So You Thought You Wouldn't Have To Deal With Creditors After Bankruptcy...WRONG!
By Ed Jeffry & Luke Currier
One of the biggest challenges that people encounter after discharging a bankruptcy is the cleaning up of their credit report. The challenge is one of communication. The credit bureaus only report that which they are told to report from creditors. They don’t discriminate one way or the other. They take the information that is given to them and put it on a credit report. From that reported information your credit score is derived. If the information they are reporting is incorrect or inaccurate then of course your score reflects those inaccuracies. So, the first challenge that you have after your bankruptcy has been discharged is making sure that the information that the credit bureaus have is 100% accurate.
That is a rather monumental challenge. There are a couple of ways that you can assure that this information is correct. Here comes a blinding flash of the obvious…you need to pull a credit report. You can do this by going directly to www.annualcreditreport.com. The report is free if you have not used the service within the last 12 months. Once you figure out what is on the report you will know exactly what is accurate and what is not. The biggest problem most people have is in following up on their original disputes to the bureaus. It is a time consuming task.
So, let me go through the steps. You will need to assemble your Social Security card, drivers’ license and your Schedule F from your bankruptcy. Then you are going to make three copies of each; one for each of the credit bureaus. The three credit bureaus are Equifax, TransUnion and Experian. You are going to go to those particular websites; any of those above mentioned names .com. Each of the bureaus offers a dispute resolution online, by telephone or through the mail. I recommend that you conduct a dispute by mail so that you have everything in writing and also establish a timeline. When you do it in writing, send your disputes registered mail or registered receipt required so that you actually get a time stamp as to when it was received. The law says that the creditors must respond within 30 days of receipt of your dispute or they must remove the item you disputed from your credit report regardless if the disputed item was accurate or not. You are going to send a copy of your dispute on their form to the appropriate address. Explain that each creditor listed as active or derogatory was included in your petition and should, therefore, be removed from your credit report. The next step is where this gets difficult.
When you originally pull your credit report you are going to notice a couple of different things. There is going to be a number of creditors that are on your report that were included in your bankruptcy that do not reflect that in the itemization of information below the trade line itself. There are also going to be creditors like collection companies that have purchased your bad debt from the original creditor. You will need to identify who the original creditor was and how much was owed to them. Then you can dispute that the current information on your report is inaccurate. It is going to take some time and a whole lot of effort quite honestly to identify who is who. However, you will see a benefit from this in your credit score down the road.
Keep a log on your calendar when the timeline began with your disputes. Remember they only have 30 days to respond to you. You will need to keep on top of the credit bureaus to make sure they follow through and remove objectionable items. The basic follow through here is going to be that time stamp that you received from the post office. You need that date so you can follow up on the 30th day. If you have no response by that date, whatever you disputed must come off your credit report. That’s the law.
There is another option to doing all this and that is hiring a credit restoration company or an attorney to do all this for you. There are a number of different scams in that particular business. Here are my suggestions to decide if the restoration company you are speaking to is reputable. They should have at least 10 years in the business, offer classes in understanding credit, use top of the line technology, and most importantly offer a guarantee. Lastly, I would want to be able to do a face to face interview with them. This is not something you want to trust to someone you cannot see.
I would give you one more piece of advice. Decide what your time is worth. If you must spend 2-3 months of effort devoted to cleaning up your credit, is it worth it? Most people would say no. That is why you choose to employ one of these companies. You should get a referral to a credit repair company from someone that you trust. Call your mortgage lender or realtor for a referral.
All this information may be somewhat overwhelming. Don’t be discouraged. You must decide that you want to be free from this burden. If you do it yourself then commit to 90 days of hard work. If you hire someone to do it for you, be prepared to pay a professional. Don’t hire some fly by night company that only specializes in taking your money. Be smart about your time and your money and good things will happen to you.
About the Author
Luke Currier and Ed Jeffry are mortgage experts specializing in working with homeowners who have had a bankruptcy or other credit challenge. Visit California Bankruptcy Experts for more information or call direct at 1-800-215-5683 to ask a question.
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