Can I Fix Negative Information on My Credit Report?

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In a Nutshell

This article will explain how to obtain your credit report, and what types of information, both negative items and positive, will appear on that report. This article will also discuss the issue of “fixing” a credit report when misinformation appears on your credit history.

Written by the Upsolve Team.  Reviewed by Attorney Andrea Wimmer
Updated July 28, 2020


You probably have seen information about obtaining your credit report for free either twice a year or once a year depending on where you live. The website annualcreditreport.com can assist you in obtaining a free copy of your credit report. Reviewing your credit report regularly is very important for several reasons, including identity theft prevention. This article will explain how to obtain your credit report, and what types of information, both negative items and positive, will appear on that report. This article will also discuss the issue of “fixing” a credit report when misinformation appears on your credit history.

Your Credit Report

A credit report is a document that contains a list of your creditors and tracks the financial information that your creditors report to the major credit bureaus, including negative payment history, collections accounts, and any judgments that have been obtained against you. Your credit report also contains personal information, such as your address. Creditors provide information to the 3 major credit reporting agencies (Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax) that compile your credit history data into your credit report. A credit report shows the date your account was opened or established and the amount of the credit you obtained and your current account balance. The report also shows whether a specific account is revolving like a credit card debt or an installment debt, such as a car or student loans and mortgage payments. 

Some items will appear on one credit report provided by a particular credit bureau and not on another report with a different credit bureau. As a result, it’s important to regularly review reports from all 3 bureaus.  A credit score is produced by all three and the score might also be different for each credit bureau. Your individual bureau credit scores are separate from your FICO score, which combines the credit scores from all three credit bureaus. You are entitled to a free copy of your credit report every year. It is very important to review your credit reports regularly to make sure that your personal information and your credit history information is accurate. If you find inaccuracies or errors with your credit history, know that each bureau has a specific procedure that  explains the steps you take to correct your credit file.   

Negative Information on a Credit Report

If you have bad credit and a low credit score, it is likely that there are many negative items detailed on your credit report. This negative information could include charge-offs for accounts by which you stopped making payments. A charge-off typically means that a creditor sent collection letters and made collection calls to you, but you still didn’t make good on a debt. So, the creditor gave up the hope of getting paid and closed your account. This process lowers your credit score. It can also make another creditor reject a future request for new credit because they see you have a history of uncollected debt. 

Your poor credit may also be a result of collection accounts in which a credit card agency or medical provider (e.g. doctor or hospital) tried to collect a payment within a specified time but you did not make payment. At that point, the credit card company or medical provider turned the account over to a collection agency to collect the payment from you. Collections accounts have a negative impact on your credit history for obvious reasons.

Maxing out your credit cards also causes you to have bad credit and a low credit score. For example, if you have spent nearly the entire credit limit on multiple secured credit cards, and this gets reported to the credit bureaus, this can lower your credit score. When you apply for additional credit cards or loans, those creditors will review your credit report and credit score, which is called a hard inquiry. Too many hard inquiries in a short amount of time can cause you to have bad credit, especially if you are trying to get loans or new credit cards over a short period of time because they make you look desperate for new credit. These hard inquiries may stay on your credit report for a few years. 

Another reason for bad credit is identity theft. Identity theft prevention and detection are some of the reasons why it is so important to review your credit report regularly. By reviewing your reports, you can look for accounts you did not open or hard inquiries into your credit that you did not authorize. You also need to monitor your credit history regularly to see if your credit and credit score suddenly changes. All these things may be indications of identity theft and that your confidential information has been compromised. With the rise in identity theft, many major credit card companies offer credit monitoring services. Equifax and Experian also offer credit monitoring services. If your personal data has been compromised, you may want to consider investing in credit monitoring until your accounts have normalized for a period of time.  

How to “Fix” Poor Credit

No doubt you have seen signs and other advertisements that say “we fix bad credit.” Unfortunately, you should know that your poor credit cannot be “fixed” like a car. If you’re interested in boosting your credit score, there are a few things you’ll need to consider. One is that inaccurate information can damage your credit history. That’s why it’s important to review your credit report regularly and to petition credit bureaus in the event that inaccurate information is contained in your reports. Beyond that, it is a myth that somehow your credit can be “magically” fixed without you changing your financial situation. Credit is something you build by  how you pay your debts and balancing how much you owe on the debts you have. Credit repair services are almost always a scam. They charge a fee for these services and make false promises to get you to pay the fee upfront and to give them personal information about you that could lead to your identity being stolen. At the end of the day, you’ll likely see nothing in return for your investment and trust. Unless there is inaccurate information on your credit report that you can “fix” by petitioning the major credit bureaus, the only thing that will “fix” your credit history is building positive credit history over time.

The Fair Credit Reporting Act

If you find errors on your credit report, there is something you can do. The Fair Credit Reporting Act protects consumers from allowing inaccuracies on their credit reports  to damage their credit scores. You can report any errors or inaccuracies you find to the credit reporting agencies by sending a written statement disputing the debt. Your written dispute might state that the balance owed is inaccurate or that you never opened the account. Once you submit your written documentation per the procedures of each credit bureau, the creditors have an opportunity to challenge the disputed inaccuracies. If the errors are not successfully challenged and are not fixed, then you can obtain legal counsel and sue the credit reporting agency or agencies and the creditors that are harming your credit history. Victims of identity theft find this to be the most helpful way to rehabilitate their credit. In fact, The Fair Credit Report Act (FCRA) was passed into law partially to deal with damage to the credit reports and credit scores of the victims of identity theft.

Credit Repair Services

The truth is that credit repair services should have giant buyer beware signs on their doors, as they are almost always scams. They will claim they can fix your credit, but unless there is inaccurate information on your credit report, they cannot do what they promise. They will make it seem like your credit will be “fixed” or “repaired” and your credit score will increase but the reality is there is nothing that will fix negative items on a credit report that are accurately reported by your creditors.  

Information on your credit report may be negative, but this is not the same thing as being inaccurate. The credit repair service may offer to send the credit bureaus a written “dispute” of information in your credit report, even if that negative information isn’t inaccurate. In return, you may agree to pay for deleting information in your credit file. Once the creditor responds and states that the debt is being reported accurately, the credit repair company will be long gone. You will then realize that the pay for deleting the information was a scam. One of the biggest tip offs that a company is a scam is if they require large fees in advance to help you and they pay themselves first before they deal with your creditors. This kind of arrangement typically results in your debt being turned over to a collection agency, if it hasn’t already been referred to collections. Now you have late payments and collection agencies to deal with. The result is that your credit score is now lower and your credit worse than before you paid the credit repair service company to help you. 

To deal with this common scenario, Congress passed the Credit Repair Organization Act to try and regulate credit repair service companies. The Act requires credit repair services to disclose information to consumers. It also requires them to have no top loading fees where they take your money upfront before they actually provide you any service. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is working hard to stop these companies. Unfortunately, credit repair companies sometimes pop up and disappear before the FTC can stop them from scamming consumers seeking debt relief help.  

Conclusion

As you pay your creditors, you build your credit history and credit score over time. Your credit report and your credit score take work to maintain. There is no magic pill for addressing bad or negative information on your credit report that creditors have accurately reported. With that said, you should consider using credit monitoring to keep an eye on your credit history. With credit monitoring, you will receive alerts when there are changes in your credit report, including changes to your credit score. If you do find inaccurate information on your credit report, you should take steps to dispute this information. The process for disputing any inaccurate information is free and the instructions are included in your credit report. Don’t fall prey to scams that offer to “wipe your credit clean,” “fix your bad credit” or “delete” information in your credit report. Instead, build your credit over time and use monitoring and dispute procedures to your advantage whenever doing so is appropriate.



Written By:

The Upsolve Team

Upsolve is fortunate to have a remarkable team of bankruptcy attorneys, as well as finance and consumer rights professionals, as contributing writers to help us keep our content up to date, informative, and helpful to everyone.

Attorney Andrea Wimmer

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Andrea practiced exclusively as a bankruptcy attorney in consumer Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 cases for more than 10 years before joining Upsolve, first as a contributing writer and editor and ultimately joining the team full time in August 2019. While in private practice, Andrea ha... read more about Attorney Andrea Wimmer

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