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Correcting Credit Report Errors: Improve Your Credit Score in Minutes

Correcting credit report errors after bankruptcy can make a huge difference in your credit score and put money back in your pocket, but only if you know how. Let’s look at the best methods for correcting credit report mistakes.

Why do I need to correct my credit report?

How many times have you been mischarged at a restaurant or at the grocery store? Nobody’s perfect. Whether due to mistakes keying in information or problems with technology, errors happen every day. But in no other area can a mistake cost you more money than in your credit report.

This is why the government passed a law that gives you the right to one free credit report each year from each of the major credit reporting agencies. The information included on your credit report determines your credit score — the three-digit number that credit card companies, banks and other lending institutions use to determine whether you qualify for credit and at what interest rate that credit is available. A small difference in interest rate can mean a big difference in out-of-pocket costs, possibly hundreds of dollars a month on a mortgage. For that reason, the government has declared it your right to manage your credit without any cost to you.

When should I correct my credit report

Many of our clients don’t know the importance of correcting their credit report after declaring bankruptcy. Credit reporting agencies rely on information provided by the banks and other lending institutions to create your credit report. If the bank doesn’t update your information — because of an error or because it simply isn’t their policy to provide the updates automatically — your credit report can continue to show unpaid balances that were discharged through bankruptcy protection. These erroneous records can continue to impact your credit score unless you take action to change them.

About thirty to sixty days after your bankruptcy is discharged is a good time to start looking at your credit report to make any necessary changes. This gives enough time for the banks to update their records with the reporting agencies.

How do I go about correcting my credit report?

It takes some time, but the process is simple. You’ll want to set up a folder or some other place to keep records of what you’ve done, and follow up to make sure that any incorrect records have been corrected. Here are the basic steps:

1. Get your free credit reports. Although many services advertise “Free Credit Reports”, these reports are typically only free if you subscribe to a service or make another purchase. The only truly free credit report source online  is AnnualCreditReport.com, a government-mandated site which provides you the ability to get all three of your credit reports once annually. (You can also request the reports by mail using this form.)

2. Review the reports for accuracy. Go over each report line by line looking for anything that appears inaccurate. If any accounts listed have been paid off or closed, or anything else doesn’t match your records, make a note of it so that you can dispute the records in question.

3. Write a letter to the credit reporting agency. You’ll need to contact the credit reporting agency showing the incorrect records — Experian, TransUnion or Equifax — by mail. In your letter, describe the exact portion of the record that appears incorrect, and provide copies of any documents that support your position. These agencies are required to investigate your dispute and report to you whether or not there has been a change to your credit record in response to your letter. If there is a change, you have the right to a new copy of your credit report to verify the change has been made.

4. Write letters to creditors. After you’ve notified the credit reporting agency of the error, you’ll also want to notify the creditor — the credit card company or bank that issued the credit. They too will investigate your dispute.

5. Keep any correspondence, and follow up with any disputes that aren’t resolved promptly. It’s not enough to send the letter. In most cases you should receive a response within approximately 30 days telling you the status of your dispute. If you don’t receive word from the credit reporting agency in that time, you’ll want to follow up to ensure your dispute was received and check on its progress.

Proactive management of your credit report can help ensure that your credit score rebounds quickly after bankruptcy. For bankruptcy advice and information on how to start rebuilding your finances today, contact us for a free consultation with an Ohio bankruptcy attorney. Click here to schedule your consultation.

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Credit after Bankruptcy: Stepping into Your Financial Future

For those considering declaring bankruptcy, it’s the biggest question — can you get credit after bankruptcy?

Bankruptcy does impact your future finances, but the good news is that the outlook isn’t as dire as you might think. With good financial planning, you can rebuild your scores and begin to receive offers for loans, including mortgages, within months of declaring bankruptcy .

Bankruptcy and your credit score

Your ability to get credit after bankruptcyis linked to your FICO score, a three-digit number created by rating agencies to “grade” your creditworthiness. Although bankruptcy stays on your credit report for seven to ten years, it’s impact on your rating can begin to decline immediately because often it’s the most recent activity in your history that has the most weight. In fact, many of our clients begin to see offers of credit within 90 days after bankruptcy.

Managing your finances well can help you earn good financial grades in the future, and begin to see your score rebound. Here’s how:

  • Pay all of your bills on time. Just as late payments can negatively impact your FICO score, a history of on-time payment can positively impact your rating. Whatever bills you have each month, ensure your payments are scrupulously on time.
  • Get and use credit responsibly. If a serious spending problem is what put you into bankruptcy in the first place, this may not be the best plan. But if you feel ready and able to responsibly manage your spending, get what credit you can and manage it well. Try a secured credit card, designed for those with financial blemishes, and pay off the entire balance each month as scheduled. This will begin to demonstrate that you can manage your finances well.
  • Don’t max out any credit account. Part of your FICO score is linked to the ratio of available credit to credit used — in other words, how close to your limit you are. You want to make sure that you never exceed one-third of the limit on any account. So, if your credit card limit is $500, stop spending at $150, and pay off the balance. This may seem like a difficult restriction, but it shows financial discipline that will pay off in your FICO score.
  • Maintain an installment account. You’ll also need some installment credit, like a car loan, student loan or home loan to show your credit stability. If you still have a student loan after bankruptcy, pay off as much as possible each month. You can probably still qualify for an auto loan after bankruptcy, although the rates will be higher than before bankruptcy. But by paying these rates in the short term, you can get better rates a year or two down the line.
  • Clean up your credit report. Although many of your credit accounts may be eliminated due to bankruptcy protection, they may still show on your credit report as open and overdue. There can also be other errors on your report of which you’re not aware. Take advantage of your right to a free annual credit report (available from AnnualCreditReport.com, a government-mandated secure site) and look it over line by line. If anything seems incorrect, contact the appropriate reporting agency to make adjustments. Accounts that are listed as open or overdue that were included in your bankruptcy should have their status changed, in order for you to be able rebuild your credit.

These steps will help you rebuild credit after bankruptcy and begin to regain the financial flexibility you once had. Some financial discipline now will provide a strong foundation for your financial future.

Wondering how to get started with your own financial turnaround story? Contact us today for a free consultation with a Columbus bankruptcy attorney.

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Bankruptcy confidential: 5 secrets you must tell your bankruptcy attorney

If you’re considering declaring bankruptcy for debt relief, you may feel like you’re in it alone. Just you against the legal system, with all of the rules that you don’t yet understand. Plus, you may be embarrassed to talk about your financial problems, especially with strangers. Perhaps you’ve put off contacting a bankruptcy attorney because of it.

This fear and embarrassment is common — almost universal. Practically every new client approaches their first meeting with a bankruptcy attorney warily, and most have to be encouraged to share all the specifics of their situations.

But your bankruptcy attorney is your partner in the process, duty bound to help you get the best possible debt relief outcome. And while you may not want to share all the nitty-gritty details with someone that you’ve just met, remember — bankruptcy attorneys have heard it all before. We’ve seen every combination of debts and assets, every financial difficulty, anything you can imagine. And while you may feel like the only one that’s gotten into this mess, the scores of smart, responsible, well-meaning people declaring bankruptcy have proven that even the best people get into financial trouble sometimes.

So the worst thing you can do is hide anything from your bankruptcy attorney. Anything that is incorrectly reported when declaring bankruptcy can cause big problems, from a delay in granting the claim to having your activities be considered fraudulent, which can lead to fines and jail time. Here are five things that you must share with your bankruptcy attorney, and the reasons that you must be completely honest to get the best bankruptcy advice and maximum debt relief protection you’re entitled to.

1. All of your income and financial assets — including retirement plans, legal judgments and every bank account. Some people try to protect money from being seized by not disclosing it, or giving money to friends or family members to hold. The problem with this is that many of these accounts — checking accounts, savings accounts, investment accounts and more — will appear on your credit report or other public records. The courts routinely check these sources of information to make sure all parties are playing fair. Hiding assets can lead to fines or even jail time, and can keep you from being granted debt relief at all.

2. Property you want to protect. You may be tempted to transfer cars, real estate, jewelry or other valuable property to others to keep them during the debt relief process. Some people choose to sell these items for a few dollars or simply give them away. There are two problems with this approach. First, many of these items would already be protected from seizure in a court proceeding, so you may be able to keep them anyways. Second, the court will scan other public records such as automobile title transfers and real estate property records to look for assets in your name and may find these transactions. The court not only has the power to pursue this property and attach it to your claim, again they may find your behavior fraudulent and levy fines or dismiss your case.

3. All of the debt that you have. The purpose of declaring bankruptcy is to eliminate as much of your debt as possible so that you can get on stronger financial ground. The process doesn’t work if you don’t disclose all of your outstanding creditors. Tell your bankruptcy attorney right away about any and all debt that you know of — credit cards, auto loans, student loans, alimony, child support, legal judgments, notice of garnishments, medical bills, etc. Your attorney’s job is to determine how best to get you maximum debt relief, and he can’t do that without the full facts.

4. What you’re making payments on — and what you’re not. The process for declaring bankruptcy does take a little time, so you can’t completely stand still while you wait for its protections to kick in. By discussing your personal financial situation with your bankruptcy attorney, he can advise you on how to manage your finances in the short term, including which bills you should pay, which you should not, and where the money should come from to make these payments. Many people make critical mistakes trying to pay off as much debt as possible prior to consulting with a bankruptcy attorney. If you believe you will require debt relief in the future, it’s better to consult a bankruptcy attorney early, before you lose assets, income and property that you could have otherwise kept.

5. Anything that you’re afraid will keep you from bankruptcy protection. If there’s anything that you’re afraid to tell your bankruptcy attorney, tell him that first. Many people are tempted to hide previous bankruptcies, upcoming financial windfalls such as inheritances or legal settlements, personal situations that impact their finances, business interests, and more. This is never, ever a good idea. If these situations come to light during the proceedings, they can delay your case, lead to additional legal fees to amend prior filings, cause you to lose property that may have otherwise been protected, and once again end in fraud charges. It’s your bankruptcy attorney’s job to advise you on the best way to protect your financial future, and he can’t do that effectively without all the facts.

The best way to get the debt relief you’re looking for through declaring bankruptcy is to let your bankruptcy attorney do his job. Provide him all the information you have, answer questions truthfully, and let him figure out the best way to protect the things that are important to you. Our Ohio Bankruptcy Attorneys can advise you on the best way to get started, and the consultation is confidential and absolutely free. Contact us to schedule your complimentary debt relief review.

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Bankruptcy advice: The two secrets no one will tell you about debt relief

When you think of people who seek help from bankruptcy, what do you think?

Until we’ve been through it, we tend to think that people who file for bankruptcy spent too much money, made bad financial choices, and perhaps should have known better. We think we’re somehow different than they are.

SECRET #1: Most Americans are a breath away from needing bankruptcy help.

We see our neighbors who all seem to be doing fine, with their nice houses and cars, their kids in sports and their spring break vacations. So when we start to feel the financial pressure of too much debt, we think we’re alone in our situation.

But at the end of last year, consumer debt stood at $2.5 trillion in the U.S. — about $8,100 for every man, woman and child in the country excluding mortgage debt.

With that debt load, it doesn’t take much to get into deep financial quicksand fast. A couple of missed paychecks, an unforeseen home or car repair, or an exorbitant medical bill and it becomes much harder to balance the checkbook at the end of each month.

If you’re struggling to meet ends meet, are facing collections actions or watching your credit rating decline, you may be reluctant to seek bankruptcy advice. After all, you don’t want to think of yourself as one of those free spenders who didn’t manage their finances. The secret is that you’re not — you’re just like everyone else on your block or in your building. It just so happens that you hit a rough patch and are now feeling the pain.

What we don’t realize is that many of our successful, smart peers and neighbors are in the same boat as we are, working very, very hard to have the life that we want for our families and walking the edge of financial disaster.

So when we find ourselves losing sleep at night over our mounting bills or avoiding reading the mail, we don’t ask for the help or advice that we need.

We think, “I’m not them. I don’t need bankruptcy help. Bankruptcy is for people who have made bad decisions.”

The truth is that bankruptcy was developed to help you and me — people who work, pay their bills, keep to a budget, clip coupons at the grocery store, and somehow still found themselves unable to keep up.

SECRET #2: Asking for bankruptcy advice doesn’t make you a bad person.

The second misconception that keeps us from seeking help and advice on bankruptcy is the idea that filing for bankruptcy is some financial scarlet letter — a mark forever on your record that reminds you and others of your mistakes.

What most of us don’t realize is how common bankruptcy has become, and how discreet process truly is. Because your neighbors have the same worries as you, they’re not talking about their finances at dinner parties. You’ll never know which of your friends and colleagues have filed unless you do a search of public records. And while searching for our old high school buddies on Facebook has become popular, it’s not common to check their financial history.

In the right circumstances, bankruptcy can mean a fresh start, a foundation for rebuilding, and a load off of your mind. You can sleep better at night and ensure that your financial future is brighter. You can take the lessons that you’ve learned and move forward, instead of constantly watching the creditors at your heels.

THE TRUTH: The only thing that bankruptcy takes away from you is your debt.

Everyone who comes to us for bankruptcy advice tells the same story.

“I never thought I’d be here.”

And the truth is that no one plans to need bankruptcy help.

If you never thought you’d be here, you’re not alone. If you take charge of your financial future, get the bankruptcy advice that you need, and choose to file for bankruptcy, you’re not alone either. You’re in the good company of your friends, family and neighbors who didn’t think they’d be making that decision either.

Don’t make the mistake of waiting too long to get bankruptcy advice. Seeking bankruptcy help from a reputable Ohio bankruptcy attorney today can save you thousands of dollars and hundreds of headaches and grey hairs. Contact us for your free, confidential consultation today.