Category Archives: Action Steps

Still trying to correct the easy stuff

I never received any kind of acknowledgement or letter from Equifax. I haven’t recently pulled a copy of my credit reports, so I have no idea if it’s been corrected on Equifax’s side or not.

I’ve been extremely busy and a bit fed up with this endless cycle of not getting anywhere. But this is just the beginning of the long uphill climb. So I won’t give up now.

I guess my next step is to send out all that information that Experian has requested, and as long as I’m at it, I may as well send it off to Equifax and TransUnion as well to see if it gets me anywhere.

So far, I’ve been sending all correspondence regular mail. If you poke around the web, there are all sorts of theories on how to get better responses from the credit reporting agencies. Many people say to never use anything but Certified Mail with Return Receipt, and to include a reference to the tracking number directly in the letter itself, making sure to save a copy for your records. I’ve read all sorts of other tricks and tips, including sending only hand-written correspondence on yellow legal paper written in green ink. Something about that being difficult for them to OCR into their computerized system, forcing them to deal with it personally. At this point, I’m beginning to see how all these tricks and tips surfaced, and I’m starting to think that they might not be a half-bad idea.

I’m sending off copies of all requested proof of name and address to all three as my next step. I’m undecided as to whether I’ll use CMRR or yellow legal paper and a green pen. I’ll report back when I’ve made my decision and on the results.

Step 3: Correct the Easy Stuff

If you’re anything like most of us, you’ll notice some egregious errors in the section of your credit report called “Personal Info”. This is where your credit report lists your name, social security number, current and former employers, and current and former addresses. Somehow, it’s difficult for the credit reporting agencies to get your name correct, let alone your employers and addresses.

Ideally, you want to get that report to show your correct name, correct social security number, and your correct current address and nothing else.

There’s some dispute about the best way to go about that. Here’s the plan of attack I’ve decided to follow. I visited my local friendly DMV and got a copy of my driver’s license showing my current address. Yes, it cost me about $20, and no, you don’t have to get a new driver’s license when you move in California. You just have to report your change of address to the DMV. But having a driver’s license with my current address allows me to simply make a copy of my driver’s license and use that as proof of my current address. Then I don’t have to mess around with copies of utility bills and other forms of address verification that could get kind of complicated.

I’m sending off a letter to each of the credit reporting agencies that says something along the lines of:

You have addresses on my record that do not belong to me and are incorrect. My name is Credit Report Maven. Please remove all incorrect names immediately. My address is 123 Credit Report Maven Lane, Los Angeles, California. Please remove all incorrect addresses immediately.

I am enclosing a copy of my driver’s license showing my correct name and address. Per the Fair Credit Reporting Act, send me notification that these items have been deleted, as well as an updated copy of my credit report.

As I understand, Experian is the nightmare to deal with here, but Equifax and TransUnion should not be a problem. For these simple personal information disputes, you can use the telephone or online disputes or write letters like I did. For other types of disputes, you should use Certified Mail with Return Receipt.

Step 2: Where Are You?

For a lot of people the though of pulling and reading their credit reports is enough to cause a panic attack. If you know the picture isn’t good, sometimes it seems easier to make like an ostrich and bury your head in the sand and pretend you’ve never heard of credit.

But, girls, it’s time to put on your big-girl panties and deal with it. Your credit report is what it is. As Suze Orman would say, “No shame. No blame.” Learn your lesson, get your credit reports and start making a plan for recovery. I promise you, it’s easier than you think. No matter how bad you’re afraid it is, and no matter how bad (or good) the news actually turns out to be, there’s a tremendous amount of power in knowing the truth – and being able to make a plan for recovery.

When you hide from and ignore your credit situation, you’re giving up your power and you’re making yourself a victim. Get control of the situation, start making steps to improve and repair, and you’re powerful and unstoppable. Job interviews and applying to rent an apartment won’t be scary any more. Getting a car loan? No problem. Buying a home? Also possible.

So, we’re going to pull our credit reports. Yes, all three of them. One of the easiest and best deals is to use the Credit Complete service at myfico.com. It’s $47.85 for all three credit reports and your three FICO credit scores. It’s also true that you are entitled to a free copy of all three of your credit reports each year, but sometimes that can work against you.

MyFICO.com is offering a holiday special for 25% off the Credit Complete service when you use coupon code HOLIDAY25.

So, go. Get all three reports. Print them out twice. File away a clean copy and get ready for making notes on the second copy. Go on, we’ll do it together.

Another Way to Opt Out of Mail

Earlier, I wrote about Opting Out of pre-screened credit offers and direct marketing. The problem with trying to opt out of direct marketing (often known as ‘junk mail’) is that there’s no reliable permanent way to remove your name from all the mailing lists. You can call and ask to be removed from the mailing list for a catalog, but it’s possible that next month that catalog company will buy a new mailing list from another catalog company that has your name and you’ll start receiving that catalog again. It’s impossible to keep up and really put a stop to the direct marking mail.

Enter GreenDimes. For a one-time fee of $15, GreenDimes promises to keep after all those mailing lists and work at getting and keeping your name off of them for you. That $15 barely covers the cost of lunch, and they promise to not only cut your junk mail by 90%, but to also plant 10 trees to make up for all those trees that died to bring you a bunch of catalogs you didn’t want to begin with. GreenDimes is getting some rave reviews around the net, so it’s worth trying out.

Beginning to Build Your Credit: Good Advice for Young Mavens

Over on the MyMint blog, there’s some great advice for young credit mavens to begin building a positive credit history.

How to Jump Start Your Credit History While You’re Young in Five Easy Steps gives some great tips for establishing a great credit rating while you’re still in college in preparation for future borrowing.

Good advice. Wish I’d read it 10 years ago.

Step 1: Opting Out

Opting Out of Pre-Screened Credit Offers

From www.optoutprescreen.com:

Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), the Consumer Credit Reporting Companies are permitted to include your name on lists used by creditors or insurers to make firm offers of credit or insurance that are not initiated by you (“Firm Offers”). The FCRA also provides you the right to “Opt-Out”, which prevents Consumer Credit Reporting Companies from providing your credit file information for Firm Offers.

What does that mean?

You know those annoying “pre-approved” credit card offers that arrive in your mail almost daily? You can stop them. You can fill out the electronic opt-out form at www.optoutprescreen.com to opt out for five years. After five years, you’ll have to opt-out again. You can also permanently opt-out using a mail-in form and never worry about receiving annoying pre-screened credit offers again. This also lets the credit bureaus know that you are not open to receiving unsolicited offers.

What’s the value to my credit report?

Opting out won’t improve your credit scores or your credit rating. It won’t be reflected on your credit report in any way. Possibly, it will make your credit report and the information contained therein less valuable to the credit bureaus since they cannot generate income by selling your information. If your report is less valuable, there is a possibility that getting disputes resolved and misinformation removed will be easier for you.

Opting Out of Direct Marketing

Get your name and information further off the radar by following the advice and information provided by the Direct Marketing Association at www.dmaconsumers.org/consumerassistance.html. They offer advice and forms for getting yourself removed from mailing lists, email lists, and telephone lists. There is a $1 fee for processing your request to be removed from mailing lists, but it’s money well-spent.

Private information that cannot be sold or shared with others is useless information to these companies and they won’t waste space or memory by storing it. Additionally, think of all the paper you’ll save if you’re not receiving junk mail, think of all the time and frustration saved by avoiding annoying telemarketing calls, think how nice it would be to hit the delete key in your email a little less often.

Opting Out of Other Lists

Once you’ve prevented the credit bureaus and the direct marketers from sharing or using your personal information for their own gain, you have to make a list of the other companies and instutions that have your information. Start with financial institutions – anywhere that you have a checking account, savings account, CD, money market account, credit card, loan, mortgage, etc. You have to contact each one directly and ask them not to share your information with anyone.

Other companies that might be sharing or selling your information include mail-order companies, e-commerce sites where you have shopped, companies with whom you have registered a warranty or service plan, companies where you have a shopping club or discount card, your health club, the magazines you subscribe to and many, many others. Unfortunately, there’s no central place to remove yourself from these sell/share lists, so you have to contact each company individually.

Going forward, be sure to check the privacy policies on any websites that you use before you register for an account or make a purchase. Notify any telephone operators that you speak to that you would not like your information to be shared or sold. Mark the box to keep your information private when you fill out any type of form. Make sure that at every point, companies who have your personal information are aware that you do not want that information shared or sold.