Q. Can you suggest a reputable credit counseling agency that can help remove negative marks off credit report?
— Trying to improve
A. Consumers don’t have a lot of power over what appears in their credit reports.
Let’s go over the basics.
Credit reporting bureaus such as Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion are required by law to report accurate information relative to the history of your accounts, including any negative/derogatory marks that are reported to them by creditors, said Charles Pawlik, a certified financial planner and chartered financial analyst with Beacon Trust in Morristown.
Unfortunately, it’s unlikely that negative information — assuming it’s accurate — would be removed from your credit report.
Depending on the negative mark, you do have the option of contacting the creditor directly and requesting that the negative item be forgiven/removed from your report, Pawlik said.
“For example if you generally have a good history with a specific creditor but have one instance of a late payment with them, you can call and/or send a letter that details that you were in good standing with the creditor aside from this late payment, explains the reasons for the late payment, and requests that the negative item be removed from your credit report,” he said.
Of credit counseling agencies and services, Pawlik said they can be helpful in terms of working with your lenders to help with debt repayment. They can also help you with budgeting, understanding the various factors that affect your credit, and help you focus on good habits that are beneficial to your credit over time.
However, he said, you do want to be cautious relative to working with debt settlement/consolidation companies that promise to get accurate negative marks removed from your credit report.
A good source for identifying a reputable credit counseling agency is the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC), a nationwide organization of credit counseling agencies. It has specific standards of conduct for member agencies and provides certification for credit counselors.
There’s also some action you can take on your own.
If there are any negative marks on your credit report that you believe are inaccurate, you can notify the creditor directly and they are required to investigate the item that you are disputing, Pawlik said.
“You’ll want to send a letter that provides details in terms of the item you are disputing, explains why you believe it to be inaccurate, requests that the item in question be investigated/corrected, and includes any supporting documentation,” he said. “You can also dispute negative marks that you believe to be inaccurate directly with the credit bureaus either online or by mail.”
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