Credit reports contain a wealth of information. Potentially harmful information, such as a slow payment history, a repossessed car or a charged-off loan, can make lenders and insurers avoid doing business with you because they see you as a high risk. To minimize these problems, you can suppress some negative information. You won't be able to suppress accurate, verifiable items, but you can usually get enough items removed to have a positive effect on your credit score.
Find grounds to challenge the items on your credit report that you wish to suppress. You can legally suppress them if you find inaccuracies in them. The Credit Infocenter says there can be many errors beyond the obvious. Look beyond wrong payment dates and account numbers. You might find a wrong opening date, high balance, status, charge-off date or lender name. This applies to current accounts as well as charged-off items and repossessions. They can all be suppressed if they cannot be verified by the credit bureau.
Tell the credit bureaus in writing which items you want suppressed and why. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) says to send a certified letter instead of using the bureaus' online forms. Be very clear and specific, as the bureaus are not required to do an investigation if they think you are making groundless challenges. If your disputes seem to have merit, they must investigate them and respond within 30 days. The items must be suppressed if the credit bureaus cannot prove the challenged information is accurate.
Notify the original lenders that you want them to stop reporting the items to the credit bureaus if the bureaus themselves will not suppress them. If the credit bureaus say they have validated negative items, you are entitled by law to demand proof from the original creditors. If the creditors cannot provide proof, they must stop reporting the items, which means the items will stop showing up on your credit reports.
Send a statement to the credit bureaus explaining why you think certain items should be suppressed. Ask that your statement be included anytime a creditor, insurance company or employer orders your report.
Creditinfocenter.com says you can dispute a given item on your credit report more than once, even if the credit bureau claims to have verified it, as long as you can find another possible mistake. Wait 60 days before doing this so the bureau cannot accuse you of acting frivolously. Keep trying as long as you can find new grounds for a challenge.
Don't pay to get your credit reports. You are entitled to free annual copies, which are available via phone, online form or written request. Details are on the official annualcreditreport.com website. The FTC warns that other websites may claim to give free reports, but they actually will require some type of purchase.
- Creditinfocenter.com says you can dispute a given item on your credit report more than once, even if the credit bureau claims to have verified it, as long as you can find another possible mistake. Wait 60 days before doing this so the bureau cannot accuse you of acting frivolously. Keep trying as long as you can find new grounds for a challenge.
Based in Kissimmee, Fla., Barb Nefer is a freelance writer with over 20 years of experience. She is a mental health counselor, finance coach and travel agency owner. Her work has appeared in such magazines as "The Writer" and "Grit" and she authored the book, "So You Want to Be a Counselor."