Tag Archives: Credit Repair

How to repair my credit and improve my FICO Scores

Credit Report Rebuilding

It’s important to note that repairing bad credit is a bit like losing weight: It takes time and there is no quick way to fix a credit score. In fact, out of all of the ways to improve a credit score, quick-fix efforts are the most likely to backfire, so beware of any advice that claims to improve your credit score fast. The best advice for rebuilding credit is to manage it responsibly over time. If you haven’t done that, then you need to repair your credit history before you see credit score improvement. The tips below will help you do that. They are divided up into categories based on the data used to calculate your credit score.

3 Important Things You Can Do Right Now

  1. Check Your Credit Report – Credit score repair begins with your credit report. If you haven’t already, request a free copy of your credit report and check it for errors. Your credit report contains the data used to calculate your score and it may contain errors. In particular, check to make sure that there are no late payments incorrectly listed for any of your accounts and that the amounts owed for each of your open accounts is correct. If you find errors on any of your reports, dispute them with the credit bureau and reporting agency.Read more about Disputing Errors on Your Credit Report
  2. Setup Payment Reminders – Making your credit payments on time is one of the biggest contributing factors to your credit score. Some banks offer payment reminders through their online banking portals that can send you an email or text message reminding you when a payment is due. You could also consider enrolling in automatic payments through your credit card and loan providers to have payments automatically debited from your bank account, but this only makes the minimum payment on your credit cards and does not help instill a sense of money management.
  3. Reduce the Amount of Debt You Owe – This is easier said than done, but reducing the amount that you owe is going to be a far more satisfying achievement than improving your credit score. The first thing you need to do is stop using your credit cards. Use your credit report to make a list of all of your accounts and then go online or check recent statements to determine how much you owe on each account and what interest rate they are charging you. Come up with a payment plan that puts most of your available budget for debt payments towards the highest interest cards first, while maintaining minimum payments on your other accounts.

More Tips on How to Fix a Credit Score & Maintain Good Credit

Payment History Tips

Contributing 35% to your score calculation, this category has the greatest effect on improving your score, but past problems like missed or late payments are not easily fixed.

  • Pay your bills on time.
    Delinquent payments, even if only a few days late, and collections can have a major negative impact on your FICO Scores.
  • If you have missed payments, get current and stay current.
    The longer you pay your bills on time after being late, the more your FICO Scores should increase. Older credit problems count for less, so poor credit performance won’t haunt you forever. The impact of past credit problems on your FICO Scores fades as time passes and as recent good payment patterns show up on your credit report. And good FICO Scores weigh any credit problems against the positive information that says you’re managing your credit well.
  • Be aware that paying off a collection account will not remove it from your credit report.
    It will stay on your report for seven years.
  • If you are having trouble making ends meet, contact your creditors or see a legitimate credit counselor.
    This won’t rebuild your credit score immediately, but if you can begin to manage your credit and pay on time, your score should increase over time. And seeking assistance from a credit counseling service will not hurt your FICO Scores.

Amounts Owed Tips

This category contributes 30% to your score’s calculation and can be easier to clean up than payment history, but that requires financial discipline and understanding the tips below.

  • Keep balances low on credit cards and other “revolving credit”.
    High outstanding debt can affect a credit score.
  • Pay off debt rather than moving it around.
    The most effective way to improve your credit score in this area is by paying down your revolving (credit cards) debt. In fact, owing the same amount but having fewer open accounts may lower your score.
  • Don’t close unused credit cards as a short-term strategy to raise your score.
  • Don’t open a number of new credit cards that you don’t need, just to increase your available credit.
    This approach could backfire and actually lower your credit score.

Length of Credit History Tips

  • If you have been managing credit for a short time, don’t open a lot of new accounts too rapidly.
    New accounts will lower your average account age, which will have a larger effect on your score if you don’t have a lot of other credit information. Also, rapid account buildup can look risky if you are a new credit user.

New Credit Tips

  • Do your rate shopping for a given loan within a focused period of time.
    FICO Scores distinguish between a search for a single loan and a search for many new credit lines, in part by the length of time over which inquiries occur.
  • Re-establish your credit history if you have had problems.
    Opening new accounts responsibly and paying them off on time will raise your credit score in the long term.
  • Note that it’s OK to request and check your own credit report.
    This won’t affect your score, as long as you order your credit report directly from the credit reporting agency or through an organization authorized to provide credit reports to consumers.

Types of Credit Use Tips

  • Apply for and open new credit accounts only as needed.
    Don’t open accounts just to have a better credit mix – it probably won’t raise your credit score.
  • Have credit cards – but manage them responsibly.
    In general, having credit cards and installment loans (and paying timely payments) will rebuild your credit score. Someone with no credit cards, for example, tends to be higher risk than someone who has managed credit cards responsibly.
  • Note that closing an account doesn’t make it go away.
    A closed account will still show up on your credit report, and may be considered by the score.

To summarize, “fixing” a credit score is more about fixing errors in your credit history (if they exist) and then following the guidelines above to maintain consistent, good credit history. Raising your score after a poor mark on your report or building credit for the first time will take patience and discipline.

Best Credit Monitoring Service for 2014

Credit Disputes

With identity theft on the rise, now is the time to find the best credit monitoring service so you can protect yourself before it happens. According to the most recent “Victims of Identity Theft” report published by the Bureau of Justice in 2013, approximately 16.6 million persons (7% of all U.S. residents age 16 or older) were victims of one or more incidents of identity theft in 2012.

If you don’t think that’s very much, consider that losses from ID theft were $24.7 billion. That’s $10 billion more than all other property theft combined.

With ID theft on the rise, and sparked by a recent ID theft scare experienced by a close family member, I conducted some serious research on the best credit monitoring services available today. My focus was mainly on comprehensive credit monitoring with ID theft protection, but I also found some great options that work well for low-cost credit report monitoring.

The Best Credit Monitoring Service

My research led me to choose Identity Guard as the best credit monitoring service because it is a comprehensive program that monitors changes in your credit score and provides some of the best ID theft protection in the industry.

Identity Guard has many different package options to fit any budget. Any plan you choose comes with:

  • Social Security number monitoring
  • ID theft victim’s assistance
  • Lost-wallet protection
  • $1 million ID theft insurance

In case Identity Guard is not for you, several other strong companies worth looking into emerged from my research.

Here is my full list of the 5 best credit monitoring services:

  1. Identity Guard
  2. LifeLock
  3. Identity Force
  4. Experian
  5. TransUnion

What exactly does credit monitoring entail?

There are two main reasons you’ll want to use a credit monitoring service:

  1. You’re concerned about identity theft and want to protect against it.
  2. You need to improve or repair your credit score, but you’re not as concerned about ID theft protection.

Credit monitoring tracks your credit reports and notifies you of any significant changes. Since all things financial flow to your credit report, including loans, credit cards, and payment histories, your credit report is a major factor that financial companies use to extend you any type of loan.

Many times, people are unaware of derogatory reports that show up on their credit report until they actually apply for a loan — when it’s already too late. Knowing what’s in your credit report is extremely important for this reason. Derogatory reports like a delinquency from a creditor can affect your credit score for years. You’ll also want to know your score prior to applying for any credit cards so you know you’ll be accepted.

The other important way people use credit monitoring services is to prevent identity theft. Any financial account that is opened in your name with your Social Security number will show up on this report. Identity thieves prey on unsuspecting people by taking information about them and using it to use or open new financial accounts in the unsuspecting person’s name. Credit monitoring services notify you any time a new account is opened so you can respond quickly.

There are a number of steps you can take to better protect yourself, but having your credit monitored by a professional team can give you the greatest edge by letting you know — in near real time — what is affecting your credit.

What are identity thieves looking for?

In a USA Today article, Phoenix-based cybersecurity expert Mark Pribish says identity thieves look for specific pieces of information.

Here is what identity thieves look for:

  • User names, passwords, and PIN numbers
  • Social Security numbers
  • Phone and utility account numbers
  • Bank and credit account numbers
  • Employment and student identification numbers
  • Driver’s license and passport numbers
  • Professional license numbers
  • Insurance identification numbers
  • College or university financial-aid form information

For most ID theft victims, having new accounts opened in their names is not the main issue, so credit report monitoring alone isn’t adequate. The big problem is that ID thieves use the above information to gain access to and control current bank, credit card, loan, and other accounts, which is where more proactive measures come in handy.

According the Bureau of Justice, for 85% of identity theft victims, the most recent incident involved the unauthorized use of an existing account.

This key statistic has great ramifications for determining which of the best credit monitoring service features have the most impact when it comes to combating ID theft.

How can the best credit monitoring services protect my existing accounts?

Simply monitoring a credit report only shows you when a new account has been opened, but doesn’t show you when your credit card has been used by someone else nor when your bank account has been accessed.

The best credit monitoring services that make this list protect your open accounts with:

  • ID verification alerts
  • Account takeover alerts
  • Lost-wallet protection
  • ID theft victim assistance

The Most Comprehensive Credit Monitoring Services

The first three products listed below will be able to provide full credit monitoring services, identity theft protection, and access to credit reports. If you’re looking for the most comprehensive services to stay protected, these are your best options.

Identity Guard

For comprehensive monitoring, including proactive identity theft protection, Identity Guard is your clear choice.

They monitor all three major credit bureaus for changes to your reports, helping you make more informed financial decisions. On top of this, they monitor personal information like your name and Social Security number across thousands of databases.

ID verification alerts and account takeover alerts proactively notify you every time your online account information has been accessed or changed. This way, you can quickly take action if the accounts were accessed fraudulently. These services are included in the same plans as their credit monitoring service so you just pay a single monthly fee for both.

If you happen to become a victim of ID theft, Identity Guard has the services to get you back on your feet fast. A victim hotline gives you access to a trained expert who helps you through your stressful situation. Lost-wallet protection gets your credit cards cancelled and replaced fast, and $1 million in ID theft insurance covers all of your losses due to ID theft.


  • Social Security Number Monitoring
  • ID Verification Alerts
  • Account Takeover Alerts
  • Identity Theft Victim Assistance
  • Lost-Wallet Protection
  • $1 Million Identity Theft Insurance
  • 3-Bureau Credit Monitoring
  • ID Vault® Password Protection


LifeLock® identity theft protection helps proactively safeguard your identity and your credit. LifeLock actively monitors applications for credit cards, bank accounts, utilities, and other services within an extensive network for attempts to use your personal information. Whenever suspicious activity is detected, you receive an alert via email or phone. If your wallet goes missing, LifeLock helps cancel or replace the contents quickly.

LifeLock® monitors thousands of black-market websites where ID thieves buy and sell stolen information. If your personal information shows up there, you are alerted. They also work with the credit bureaus to reduce the number of annoying preapproved credit card offers by taking your name off mailing lists.

With LifeLock® Junior, you can also protect your child’s identity, which makes LifeLock perfect for families. Children’s clean credit is often a gold mine for thieves because they are largely unmonitored. If your child’s information was stolen and used, it may go undetected for years and do lasting damage.


  • Identity Threat Detection and Alerts
  • Black-Market Website Monitoring
  • Lost-Wallet Protection
  • $1 Million Total Service Guarantee
  • Public Records Monitoring
  • Sex Offender Registry Reports
  • Monthly Credit Score Tracking

Identity Force

Identity Force is another top service for credit monitoring. They monitor all three credit bureaus, Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion, and notify you by email if any changes occur on your reports. A monthly statement comes in handy to help keep you informed of what’s going on with your credit files.

On the ID protection front, Identity Force also offers a variety of tools available to protect your personal information. Their comprehensive monitoring feature keeps tabs on any address changes, court records, credit reports, payday loans, and sex offender lists to make sure your information is not being used without your knowing.

In the event a problem occurs, you have 24/7 access to Identity Restoration Specialists who save you lots of time and headaches by completing all the paperwork, making calls, and doing all the heavy lifting to make sure your identity is restored.

Identity Force is another great choice for a families. Like LifeLock, this company can protect your children. Their Child Watch service delivers proactive credit monitoring, identity monitoring, and ID theft insurance for your kids.


  • Identity Threat Detection and Alerts
  • Lost-Wallet Protection
  • ID Theft Insurance
  • Identity Restoration Specialists
  • Child Watch ID Theft Services
  • 3-Bureau Credit Monitoring

The Best Credit Monitoring Services — Credit Reporting Bureaus

If you’re less concerned with ID theft protection, credit monitoring services from one of the main credit reporting bureaus is a great place to start.

These options can be more affordable and have flat fees for one-time access to your credit report if you just want to know where you stand before applying for a loan. Here are the top two options:


Experian makes the list of the best credit monitoring services by offering triple-bureau credit monitoring with a variety of options for one-time access to your credit report. You can purchase your Experian credit report for $14.95 or get all three credit bureau reports for $39.95. This feature is great if you just need to check in on your credit score once in a while.

For more active monitoring, select the Experian Credit Tracker. For $4.95 per month, you get your Experian credit score and credit report, plus triple-bureau credit monitoring and dedicated fraud resolution support.

Experian does have some ID protection features, but they fall short of the more comprehensive services like Identity Guard. The Experian ProtectMyID® service takes the Experian Credit Tracker features and adds daily Internet ID scanning to look for your personal information that may be publicly available on the Internet.

Finally, Experian also offers credit reports and credit monitoring for your small business. This is a rare service only offered by the major credit bureaus.


  • 3-Bureau Credit Report Monitoring
  • Credit Report Change Alerts
  • One-Time Access to Credit Report
  • Dedicated Fraud Resolution Support
  • Lost-Wallet Protection
  • ID Theft Insurance


Like Experian, TransUnion is another credit reporting bureau that provides some of the best credit monitoring services. As a member, you have access to triple-bureau credit monitoring alerts, so you will be notified of any suspicious activity. TransUnion used to only monitor their own report. This flaw kept them from being one of the best credit monitoring services in the past.

If you’re looking to get one-time access to your credit report, you can receive your TransUnion score for free and credit report for just $1 by signing up for a free seven-day trial. Cancel at any time during the seven days and you won’t be charged the $17.95 membership fee. You also have the option to purchase your triple-bureau credit report for $39.95 without ongoing membership.

You can add some ID theft protection by signing up for True Identity. This service monitors many of the same public records as other services and alerts you if your information shows up there.

If you believe you’ve been a victim of identity fraud, the security freeze feature prevents lenders from accessing your TransUnion credit report entirely. This makes it less likely that a lender will extend credit to someone posing as you. Tools like these offer you peace of mind since they allow you a greater level of control over your account.


  • 3-Bureau Credit Report Monitoring
  • Credit Report Change Alerts
  • One-Time Access to Credit Report
  • Identity Restoration Services
  • Lost-Wallet Protection
  • ID Theft Insurance
  • Security Freeze

Choosing the Best Credit Monitoring Services

Here’s an outline of how I got to my final choices:

  1. Conducted research to find a list of all services
  2. Removed companies that did not belong on the list because they feed business to other companies
  3. Segmented the remaining companies based on their features
  4. Analyzed features deeper to select a top product

For a more detailed look into my process for selecting these services, continue reading below.

I started my research by compiling a comprehensive list of credit monitoring services from multiple Internet sources. I found 20 companies to investigate further.

As I dug deeper, I found that several companies on my list were actually lead-generation sites for other companies on the list. Two examples are FreeCreditReport.com and FreeCreditScore.com, both owned by Experian. I instantly eliminated these companies and don’t recommend them.

The next step was segmentation. I found that while all the companies on the list provided some form of credit monitoring, some focused more on detecting and preventing ID theft while others were more focused on tracking your credit score and report to provide you with valuable information when applying for credit.

So, I segmented companies into two categories:

  1. Comprehensive: for those that provided a set of credit monitoring services with a heavier emphasis on ID theft prevention.
  2. Credit Reporting Bureaus: these companies are more focused on monitoring your credit changes and less on ID theft.

Once I had two buckets to place the services, I focused more on features. For the Comprehensive category, I focused on features that could protect existing accounts because, for over 85% of identity theft victims the most recent incident involved the unauthorized use of an existing account.

The must-have features for this category include:

  • ID verification alerts
  • Account takeover alerts
  • Lost-wallet protection
  • ID theft victim assistance

For the Credit Reporting Bureau category, there are really only three options to choose from: Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax.

In this category, the distinguishing features that made Experian and TransUnion the best are:

  • Ease of monitoring credit reports from all three bureaus
  • The alerting functions for changes to each report
  • Best options for one-time access to your credit score and credit report
  • Ability to add certain ID theft protection features

Making the Final Decision

Looking at everything that credit monitoring encompasses, I determined that Identity Guard was the best credit monitoring service.


Hands down, it has the most comprehensive features for not only monitoring changes in your credit report, but also for proactively combating the risks factors that make your identity vulnerable.


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Remove Inquiries From Your Credit Report

Remove Inquiries from your credit

As you review your credit report, you notice at the very end of the report there is a section labeled “Credit Inquiries” or “Regular Inquiries”. These inquiries were made by companies who “pulled” your credit report and these inquiries will remain on your credit report for two years. You may not recognize their names and you have no idea why they pulled your credit so it may seem a bit unnerving.  Don’t panic, there is something you can do about it.

How Important is it to Remove Inquiries?

Many people tend to over focus on removing inquiries when their reports are full of late pays, collection accounts or even a bankruptcy. In these cases, you might want to hold off on your efforts to remove inquires until after you have successfully removed some of the bigger problems on your credit report. But, if you are tackling your other credit issues, it doesn’t hurt to tackle this problem, too.

How Do You Get Inquiries?

Every time you apply for credit and the credit grantor checks your credit report, a credit inquiry is placed on your file. Even if you receive a credit offer in the mail and you respond, your credit will almost certainly be checked and a credit inquiry will be added to your credit report.

Types of Credit Inquiries

  • Hard pull inquiries occur when you applied for new credit, like a credit card, submitted a loan application for a car or home. Hard pull inquires can affect your credit score.
  • Soft pull inquiries occur when an existing creditor pulls your credit to see what your credit situation is. A soft credit inquiry occurs when you pull your own credit report. Soft credit inquiries do not affect your credit score.

Does an Inquiry Affect Your Credit Score?

  • Credit inquiries are bad because too many of them can indicate to a creditor that you’re “credit hungry” and may be in financial trouble.
  • Worse yet, the creditor has reason to believe that you received many of the credit lines that are showing as inquiries, and that many of those credit lines have not yet appeared on your credit report.
  • Too many recent inquiries indicate to a potential credit grantor that your debt-to-income ratio may be much higher than you say.

You can read our full article on how inquiries impact your credit score.

Step-by-Step Procedure for Removing Inquiries

All credit inquiries should come off your credit report after two years. If you’re not willing to wait, you may take these steps:

Step 1
First, find out which credit inquiries are getting in your way by ordering all three of your credit reports. When your reports arrive, look toward the end of your credit report to find the inquiries. Some of the inquiries are only promotional and will not be shown to prospective credit grantors. You need not worry about those. Identify only the inquiries that are shown to credit grantors. You should recognize some of these as places where you applied for credit, but others may be a complete mystery to you.

Step 2
Find the addresses for each credit inquirer. Your Experian credit report will list addresses for each – TransUnion and Equifax reports will not include addresses. Match your Experian with your TransUnion and Equifax reports. You should be able to use the same addresses on the inquirers that are listed on Experian. If some of the inquirers don’t show up on Experian but do show up on either Trans Union or Equifax, you will have to call the credit bureau to get their address. It is almost impossible to get a live body on the telephone at TransUnion, but Equifax has an 800 number listed at the top of their reports. If you have an inquirer listed on your TransUnion report and you can’t reach them by phone, you might try calling the 800 directory (1-800-555-1212) and request the 800 number for the inquiring creditor.

Once you have collected all of the addresses for each inquiring creditor on each credit report, you are ready for step three.

Step 3
Prepare letters to each inquiring creditor asking them to remove their inquiry. The Fair Credit Reporting Act allows only authorized inquiries to appear on the consumer credit report. You must challenge whether the inquiring creditor had proper authorization to pull your credit file.

Use our sample letter to remove inquiries.

Step 4
Some of your creditors may provide documentation that a credit inquiry was authorized by you. Read the authorization that you signed very carefully. If there is any ambiguity, you can write back and argue that the inquirer’s authorization form was too complicated and not easily understood by the layman. You can threaten to contact the State Banking Commission and complain about a deceptive and unclear authorization form if they don’t remove your inquiry.

Some creditors will try to ignore your challenge. Be sure to send each letter Certified Mail Return Receipt Requested and keep close track of the time that you sent the letter. If the inquiring creditor doesn’t respond within about thirty days, you will have ample grounds to call the inquiring creditor and demand some action. At that point, it’s almost irrelevant whether or not you authorized the inquiry. Now the issue becomes the creditor’s lack of response to a consumer dispute. Be sure to hold your ground. Demand that the inquiry be removed immediately or you will complain to the State Banking Commission or similar authorities.

Many of your inquiring creditors may simply agree to delete the inquiry as a courtesy or because they cannot (or will not) verify your authorization. That’s the goal! Remember, it is not likely that you will need all of your credit inquiries removed — just enough of them to keep you from being denied credit.

How to Vacate or Dismiss a Judgment

Credit Disputes

Dealing with a Judgment. Dismiss a Judgment

  • Removing a judgment from your credit reports
  • Dismissing/disputing a judgment
  • Vacating a judgment

If a creditor or collection agency has sued you then that results in a money judgment. A judgment wont guarantee that the creditor will be paid because he still has to hunt for your bank accounts and assets — but if he knows where they are they can apply to seize them. This is a very stressful situation to be in because you are constantly worrying will today be the day my bank account gets hit, will the judgment creditor seize my car.

5 Best Credit Repair Tips

Credit Repair 2014

If you’re coming out of bankruptcy, foreclosure or simply don’t have a very good credit score, there are plenty of things that you can do in order to boost your score. Some are pretty intuitive while others may not come to mind right away. Below, however, are the five best tips. credit repair tips