When it comes to strategies for improving your credit, you’ll hear many terms used interchangeably and often, incorrectly. One of these misunderstood terms is ‘credit repair.’ Let’s take a look at what credit repair really is, and whether it’s something you can do yourself, or if it requires professional assistance.
What is credit repair, exactly?
When performed by for-profit companies, credit repair is a process during which the company will dispute negative entries or errors on a consumer’s credit report. The company reviews reports from all three major credit reporting agencies, since each report may contain entries from different creditors, including credit card companies, collection agencies and other lenders.
You may need to provide documentation.
Simply saying something is an error on a credit report isn’t enough. In some cases you will need to provide proof that you are not responsible for the debt. For example, if a consumer has been through a divorce and their former spouse’s debt shows up on their report, they would have to provide the paperwork showing how the debts were divided.
The results may not be permanent.
While credit repair may ultimately yield a higher credit score, there’s a chance it won’t last. The credit reporting agencies remove items that are in dispute from the consumer’s credit report while the dispute is active. This may cause the credit score to rise. However, if the item in dispute is found to be valid and not permanently removed from the report, the score will go back down.
There are many credit repair scams.
While legitimate credit repair companies do exist, it is also a category that attracts numerous scams. Beware of any company promising immediate, dramatic and permanent results. For example, there’s no legitimate way to get a credit score to rise 100 points or more in a very short time. Additionally, a company shouldn’t make guarantees of success since the whole process depends on whether or not there are legitimate errors on a consumer’s credit report.
You can attempt to repair your credit yourself.
Credit repair companies don’t perform any services you can’t do on your own. You can request and review copies of your credit report from all three major credit reporting agencies. If you find errors or inaccuracies, you can initiate disputes by phone, online or by mail. This article offers helpful information about handling errors on your credit report, including links to each agency’s dispute page.
Remember, there is no instant solution to repair credit. Regaining a good credit score is a matter of time, patience and positive habits, such as achieving a history of on-time payments and maintaining an appropriate debt-to-income ratio.