Do you want to repair your own credit report, but aren’t sure where to start? Here is a step-by-step guide to make repairing your own credit a little easier for you.

Before we begin, I need to remind you that I am not a lawyer, and what you are about to read is not, and should not be substituted for, legal advice. Also, do not make false statements at any point in the credit repair process (i.e., don’t dispute an account as ‘not mine’ when in fact you know it is yours). OK, so without further ado…

1. Get copies of all 3 of your credit reports (Equifax, Experian, and Transunion), along with your credit scores.

Make a copy of each credit report and keep a copy of the clean originals for your records (you’re going to be writing on the copies).
You are probably aware that you’re entitled to one free credit report each year, but I recommend that you do not get the free report if you’re planning to use it for credit repair purposes. Here’s why:

Under normal circumstances, once a credit bureau receives notification that you are disputing an item on your credit report, they have 30 days to investigate your dispute. If they fail to complete the investigation within 30 days, they are required by law to remove the disputed item from your report, regardless of its accuracy (although if it’s proven to be accurate later it might be re-inserted onto your report, which we’ll discuss later). However, if you file a dispute after receiving the free credit report, the credit bureau’s deadline to conclude their investigation is extended from 30 days to 45. Fifteen days may not sound like much, but the fact of the matter is that 15 days could mean the difference between getting your disputed item deleted, or not.

As for your credit scores, the credit bureaus are not required to give those to you for free (no, not even once a year). I suggest subscribing to an online service that allows you to monitor your scores for a monthly fee. This will help you to gauge how successful your efforts are as you go through the credit repair process.

2. Dispute the “low-hanging fruit”. Check your reports for inaccurate or outdated personal information. This is the first information you should dispute–you’re looking for misspellings and variations of your name, addresses where you never lived, wrong social security numbers, etc. Also be sure to dispute your former addresses. You can use any means of dispute you want for this (online, phone, mail, etc.). The reason I suggest that you do this first, is because it’s not unheard of for an old derogatory item associated with a former address, to “fall off” your report after the address is disputed and removed! Plus, removing old addresses from your report can help protect you from identity theft.

This is also a good time to dispute any debts listed on your report that are older than 7 years old because these should be very easy to get deleted. (Please note that the 7 year reporting period does not apply to bankruptcies or tax liens; those can stay on your report for up to 10 and 15 years, respectively.)

At this point you should also dispute any duplicate items on your reports.

Don´t miss our next article – How to Repair Your Own Credit Report – Part 2