Hey Y’all! Michelle is back with the final installment of our Credit Repair Series!!! If you haven’t had a chance to check out the previous posts, you can head over to Part One, Part Two & Part Three! Michelle has really helped me figure some things out on my credit and help me to make some important decisions about my own personal finances. She doesn’t have an educational background in Finance but has used her skills in research and good sense to really improve her and her fiance’s credit scores. Having a good credit score is really important, if you want to buy a house some day or take out a loan or even buy a new car, you have to have a relatively good score. Did you know that the average score is 689 (According to FICO in Oct 2012)? Thats not very good, when a perfect score is 850.
Obviously the goal is to get a perfect score, but thats not always possible. But you can always try to raise it through the tips and tricks Michelle provided us with over the past month! So without further ado!
Hey Everyone! Michelle here! As the fourth and final installment of this blog series, I want to take a minute to go over a few key points we made over this past month.
- Credit cards are 30% of your score. They are not to buy those Louboutins, but a tool to keep you in the A+ range of that 30%. Charge it and then pay it off each month. (Don’t even keep it in your wallet, have a bill auto charge then have the card auto paid.)
- Only charge 1%-15% of your total limit at any time.
- With the revolving debt, have an installment loan too (mortgage, car, student loan, etc.).
- When receiving an inquiry about your credit, challenge it with a validation letter before making any monetary exchanges.
- Always send letters certified with a return signature.
- Never make a payment without your negotiations in writing in your possession.
Now that we have covered the main key points, lets talk about that old car debt I mentioned in part two of this series.
A little recap: My fiancé signed for a car for his previous girlfriend and when they went their separate ways, she was late, we will just say, more than what was welcomed. After it was paid off, we called to see if they would make a goodwill adjustment and take some of the late payments off but the company had no record of having a relationship with my fiancé and urged us to dispute it with the credit bureaus. When we did, we received a letter back from one saying they had verified the account was his.
Let me introduce the Method of Verification letter: When a credit bureau replies to your dispute with a letter stating the account was “verified” and you feel this is wrong based on your findings, you can send a letter requesting them to explain how they arrived at that conclusion. Remember the E-Oscar system – where they plug your dispute into the system and it turns into a numbered code? By sending the MOV letter, we are trying to get them to go around the electronic dispute system and actually pick up the phone and talk to someone about the account – to, actually, truly, VERIFY the account. Now when we sent this letter out, we did not receive a response back in the mail within the allotted 15 days but when we pulled the credit report again – the credit bureau had in fact removed the account from the file.
While I was busy working on the car loan we were told to dispute, I was also working on my biggest project of all – a judgment. I left this at the bottom of my list because, I had absolutely, positively, no idea how to even handle it. Judgments become tricky because it is not about sending letters and hoping for nothing in response and sending more letters demanding removal – this involves the courts and the courts already deemed it verified/validated/proved the whole nine yards.
Getting a judgment is really very simple. That Macy’s card you defaulted on from buying all those glamorous pairs of shoes and never paid them back. It eventually went into collections but you still haven’t paid them, well Macy’s really wanted their money, so they filed papers with your local district court in small claims and you were served papers, or you should have been. You either showed up to your court date or you ignored it but they won and now you have a lovely judgment on your credit report for the next 7 years and a civil record for the next 10.
I read about how you can make a motion to vacate the judgment, which means to remove it from all records, based on if the plaintiff did not serve you papers or for various other reasons. Since this judgment was very old and I was not the person served, I wasn’t going to have my fiancé file a motion when there wasn’t concrete evidence he had a right to do so. In our case, we jumped straight to negotiations. The amount of what you pay does not matter. If you owe $5000 and pay $50, as long as they agree to it, the judgment can be satisfied. So by all means, brush up on your negotiation skills and get to work. We were able to save up the amount in full. (This is the best way to go to get things going quickly and you have a better hand when trying to negotiate. When you start to make payments, they tend to want you to pay the full amount.)
First step: Making the call.
My fiancé called up to start the negotiation process. First things first we needed to find out the exact balance as they hadn’t sent a notice in a while and it was years since the judgment was placed and they can charge interest. We told them we didn’t have much money and were willing to pay it all in full if they were willing to vacate the judgment; some places will vacate, others not so much. They were in the not so much category so we had to cut our losses with that battle and move on to get them to lower the amount. Once we had agreed upon an amount, we requested they send it to us in writing.
Second Step: Verify your requests in writing.
An important note on judgments, as with all debts, REQUESTS IN WRITING IS A MUST. Make sure your letter states all of your terms not just the new amount owed. This was difficult for us to handle as they stated over the phone they would send us a confirmation from the court within 15 days once we had paid it in full but the letter did not state this. This was frustrating to say the least. We were at a loss again. Our personal experience included a phone call to our lawyer just for some head-clearing advice. With his help, we were able to write a letter back stating that by cashing the check enclosed, they agreed to our terms of… and we listed them. Ending the letter with “if this is not correct, call immediately to clarify our agreement further.” They ended up cashing the check and 15 days later, we had our satisfaction of judgment from their end.
Third Step: Wait…wait…wait.
Courts take their time as with any government facility. It took them about a month to 45 days before they updated the system. This is important to wait for the courts to update the judgment – without their updated system, trying to correct your credit file will be pointless.
Fourth Step: Sending more letters!
The credit bureaus are independent companies that have nothing to do with the court systems. At the time, satisfying a judgment was nerve-racking but we had accomplished the goal. It dawned on me after everything had settled that the credit bureaus were not updating the “unsatisfied” to a “satisfied” status and we had to inform them of the change. I started writing letters to the credit bureaus asking them to update the credit report to reflect the new change of satisfied and I enclosed a copy of the court stamped document.
Fifth Step: Pull that report, and wait again.
Pulling the report again – status had changed on all three credit bureaus. Now it’s a waiting game for it to fall off at the seven-year mark.
From unacknowledged paid off car loans to judgments, I have learned a great deal of the ins and outs of credit reports. As hard as we try to pay our bills on time, life happens and it’s always a learning experience. There are so many different situations with different variables. Some of my methods may work for you and some of them may not. If you take anything away from this month, please remember…
- Pull your credit at least once a year.
- Always validate debts with certified, return signature letters to the collection agencies before any monetary exchanges.
- Let the credit bureaus know of any changes or disputes via mail (certified with return signature, of course!)
- Dispute verified items that aren’t yours by requesting the method of verification.
- Always have something on your report (credit cards & installment loans).
It may seem really challenging and overwhelming to tackle those big credit problems. But once you get the basics down and understand how it all works (I hope I’ve helped with that!) it can be a pretty simple process. Lots of writing letters, waiting and negotiating and some more waiting. But I can tell you, even though it was challenging to figure out at first, we’re really glad that we did. Because now we are one step closer to owning our own home. We both learned from the past and are really implementing a good plan to keep us from making the same mistakes twice. Thanks so much for reading!
If you have more questions about fixing your credit with the methods Michelle has provided us or if you want to see more posts like this please leave a comment!
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