Bad credit used to have me by the nuts. When the economy was good I spent way more than I had—just like the rest of the country, the government, and our financial institutions—and racked up a huge amount of debt. I pretty much accepted the fact I was going to be screwed for the next seven years, until I watched the government bail out big business and figured, hey, if huge corporations could have millions of dollars worth of debt forgiven just because, surely Uncle Sam could pick up my $20,000 tab from the early 2000s. I may not have friends in the White House the way the big corporations do, but I do have a friend in a little thing called the Fair Credit Reporting Act of 1970. The FCRA, as dry as it sounds, is a magic little buddy that, combined with being an insufferable dick in letters to strangers, will help you shed your debt so you can go back to living the American Dream: Buying things you can’t afford and never thinking about the future. Here’s what you have to do:
STEP 1: Round up your driver’s license, social security card, and utility bill(s)
The address on your driver’s license and utility bill must match. If they don’t, then go to the DMV and update your information, which is a whole other ordeal, but necessary, since you’ll be receiving a bunch of mail on a monthly basis during this process. The temporary change of address card provided by the DMV is fine. Once your documents are in order make a ton of copies.
Step 2: Get a copy of your credit report
The easiest way is to go apply for a car loan, home loan, or cell phone—you’ll get rejected, because your credit is so shitty, but that’s the point. When someone denies you a loan they have to give you a copy of your credit report so you can see why you’re being turned down. Like the rest of the documents that you’ll be dealing with, this will come in the mail. Weird, huh?
Step 3: Review your credit report
Under the DEROGATORY TRADES and COLLECTION INFORMATION section of the report you’ll find the companies who are accusing you of being delinquent. They usually use an abbreviation of the actual name like on the stock exchange. (For example, “Capital One” shows up as CAP ONE.) Your account number will be listed under or to the right of the company name and somewhere in that line of credit is the charge you are accused of, like paying a bill late or not paying at all.
These “negative trade lines” are the Fs on your credit report card. Since the three credit reporting agencies (Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian) are all separate entities, their reports are often in conflict with one another. Equifax and TransUnion might be reporting that you were late on your cable bill three times this year but Experian might not report any late payments at all. Like telling your divorced parents that you’re staying at the other one’s house that night, you can use their lack of communication to your advantage.
Step 4: Mail some letters disputing your score to the corresponding agencies
After studying your credit report you’ll more than likely see some information that you do not agree with. You can get this stuff struck off of your report by mailing a letter, even a handwritten one, to the agency who made the mistake. You should include in your letter how you found out your credit was bad, how shocked you were at all of the errors the agencies have been reporting, and ask them “per the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) enacted by Congress in 1970,” to either provide physical proof of their claims or admit fault and delete the mistakes immediately. Include one of your copies from Step 1 alongside each letter you send throughout this process. Without proper identification they will not respond, and you don’t want to give them an excuse to ignore you. Be sure to include tons of typos and poor grammar so they know you’re a crank who won’t go away.
Step 5: Keep bugging them.
After a month or so you will receive your first response letter from the agencies. The FCRA (google it to double check my info, I’m not a lawyer or credit repair specialist so I might be wrong) gives them a certain amount of days to respond to your dispute in the form of a letter or they must remove everything you have claimed was false. It’s like when you fight a traffic ticket—if you show up to court and the cop doesn’t, the charge gets dropped automatically. The agencies don’t take negative stuff off every time you send a letter, so keep sending them angry letters they have to respond to. Slowly but surely the negative lines of credit will disappear from your report. The words they use are “this item has been deleted” or “there is new information regarding ZYZ account.” Some months one or all three of the agencies will just send you a blank piece of paper to kind of throw you off. It’s a game. Keep pressing on and hammering them with letters demanding they correct their mistakes and they will eventually get sick of your letters and start deleting negative trade lines from your report to shut you up. As usual, the person who yells the loudest the longest wins. It worked for me.