charged with crimes, or terminated from jobs, for using the false information.

This scheme has proven to be complex, difficult, and (according to the FTC) illegal. Lying about any personal information on a credit application is usually a federal crime. Using these "file segregation" credit repair schemes requires an enormous amount of coordination, not to mention personal risk.

Recently, the FTC has gone out of its way to shut down any credit repair company that promotes literature discussing file segregation. It remains to be seen if they will be successful under the First Amendment.

If asked for our recommendation as to whether a person should try a file segregation credit repair program, our answer is always, "No, it is too risky, difficult and legally problematic."

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If I build enough good credit, will it offset my bad credit and make me credit worthy?

Any amount of bad credit is devastating to your chances of being approved by a credit grantor. Most credit grantors never actually look at your credit report. A computer pulls your credit report, rates your credit standing, income, indebtedness, and stability, generates a number (or FICO score,) then spits out an acceptance or denial. Even one or two slow pays will usually trigger a credit card or personal loan denial. The slightest amount of negative credit will cause the interest on an auto loan to skyrocket. You will probably find that even a little bad credit, regardless of how much good credit you have, is an unacceptable barrier to credit approval.

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If I'm having trouble paying my bills, can I go to Consumer Credit Counseling Service and will they help me to repair my credit?

Consumer Credit Counseling Service or CCCS is a nonprofit debt counseling service that assists consumers who are over their heads in debt. CCCS is funded and controlled by the credit grantors and the credit bureaus.

Often, CCCS provides a beneficial service to the consumer. Because of the obvious allegiance between CCCS and the credit bureaus, you cannot reasonably expect CCCS to do anything that the credit bureaus would frown upon, such as help you repair your credit.

In fact, if you decide to leave CCCS before you have finished their program, they can list your failure to complete the process as a negative listing on your credit report (though this is rare.) When you are participating in the CCCS program, your creditors will often note it on your credit report. If you have perfect credit, and wish to keep it, you may not want to use a credit counseling service. These services usually create negative listings because their process will generally make you late on your bills at least 30 days.

The fact that you resorted to a debt counseling program is a red flag for prospective credit grantors. Remember, paying off your debts is a step in the right direction, but it does not repair your bad credit.

With these factors in mind, consumer credit counseling can be a life-saver if you're over your head and need some help and some breathing room.

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Is it illegal for creditors to take a negative, accurate listing off my credit report? They tell me that the law requires that these items remain on the credit report for at least seven years.

When you speak with credit grantors, collection agencies, or credit bureaus, their typically under-educated staff may tell you all manner of such pseudo-legal nonsense. The law demands that negative listings appear on your credit report for no longer than seven years. The credit grantor or the credit bureau can choose to delete the negative credit listing whenever they see fit.

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How hard is it to repair my own credit?

Repairing your bad credit by yourself is possible. But remember, the credit bureaus are committed to the failure of credit repair efforts, and the credit bureaus have far more experience in discouraging hopeful consumers than you have in beating giant credit bureaus.

Yet, some consumers have achieved results in repairing their credit without professional assistance. The following is a guide to help you determine whether or not you should seek professional assistance in your credit repair efforts.

Attempting to repair your own credit while failing to dedicate sufficient time or attention can result in further damage to your bad credit rating and may make it impossible for anyone to repair your credit for you. For this purpose, we'll give you a preview of the time commitment required to repair your credit. Examine very carefully your capabilities and your schedule before deciding to repair your own credit.

Example of a Month's Activities in Restoring Your Credit (for a couple)
Activity Hours Required
Monitored calendar daily to check deadline of each of six credit bureau correspondences 2 hours
Drafted six new original credit bureau query challenges 4 hours
Visited post office six times to mail correspondences by Certified Mail/Return Receipt Req. 2 hours
Carefully analyzed and marked six credit reports to find negatives/deletions/ positive changes 3 hours
Drafted 4 tardy credit bureau response follow-up letters 2 hours
Visited post office 4 times to mail follow'up letters by Certified Mail/Return Receipt Req. 2 hours
Responded to 2 credit bureau stall letters by providing further information/ challenging time loss 2 hours
Visited post office 2 times to mail stall responses by Certified Mail/Return Receipt Req. 1 hour
Responded to 2 "frivolous or irrelevant" credit bureau rejection of dispute letters 2 hours
Visited post office 2 times to mail "frivolous or irrelevant" claim Certified Mail/Return Receipt Req. 1 hour
Requisitioned six new credit reports at $8.00 each through local credit bureau 2 hours
Contacted ten creditors and made creditor-direct challenges 8 hours
Drafted 20 letters to creditors (one per spouse) to challenge and demand further documentation 4 hours
Visited post office once to mail letters to creditors Certified Mail/Return Receipt Req. 2 hours
Contacted ten creditors by telephone to negotiate deletion of negative listing 4 hours
Carefully analyzed ten responses from creditors with billing histories and promissory agreements 5 hours
Contacted six state, federal, and licensing organizations to locate addresses and forms for complaints 2 hours
Prepared complaints to six state, federal, and licensing organizations 3 hours
Visited post office to mail complaints Certified Mail/Return Receipt Req. .5 hours
  credit repair
Total hours per month (first month) 51.5 hours

This chart shows liberal estimates of time required to repair your own credit. If you are a single person working on his/her credit alone, you can subtract 25% from the total time required. This time investment will continue on a monthly basis, gradually shrinking as creditors agree to delete their listings. On the average, you can expect the process to take between twelve to eighteen months, unless you have very little negative credit (meaning, one negative item per report.)

Each response to a creditor or a credit bureau must be an original and must pertain specifically to your present situation or you may be red-flagged as a frivolous credit repair troublemaker or be ignored altogether. There are no effective "form letters" or "fill in the blank" responses that yield results. Credit bureau checkers spot form letters easily as the sign of someone attempting to repair their bad credit. As such, these letters generally earn a swift "frivolous and irrelevant" response.

Dueling with the credit bureaus and credit grantors requires an aggressive and tenacious personality. You must be willing to wade through rejection after rejection until you achieve your desired credit repair.

The credit bureaus will shoot down the majority of your claims and disputes. They will treat you like a disreputable person and a liar. You must take this rejection without becoming discouraged. If you are the kind of person who tires quickly from an emotional struggle, you should seriously consider hiring a professional to repair your credit. If you are the kind of person who becomes angry when dealing with the slow, bureaucratic employees of big bureaucracies, you will not fare well. Patience is an absolute requirement. If you are thick-skinned and have the fortitude to fight the credit bureaus and your creditors for as long as it takes, then you may have the proper disposition to repair your own bad credit.

In the process of repairing your credit, you will have to track and monitor dozens of communications at once. This will require organized, disciplined habits. Every day, you must check up on each of these communications to make sure that the credit bureau or credit grantor hasn't overextended their time limit. You must spend at least one-half to one hour per day tracking your responses, results, and taking appropriate actions. Remember, you will be dealing with three credit bureaus per person, plus you will be communicating with each credit grantor appearing on each credit report. In most cases, the number of simultaneous communications will exceed twenty or thirty. If you are not a very organized person, you are definitely not in a good position to attempt to repair your own bad credit. Click Here To Learn More About Credit Repair.

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