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Negative Information In Your Credit Report

Negative information concerning your use of credit can be kept in your credit report for seven years. A bankruptcy can be kept for 10 years, and unpaid tax liens for 15 years. Information about a lawsuit or an unpaid judgment against you can be reported for seven years or until the statute of limitations runs out, whichever is longer. Inquiries remain on your report for two years.

Anyone who denies you credit, housing, insurance, or a job as a result of a credit report must give you the name, address, and telephone number of the credit reporting agency (CRA) that provided the report. Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), you have the right to request a free report within 60 days if a company denies you credit based on the report.

If there is inaccurate or incomplete information in your credit report:

  • Contact both the credit reporting agency and the company that provided the information to the CRA.
  • Tell the CRA in writing what information you believe is inaccurate. Keep a copy of all correspondence.

Under The Fair Credit Reporting Act, the information provider is required to investigate and report the results to the CRA. If the information is found to be incorrect, it must notify all nationwide CRAs to correct your file. If the investigation does not solve your dispute, ask that your statement concerning the dispute be included in your file. A notice of your dispute must be included anytime the CRA reports the negative item.

If the information is accurate, only time, hard work, and a personal debt repayment plan will improve your credit report. Credit repair companies advertise they can erase bad credit for a hefty fee. Don't believe it. Under the Credit Repair Organizations Act, credit repair companies can't require you to pay until they have completed promised services. They must also give you:

  • A copy of the "Consumer Credit File Rights Under State and Federal Law" before you sign a contract.
  • A written contract that spells out your rights and obligations.
  • Three days to cancel without paying any fees.

Some credit repair companies promise to help you establish a whole new credit identity. You can be charged with fraud if you use the mail or telephone to apply for credit with false information. It is also a federal crime to make false statements on a loan or credit application, to give a false Social Security number, or to obtain an Employer Identification Number from the Internal Revenue Service under false pretences.

If you have lost money to a credit repair scam, contact your local consumer protection office or use the National Fraud Information Center complaint form.