How to Clean Up Your Credit Report
Credit Fraud Runs Rampant
Even under the most watchful eye, your identity can be stolen very quickly. In fact, according to the 2008 Internet Crime Report published by the federal government, total loss from all types of fraud was $264.6 million, up from $239.1 million in 2007. What is going on?
In this age of wide-spread information about how to protect against identity theft and fraud, it seems that many people are not getting the message. Yet the World Wide Web, which has a lot of information about how to protect yourself, also contains many more ways to become a victim of fraud without even knowing it. If this happens to you and you need to get some emergency cash, your application will most likely be denied because your credit score is not what you thought it was. Here’s how to clean up your credit report should this happen to you.
Check Your Report Often
Many times, credit fraud happens because people do not keep a watchful eye on their credit report. The law allows you to get a free report once per year, without having to sign up for any credit monitoring service. An example, freecreditreport.com, actually requires you to sign up with their monitoring service before you can get your credit report. This is not free, and there is a better site (annualcreditreport.com) that will give you a free report each year. Get your report from here, rather than get caught in with the fancy, yet humorous, jingles of the other site. Once you download your report, look it over very carefully for any charges that you have not made. Anything that looks suspicious, make a note of it for the next step.
Call the Reporting Agency
Once you have made a note of any suspicious activities, call the reporting agency. This will be one of the three big agencies: Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. Find their consumer number and call them about your report. Explain to them that you did not make those specific charges and request to have them removed. However, if the creditor insists that it is a legitimate charge, the reporting agency may not be able to remove it. In this case, you will need to contact your creditors next.
Call the Creditors
Typically, your creditors will be credit card companies and other types of charge accounts, including any emergency cash loans that you may have needed to borrow. But it really could be any creditor that you owe money to. Locate phone numbers and start calling each company to dispute any charge. Though this may be easier when you first get a statement, try anyway as you never know what may happen. If you cannot get any results right away, ask to talk with their boss. Repeat this as many times as necessary to get results. Once you get results, make sure they really do remove the charge from your report by calling the reporting agency once again.
Pay Off Legitimate Debts
After you have all the charges that you did not authorize removed from your report, look at all the charges and debts that you did authorize but have not paid off. The best way to get this cleaned up is to pay them off. Simple enough, but this requires a bit of planning and execution on your part. Proper budgeting, with a debt repayment plan, is the best way to get the legitimate debts cleared from your credit report.
Use Emergency Cash Wisely
There are always going to be times when your expenses will outlive your income, leaving you to survive on emergency cash. Tread carefully and use these loans wisely—otherwise, you will do more harm than good to your credit report. Keep this in mind as you are cleaning up your credit and paying off your debts.