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Does DIY Credit Repair Stand Up to Reality?
There are dozens of websites, books, manuals, and companies providing free and paid information on DIY credit repair. The essential theme is that you should attempt your own credit repair because you can do everything to dispute your bad credit that a professional credit repair service could do. This is true so far as disputing errors in your credit report, but does the promise of free DIY credit repair stand up to reality?
Credit reporting is fully automated. Data about you and any particular credit related activity is entered one time into the system and assumed thereafter to be accurate and complete. One digit off in your social security number, a mistyped middle initial, a slightly wrong address can cascade into a multiplicity of errors that if left uncorrected could cost you thousands of dollars over time. Government studies suggest that 10% of all credit reports contain substantive errors.
While it is true that the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) provides a mechanism for disputing credit report errors the law does not provide enough disincentives for credit reporting agencies and credit furnishers who choose for purely economic reasons to skirt its intent.
When you find an error in your credit report, and write a letter to the credit reporting agency disputing the error, complete with all backup documentation to prove your claim, what do you suppose actually happens at the credit reporting agency? If it happens to be Experian your carefully prepared claim package is shipped off to Jamaica where a data entry clerk (a.k.a. investigator) is allowed no more than four minutes (company policy) to read and analyze your material and summarize it into a prescribed two digit code (e.g. "not his/hers") that will be forwarded to the credit provider.
The "investigator" at the credit provider, according to court records in recent MBNA litigation, will investigate your claim, along with 249 others that day, by matching the meaning of the two digit code with the data it already has its own computer records. Even if the credit provider's data is inaccurate there is no need to go any further. Your claim is denied without further investigation. Your detailed backup documentation, by the way, is still sitting in Jamaica because it was never forwarded to the credit provider. Is it any wonder that almost every consumer dispute is resolved by the credit provider against the consumer?
You can hope that the credit provider investigators are overloaded and that they do not get to your dispute in a timely manner. In those cases the credit reporting agency will probably remove the disputed item. Some DIY advice kits recommend that you file your dispute during the Christmas season when credit provider clerks are more likely to be overloaded.
What happens when the work load subsides and the credit provider clerk does get to your file? You guessed it. The dispute is resolved against you, the consumer, the credit reporting agency is notified of the denial. The negative item goes back onto your credit report. Federal law permits credit reporting agencies to ignore your dispute if they consider it frivolous. How many times can you and do you want to go through this?
Can you successfully dispute incorrect items on your credit report? Yes, you can do your own credit repair, but consider the institutionalized difficulties you face, and make an honest assessment of your situation before dismissing professional credit repair services.
About the Author: (c) 2006 by Peter Boston. Peter is an attorney, writer, and the editor of the profacere.com website, a tips and resource site for personal loans, credit repair, FICO credit scores, and consumer credit information, updated daily on the Profacere Blog.