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-- Posted: Nov. 1, 1999

Dorothy Rosen -- The Dollar Diva Ask the Dollar Diva

A clean credit report for less than 50 bucks?

Dear Dollar Diva,
I found a credit repair company that is offering a system for removing items, such as bankruptcy and charged off accounts, from credit reports for $49. It says that a top credit attorney produced the system and cites the Fair Credit Reporting Act. Are there legal ways to get negative information off a credit report?

The Diva is going to break the question into three parts:

  • Where can I find information about credit reports?

  • How do I get negative information off my credit report?

  • What about the Fair Credit Reporting Act?

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Where can I find information about credit reports?

Although your credit report does not say whether you are a good credit risk or a bad one, the information it contains can often make a case for or against you. Some of the items reported are:

  • Personal information -- birth date, current and former addresses, current and prior jobs.

  • Debt information -- current balances, remaining credit available, whether accounts are current or past due and collection activity, such as repossession or charge-offs, tax liens or bankruptcies.

  • Other -- a list of companies that have requested your report.

The three major credit-reporting companies are:

  • TransUnion (800) 888-4213

  • Equifax (800) 997-2493

  • Experian (formerly TRW) (888) 397-3742

Depending on circumstances and where you live, it will cost from zero to $8 for a report -- and the Diva recommends that you get a copy so you know what Big Brother is saying about you.

How do I get negative information off my credit report?

  • If the information is true? There is no way to get negative information off your credit report if the information is true, and it is not outdated.

    If you filed bankruptcy last year, no one -- no system, no lawyer, not even Siegfried and Roy -- can get it taken off. Not for $49, or $490, or $4,900. As a general rule, a negative report stays on your record for seven years; a bankruptcy for 10 years.

  • If the information is false? The credit reporting company has to support the information it has on you. No support -- no black mark. So ask to see it. If the support is erroneous, write to the company with which you originally did business. Send it copies of any documents you have supporting your position, and request that it send corrected information to the credit bureaus it reports to.

  • If there's a dispute over the accuracy of the item? You have the right to include a statement of as many as 100 words in your report to explain your version of the disputed item. This will be included in reports provided in the future.

What about the Fair Credit Reporting Act?

Diva Alert
Scammers often imply that the Fair Credit Reporting Act gives credit repair companies the ability to remove current negative information from your credit report regardless of its accuracy. That simply is not true!

The credit reporting companies make mistakes -- oodles of them. So many that there is a 50/50 chance that there's a mistake on yours. The Fair Credit Reporting Act gives you the right to challenge the reports, and have them corrected if they're wrong.

The Federal Trade Commission's Web site presents a concise summary of your rights under the act, written in language that's easy to understand.

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