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I Need to Rebuild My Credit, Where Do I Start?

Deanna Templeton

We recently received this question from a reader who is looking for help with credit report errors:

There are things on my credit report that do not belong on there. Things like where I have lived and accounts that have been paid off for over 10 years. How can I have them corrected? I also received a call from a collections agency saying I owed them money. When I checked into it, I found out it was for someone else named “Dale” and I’ve asked that they remove it from my credit. In June and July of last year, I paid off a lot of my bills and I’d like to find out if there are any other payments that are late so I can pay them. What else can I do to get my credit score back?

The very first step to figuring out where to even begin rebuilding bad credit is to order copies of your credit reports. Without knowing what’s being reported in your credit reports, you’ll have no idea where to even begin. Based on your question, it sounds like you’ve ordered one of your credit reports — which is a great start, but we’d also encourage you to order all three of your credit reports from each of the major credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. By law, you’re entitled to one free copy of your credit report (from all three bureaus) once every 12 months. To order your free annual credit report visit AnnualCreditReport.com.

Disputing Credit Report Errors

Once you’ve ordered all of your credit reports, your next step is to go through them line by line and review them for accuracy. Pay close attention to all of the accounts and balances, and any missed payments or negative public record information like collections, liens or judgments. This information has a direct impact on your credit scores so it’s important that it’s as accurate and up to date as possible.

Remember, your credit scores are only as accurate as the information contained within your credit reports. Personal identifying information like your current and previous addresses, aliases and current/past employers won’t have an impact on your credit or credit scores, but if the information is wrong it’s still a good idea to file a dispute and have it corrected — if only to give yourself peace of mind and limit any possible worries about identity theft.

Statutes of Limitations on Credit Reporting

Regarding the accounts that are more than 10 years old, it would depend on the individual account but typically most negative account information will remain on your credit report for seven years. Positive accounts will remain for 10 years from the date closed, and open/active positive accounts will remain on your credit reports indefinitely.

How to Boost Your Credit Score

You’ve made great strides already by being proactive and paying off delinquent accounts and old debts, but to find out exactly what you need to do to improve your credit score, you need to know where to start.

There is no “one size fits all” credit improvement plan — what may be great advice for someone else, could be terrible advice for you. This is why all credit scores include what’s called “score factors” or “reason codes” that help you pinpoint exactly why your score is what it is and also help you identify the areas that you need to focus on in order to improve.  If you haven’t already ordered your credit score, the Credit Report Card from Credit.com is a great place to start –and it’s free.

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