What is credit repair?
Credit repair is a financial process where you identify and dispute mistakes or errors in your credit report to have incorrect negative information removed. This is a process that you can do on your own or with the help of a state-licensed attorney who has the legal authority to act on your behalf.
This is also known as “credit correction” or “credit restoration.” However, it’s important to distinguish between legitimate dispute services that originate from a licensed attorney and credit repair services you often see advertised that make large claims about improving your credit score that often violate certain laws, such as the Credit Repair Organizations Act (CROA).
How does credit repair work?
- If you want to correct your credit on your own, you start by going to annualcreditreport.com to download your credit report from each of the three credit bureaus for free.
- If you are using a credit correction service, this step is switched out for signing power of attorney to authorize a state-licensed attorney to act and make disputes on your behalf.
- Next, mistakes are identified in your credit report. This is information that is incorrect or outdated. It includes:
- Incorrect account statuses
- Duplicate accounts
- Accounts that aren’t yours
- Outdated negative information that should have already been removed
- Incorrectly reported credit history
- Dispute letters are then drafted and sent registered mail, return receipt to each of the credit bureaus with copies of any documentation that shows the error.
- The credit bureaus have 30 days from the date the letter is received to verify the information; they may request additional information and documentation as needed.
- If the information cannot be verified, then it must be removed.
- The credit bureau provides a free copy of your credit report to show the information has been removed or updated accordingly.
Setting accurate credit correction expectations
It’s important to keep in mind that credit correction – and really any credit repair or credit restoration service – is about cleaning up your credit report. Improving your credit score is a secondary benefit of credit correction, but it’s not the main goal and any claims about how much credit correction can improve your credit score are almost never guaranteed. Here’s why…
#1: The goal of this service is to remove negative items
Credit correction is solely focused on the goal of removing negative items that appear in your credit report. Negative items like collection accounts, charge-offs and missed payments in your credit history show you’re a higher-risk borrower when creditors and lenders review your credit report during a credit check. Removing these items improves creditworthiness.
#2: Credit score improvement varies
Removing negative items from your credit report can also provide a secondary benefit of improving your credit score. For instance, credit history makes up over 1/3 of your credit score calculation, so removing missed payments from your report may also improve your score.
However, the level to which credit correction improves your credit score varies widely based on where your credit score is initially and how many negative items are removed.
#3: You can’t remove correct information
Finally, understand that credit correction is only about removing negative information that can’t be verified. If a negative item is correct and can be verified by the original creditor, you can’t have it removed.