Have you ever picked up the phone to only to be greeted by a rude, screaming debt collector on the other line? Have you ever applied for housing or financing only to be denied because of problems with your credit? If so, you would probably do just about anything to find a magic wand to make all of your credit problems disappear.
That magic wand is known as the 609 Credit Repair Letter.
Sound too good to be true? It might be.
Although the 609 Credit Repair Letter might not be the silver bullet some make it out to be, it can be an effective part of your overall credit improvement strategy.
Keep reading to discover the facts and fiction behind this “credit repair secret.”
The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA)
The credit bureaus—Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian—can do a lot without your permission.
They can collect information about you behind your back, store that information, and then put that information into reports which they sell to others.
And you don’t get a say in any of this.
However, the credit bureaus have rules to follow too. Namely, they are required to abide by the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA).
The FCRA (pronounced FICK-RAH in the credit world) is the chief federal law that tells the credit bureaus what they can and cannot do when it comes to credit reporting.
One of the most important rights due to you under the FCRA is the right to dispute any information on your credit reports that you think could be incorrect. Thanks to the FCRA you can question any of the following information on your credit reports:
- Balances that seem incorrect
- Dates that seem incorrect
- Anything on your credit report that appears wrong or fraudulent
- Anything on your credit report you wish to have verified
You basically have the right to dispute any information on your credit report any time you feel the need to. Of course, disputing a credit report item doesn’t automatically mean that it is going to be removed—but it does give you a better chance.
What Is Section 609?
The FCRA is chock-full of rights that you (as a consumer) can exercise when it comes to credit reporting. FCRA Section 609 deals with a series of those rights.
But there’s a catch. Surprise, surprise.
The rights aren’t given to you automatically. If you want to take advantage of the protections afforded to you under Section 609 you need to be proactive and put in a request.
The section also addresses a “summary of rights” for consumers which must be included with agency disclosures. One of those rights essentially states that a credit bureau doesn’t have to remove derogatory information from your file unless it cannot be verified.
Translation? If an item on your credit report isn’t verifiable, you can ask for it to be removed.
The 609 Letter
A 609 letter is the request you send to credit bureaus if you wish to exercise any of the rights detailed above.
Although Section 609 of the FCRA doesn’t technically give you the right to dispute information on your credit reports (that’s dealt with in FCRA Sections 611 and 623), many people combine their right to dispute with their Section 609 rights in the same letter.
The result of this combination? You might see an unverifiable derogatory account deleted from your credit reports.
There are some weird reasons your credit score can drop. The item could also be verified as accurate and stay put.
Should You Pay for a 609 Letter?
If you want to send a 609 letter to the credit bureaus, there are three different approaches to consider:
- The Do-It-Yourself Method
There’s nothing wrong with taking the DIY approach and saving some money. Just make sure to do some research first and follow through.
You should send a copy of the letter to all 3 credit bureaus if the information you are disputing appears on all 3 credit reports.
Certified mail may also be helpful.
- Purchase a 609 Letter Template Online
On the other hand, there’s nothing wrong with buying a template or hiring a credit repair pro to handle the work for you if you don’t mind paying the fees.
If you’re like most Americans, you’re probably used to paying people to do things you don’t want to do yourself. Credit repair services or buying letter templates aren’t any different.
- Hire a Credit Repair Professional
If you do decide to purchase a template or hire a pro, do your homework.
Checking to see if the company is a member of the National Association of Credit Services Organizations is a good start. Like any business, some of the companies who offer help with 609 letters may be shady and some may be legitimate.
Ultimately it comes down to personal preference.
Managing Your Expectations
Although there’s nothing wrong with exercising your rights under the FCRA, Section 609 or otherwise, you need to be realistic in your expectations.
Sending a letter to the credit bureaus may not solve all your credit problems, even if some negative accounts are removed from your credit reports.
Deletions or no deletions, chances are you may have some more work to do where your credit is concerned.
It takes time to improve your credit. You may need to dispute questionable information on your credit reports, establish and maintain new positive payment history, and work on paying down your debts (especially those shiny pieces of plastic that live in your wallet).
Improving your credit requires hard work—but the benefits you can cash in on once your credit is in good shape are well worth it.
Michelle Black is a WealthFit contributor. She's a writer, credit expert, and founder of HerCreditMatters.com—a money advice blog for moms.