Credit repair services thrive by disputing questionable items on your credit report, challenging them with creditors and the three nationwide credit bureaus. However, if you find a black mark on your credit report that you feel is unjustified or in error, there's no reason you shouldn't take care of it yourself and save the expense and time of having to deal with credit repair services.

Anyone who is competent enough to find errors or questionable items on their credit report is competent enough to have those items removed. People don't need credit repair services to show them how to improve credit scores. DIY credit repair is best. It will save you money and teach you how to fix your credit.

You can ask for a free investigation into items on your credit report that you dispute. Such items may be blatant errors or incomplete reporting, such as a judgment or payment that has already been settled but still shows on your report.

The first step is to request your credit report. Each of the credit bureaus, Equifax, Experian and TransUnion, must by law provide you with a free copy of your credit report every 12 months if you request it. That means you can get a credit report free every four months, if you rotate your requests between the three bureaus. You can order a report online by visiting or calling 1-877-322-8228.

By law, you also are entitled to a free report if adverse action is taken against you, such as being denied credit, insurance or employment when you apply for one of them. Creditors, insurers and employers often check your credit reports when they consider whether to grant you credit, insurance or to hire you for a job. You must ask for your report within 60 days of receiving notice of the adverse action. You also may receive a free credit report once a year if you're on welfare, if your report is in error because of fraud such as identity theft, or if you're unemployed and plan to look for work within 60 days.

When you find items that you want to dispute   they may be liens, judgments, late payments, charge-offs, repossessions, foreclosures, garnishments, collections and even bankruptcies   you should file a dispute in writing with the creditor or person connected with the disputed item and with the credit bureaus. Both the creditor or person and the credit bureaus must correct inaccurate or incomplete information on your report once it is pointed out to them. This may take a little time, but it is worth it in the long run if items that are dragging down your credit score are removed from your credit report.

The good thing about this process is that once credit reporting agencies receive a letter stating your name and the items you dispute, they must investigate the items within 30 days. They do not have to investigate if they believe your dispute is frivolous. This typically would occur if you challenge all negative items on your credit report, so be sure to challenge only those that you think may be in error, and back it up as much as possible, with documentation and an explanation of why you dispute the items. Be as factual as possible.

If you follow these steps, you should be able remove negative items from your credit report and boost your credit score, which could open doors for you in the future to rent an apartment, buy a car on credit, purchase a home or secure better employment.

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