If you have negative items on your credit report, it’s a good idea to get them removed so that you don’t have to wait seven years to have good credit. It’s in your best interest to start cleaning up your credit report if you want to get a mortgage, car loan, insurance, or even a new job. Here’s how to get started.
How to Get Something Off Your Credit Report
According to the Federal Trade Commission, “no one can legally remove accurate and timely negative information from a credit report.”
But, if the item is questionable or doesn’t quite tell the entire story, you have the right to file a dispute and request an investigation with each credit bureau that’s reporting it. You also have the right to file a dispute if an account results from fraud or identity theft.
Review Your Credit Report
After you’ve picked up a copy of your free credit report from each credit reporting agency (credit bureau), you need to review them to see which items are hurting your credit scores.
This step is crucial because you’ll be notating credit reporting errors and negatives in your credit report that need to be rectified and possibly removed. Pay close attention to the account information and payment history included on your credit reports and highlight any issues.
It’s also essential to make sure the item you are disputing is actually negative. You do not want to be disputing credit accounts that positively impact your credit score.
Submit Dispute Letters to the Credit Bureaus
Before trying anything else, we recommend writing a dispute letter to each of the three major credit bureaus reporting the negative item. Creditors are mandated by federal law, the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), to report accurate information about each account.
If the credit bureau can’t verify their entries with the proper documentation when a dispute is filed, which is not uncommon, they must remove the negative item from your credit report.
You can dispute items on your credit report by phone, online, or mail. But disputing credit report errors by snail mail is the most effective method for several reasons.
The three credit bureaus have 30 days to investigate and respond to your dispute. However, you may sometimes receive a letter from the actual creditor requesting that you provide additional documentation so they can properly investigate the claim. This is a common stall tactic, and you’re not obligated to respond.
What to Do If the Dispute Letters Don’t Work
Dispute letters should take care of the problem. But sometimes, credit bureaus and/or your creditors don’t cooperate. The good news is you still have several options to have them removed.
Write a Goodwill Letter
No luck with direct contact or a written dispute? A goodwill letter is another tool in your arsenal to nix those late payments from your credit report.
These letters are ideal in situations where you missed payments and are now in good standing. (If the account(s) is already in collections, a pay for delete arrangement may be your best bet. More on that shortly…)
In a nutshell, a goodwill letter is a written request to the bank, credit card issuer, or other creditor asking that they remove the late payment from your credit report.
There’s no guarantee that they’ll remove the negative mark, but it’s worth a shot. Plus, you can plead your case again if they reject your request the first time around.
When drafting up your letter, be honest about why you were delinquent. For example, if you hit a rough patch because you became unemployed or dealt with medical issues, put that information in there. Or maybe your account was compromised, or there was a glitch in autopay, so the payment was returned or didn’t go through.
Regardless of your reasoning, be as specific as possible and reiterate that the entry does not reflect your true character. It just resulted from a financial rough patch, and that you’ve worked hard to get back on track.
Request a “Pay for Delete” Arrangement
If you have unpaid charge-offs or collections, you can offer to pay the unpaid debt in exchange for deletion from your credit report. You can even negotiate with them to pay a lesser amount than what you originally owed. In fact, some collection agencies will settle delinquent accounts for far less than what’s owed.
But before moving forward, you want to make sure that you’re negotiating with the right collection agency. If the debt has bounced from place to place, you may have a better shot at having the item deleted by filing a dispute. This forces the collection agency to prove that the debt actually belongs to you.
Otherwise, make your offer in writing to the collection agency and await approval before remitting payment. (And don’t give them your banking information. Submit a paper check, instead.)
They may counteroffer with a higher amount, but you have the option to keep negotiating until you reach the sweet spot. Once both parties agree on an acceptable number, the debt collector will remove the item once the balance is paid in full.
Quick note: You must do this in writing so you’ll have proof that they agreed to the arrangement in the event the negative item is not removed once you’ve satisfied your end of the agreement.
Still no luck?
Credit is often easy to access but can be your worst nightmare when the debt starts piling up, and you can’t find a way out.
If you’ve spent years in the trenches, don’t expect a miracle overnight. Instead, be prepared to do the legwork to improve your credit, and most importantly, don’t throw in the towel the moment you don’t get the results you want.
Consider Hiring a Professional
If you’ve exhausted all your options and still haven’t had much luck, professional credit repair services can help you. (This is also a viable option if you simply don’t have time to correspond back and forth with the creditors or credit bureaus).
Of course, you’ll want to go with a trusted credit repair company that has a proven track record and wealth of experience in the field.
It’s possible to have negative items removed from your credit history. But you must be patient and open to pursuing all the methods available to you.