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How Fast Can Your Credit Be Repaired?

Tired of being turned down for car loans, a mortgage or even cable service? Is bad credit to blame for the constant rejection? If so, it's time to take the steps necessary to repair your financial reputation.

While it may seem hopeless, a less-than-stellar credit report can be turned around. However, years of bad credit cannot be undone in just a few hours of time, so be prepared to be patient while you work through the steps toward a better financial future.

The first step in repairing your credit is to request a copy of your credit report from each of the three credit reporting agencies: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. Under guidelines spelled out in the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), individuals are permitted to obtain, for free, one annual copy of their credit report from each of the three listed agencies above. By going to annualcreditreport.com, you can order a report from each of the agencies. Be wary of other websites and companies which claim to be official sources for obtaining a credit report. The only site authorized by the federal government to dispense the free reports is annualcreditreport.com. Other sites can and will charge you for the credit reports - a fact you may not discover until it's too late.

Once you have your credit reports, go over them carefully. As with any sort of history which relies on the accurate reporting of outside agencies, mistakes can and do happen. Review to make sure that all accounts in your name were actually opened by you, and that there are no mistakes in reports of failure to pay on any account. Employment and resident history also are included on a credit report, so be sure to check that all employers and places of residence are accurate to ensure that someone else's information has not been included in your report.

While it may seem redundant to do so, be sure to review each report from all three agencies. National credit reporting agencies may obtain their information from different sources, and therefore may not contain all of the same data.

If you discover a mistake on any of the reports, you should file a dispute with the credit reporting agency. The three credit reporting bureaus all have a dispute process. That process can be accessed online through their websites, or via snail mail with a form that can be obtained by calling the credit reporting bureau. Within 30 days, the individual should receive a response to their complaint about inaccurate information.

In most cases, the credit reporting agency is able to verify the information is incorrect and will remove it from your record. In the event it does not agree that the information is false and refuses to remove it, the consumer should request that a copy of the dispute notice be included with the credit report any time it is accessed by an outside source.

If poor credit is just a fact of life - rather than a data error on someone else's part - there are steps that can be taken to help earn back the trust of creditors. The best solution is to consult with a consumer credit counseling service, which can help consolidate loans and bills into affordable monthly payments. If creditors see that you are making an effort toward paying down your debt responsibly, they are more likely to extend credit to you in the future.

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