Clean up Your Credit Report

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To eliminate inaccurate information or entries that should have expired from your credit reports, contact the credit bureaus to make the necessary corrections. Credit repair companies may advertise their services, but there's nothing they can do that you can't do yourself. Legitimate debts or delinquencies can't be removed by you or a credit repair company, but you can request that information be presented more positively as part of a payment arrangement.

Examine Reports Closely

Get copies of your credit reports from all three credit bureaus -- Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. You get one copy of each free every 12 months. Review each one carefully, as each report collects different data. Circle any entries you're unsure of to investigate further, and highlight those you know need correcting. Check your personal information as well, particularly the accuracy of your address and Social Security number.

Inform Creditors

Send dispute letters to the reporting agency with the inaccurate information. Include copies of any documents that support your claim, such as a canceled check reflecting a made payment or a letter confirming an account has been closed. It's best to send them by certified mail with a return receipt requested, so you have a record of your request. For items that still appear past the date they should have fallen off, it should be a simple fix to remove the erroneous information. Other information the bureaus will confirm with creditors. Credit reporting services have 30 days to investigate claims.

Critical Errors

If you see accounts you don't recognize, contact the credit bureaus immediately. It could mean that someone else's information has been included on your report by mistake, or you could be a victim of identity theft. Beware of debts that are counted twice: This often happens with debt that has been sold to a collection agency, such as a credit card bill that's far past due. Should that happen, the credit card company should reduce the balance to zero and the collection agency should report the debt, but if the credit card company fails to do so, the same information can appear multiple times. If this happens, request that the credit card company cease reporting the item as delinquent.

Escalating Disputes

Credit bureaus won't remove debt if the lenders claim their records are accurate and can support those claims. You may have to follow up with the creditors directly to get them to agree that the information is inaccurate. If not, you can escalate your claims by making reports with the Better Business Bureau or your state's attorney general. If these actions reveal mistakes by creditors, follow up with the credit bureaus to make sure the inaccurate information has been removed.