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Disputing Debt for Free

By Faye Mergel
Published: Friday, September 25th, 2009

Accurate bad information cannot be removed from a consumer’s record in credit reporting agencies (CRAs) such as Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian. However, consumers have the right to dispute negative items stated in credit reports which are inaccurate or outdated.

IS4086RF-00037756-001To fix inaccuracies, a consumer must first obtain a free copy of his credit report through any of the legitimate websites that offer them such as, “annualcreditreport.” This government-sponsored site provides consumers with a free copy immediately after providing the requested information. Retrieving reports can also be done through mail or phone, but this method usually takes weeks to process.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) completed a free credit reporting program in 2005. Consumers must know that there is no need to spend a penny just to get copies of their reports. Moreover, it is best for consumers to get credit reports from all three major reporting bureaus since reports are expected to vary from one credit-tracking company to another.

Once a consumer determines which debts are his and which are not, he can either go to the creditor or the CRAs. Experts suggest that consumers should first go to a CRA before disputing with a creditor since they can give specific instructions on how to dispute with lenders effectively.

After going to a CRA, consumers can already dispute an item with creditors. This must be done through writing, as the FTC guideline states. A consumer must keep in mind that fixing his debt report does not have to cost anything, unless he hires an attorney to do the work for him. However, this is not necessary since this Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) gives consumers the right, and the CRAs the obligation, to fix inaccurate items.

The Myth about Credit-Fixing Companies

Many companies out there offer repairs for a certain fee. Usually, companies like these charge consumers $100 for membership and $30 to $50 as monthly fees. Most will promise to remove negative items in a credit report and assure consumers that their scores will boost in no time at all. However, such promises are inaccurate, just as they are false. Negative items, such as bankruptcy, cannot be removed from a person’s name unless they expire through time (bankruptcy is removed from a credit report after ten years).

Only inaccurate items can be removed from records of the bureaus and this does not require help from a third party. If a person wants help, he can go visit the attorney general’s office in his state or go visit the official website of the Federal Trade Commission.

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