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After you have received your personal reports, determine the status of your credit file. You should attempt to remove ALL unfavorable information using the methods outlined herein. You can either do that by hiring a credit repair company or by trying to do this yourself.

Not all of your credit history is contained in either of the two firm's files. Some information may be duplicated, or not included in the other file. Your name and Social Security number are used for identification. Current and previous addresses, spouse's name, and date of birth are used for further identification. The credit information includes the merchants names, the subscriber number, credit account number, date opened, date closed, highest credit limit, highest amount of credit used, and repayment history. The last item is encoded into numbers, with a series of ones indicating perfect repayment.

After you have received your personal reports, determine the status of your credit file. You should attempt to remove ALL unfavorable information using the methods outlined herein.

The following descriptions are used to indicate payment history:

* Current Account - account open or closed in GOOD STANDING
* Inquiry - your credit information was requested by this firm or store
* Closed Account - credit account closed
* Paid Account - closed account or zero balance
* Credit Account Reinstated - previously closed account NOW AVAILABLE FOR USE
* Judgment - lawsuit against you... and NOT PAID
* Charge-Off - credit amount can not be collected
* Repossession - charged item returned to merchant
* Foreclosure - collateral sold to collect defaulted mortgage
* Collection Account - credit account assigned to collection agency

When you receive your report examine it VERY CAREFULLY. Make certain that all information is current and accurate. If you find any error (for example, a loan that you have PAID OFF is still listed as outstanding), you can take immediate action to correct the error. You must write out EXACTLY what the mistake is, and explain the way that the information SHOULD be listed. For example, "Loan XYZ is NOT outstanding. It was paid in full on 10/31/8l." Send photocopies along with all pertinent information to substantiate your claim.

If you receive a computer printout of your credit file, there should be a space (Usually on the right-hand side of the report) in which you may PROTEST any item in your report that you feel is INCORRECT. After you have done this, make a photocopy, sending one copy back to the bureau by "CERTIFIED MAIL." When the credit bureau receives your report and the information in question, they are required to investigate and ADVISE YOU of the results of their investigation. There is NO CHARGE for this investigation! YOU HAVE CREDIT RIGHTS! Due to the Fair Credit Reporting Act passed in 1971!

Anytime that you are denied credit, you now have the right to know why you were turned down! If, for instance, you are turned down for a charge account at a store, you will receive a statement from the store stating that you were denied credit and their reason for the denial. If their reason has anything to do with the fact that the store used a credit reporting agency, they must provide you with the name and address of the agency that supplied them with the report. If this should happen to you, you should make an appointment within 30 days to visit the credit agency, so that you can review your report and find out what information in it is causing you to be DENIED CREDIT. I suggest that you always VISIT the credit bureau. Men should always wear a tie and jacket, and women should dress conservatively as well. It is very important to look professional and businesslike. It is also good to bring a friend along so that they can be witness whatever is said. Do not let the representative of the credit bureau confuse, or upset you in any way. If there is ANYTHING that you do not understand, ask to have it explained again.

If there is any information in that report that is not true, or if you want to dispute any information on it, don't be afraid to do so. If the agency is wrong on any item on your credit report or file, DEMAND a correction. By law, the company MUST investigate... many bureaus will even try to make the correction "on the spot?!"

If for some reason you cannot PROVE that the item is in error or if you are having a disagreement with a certain creditor, you have the RIGHT to tell your side of the story in 100 words or less! This will be ADDED to your report. Often, creditors who see that you have taken the time and effort to dispute an item in your credit file will NOT include it in credit worthiness. This can be VERY HELPFUL to you. Many bureau representatives will even help you word your statement. Be sure to use this rule to your ADVANTAGE!

After making any corrections on your report, you have the RIGHT to DEMAND that the credit bureau send corrected copies of your report to ALL CREDITORS who have received the incorrect reports for the LAST 6 MONTHS !

PLEASE NOTE: The credit bureaus WILL NOT do this automatically! * ONLY WHEN ASKED! - So make sure it gets done PRONTO!

If, when looking over your report, you notice that it is missing a few POSITIVE items that you recall, you may want to invest some money to upgrade your report. Some credit bureaus will call creditors you name as FAVORABLE to you. If the information that you give turns out to be TRUE, the item will be ADDED to your report. There are small fees of $2 to $5 per item, but this small fee could be well worth it to you.