Did you know that it’s possible to remove bad items from your credit report? Any inaccurate item showing up on your credit report that’s damaging your credit can be removed, otherwise you have the right to sue the credit agency.

Here’s how to remove bad items from your credit report.

Get a Report from All Three Agencies

The first step is to get a credit report from all three credit reporting agencies. You can get your report once a year for free from annualcreditreport.com.

Look through each and every one of your accounts carefully. Is there anything you don’t recognize? Anything that’s overstated or understated?

Highlight any suspicious accounts. Note the account numbers and descriptions.

Some bad items will appear on just one agency’s report, while other errors will appear on all your credit reports.

Beginning the Dispute Process

Look for the dispute address of the credit agency you want to contact. It’s usually on their website.

Also look at their expected response times and policies for removing items.

Usually, you can expect a response within 30 days. If you don’t get a response within 30 days, you may be eligible for a lawsuit, or the item may have to legally be dropped.

Find a few sample dispute letters online and modify the letters to suit your own purposes. Usually the letter needs to illustrate exactly why you believe the account is erroneous and needs to list the exact account numbers and descriptions.

Be sure to also be clear about what you want them to do. For example, if the account exists but isn’t actually delinquent, let them know that you want them to update the status to “Never Delinquent” rather than remove the item.

The Next Steps

One of three things will happen once you’ve sent in your dispute letter:

1. They respond and remove the item. In this case, no further action needs to be taken.

2. They respond and say that the item is not an error. They need to also provide documentation stating why this is the case, including the actual credit filing by the creditor.

Look over the filing. Was this account opened by you? If not, you may have an identity theft issue on your hands. If it was, but is being incorrectly reported, you need to contact the creditor directly to work out the issue.

3. They don’t respond. In this case, you have certain rights, including at times the right to have the items removed or the right to a lawsuit. Consult a lawyer for specific rights in this case.

The whole process of disputing a report item should take no more than three hours. Those three hours could result in your ability to open credit cards, your ability to buy a home or your ability to buy a car at much better rates.

Aaron G. Adams is an Attorney and Realtor who has written for many publications.

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