Question:   How do you clear up bad credit?

Answer:   There is no fast and easy way to repair damaged credit that took months or years to occur. The law allows negative information to appear on an individual's credit record from 7 to 10 years. Now, many states have specific timeframes if you challenge a credit blemish.

The first step is to check your existing credit record. Anyone can obtain copies of their own credit report free of charge if they have been turned down for credit recently. For a fee, people can request copies of their own credit report from the three major credit reporting agencies: Experian at (800) 392-1122, Equifax at (800) 685-1111 and Trans Union at (312) 408-1050. The bureau also should provide instructions on how to read the report and how to dispute any inaccuracies it contains.

If the credit report is correct, take care of any outstanding delinquent obligations first.

Resources: * "Rebuild Your Credit: Law Form Kit," Nolo Press, Berkeley, Calif.; 1993.

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