For years I knew my credit score was terrible, but I truly believed that by ignoring it the problems would eventually go away. However, starting in the fall of 2012, I was faced with one disaster after another, proving that my score was more than awful and I was definitely going to pay for it.
Realizing what happened
The hardest part of fixing my credit was finally admitting I had a problem. For five years I faced one difficult situation after another. After losing my job everything snowballed and I decided to stop paying all bills besides those necessary to survive. Eventually my credit score began to plummet.
The biggest problem I faced was always feeling embarrassed. I could not apply for credit cards at retail stores when asked to and I was denied car loans several times. For me, it was like someone punching my stomach every time I had to explain my credit situation.
When looking for apartments I had to explain up-front that my score was not great and because it was an issue for most, we ended up in a not-so-great community, one that reflects my credit score.
Another major problem I have faced was receiving collection calls, especially those that came in person to my apartment. One day there was a knock on the door. It was the company we purchased our furniture from. There were four men there to pick up the furniture because I had not paid for the past four months.
Luckily, I was able to hold them off until the next day, at which time I went in to the store and explained my situation. I was able to work out a payment plan to help keep the furniture. I have never felt so humiliated in my life.
Other collection-related issues were harassing phone calls and repossession of my car.
When I started looking at my score in May 2012, it was already bad. My score was only 588. Feeling a little depressed, I continued to let things go.
Throughout 2012 and 2013 I would occasionally send a letter or make a phone call to try and fix my credit. However, I just was not taking things seriously enough to make major changes. In December 2013, my score dropped to 522. Sometime in the past five years it had dropped as low as 461.
It was not until February 2014 that I realized things were serious when I tried to apply to refinance my car. I was already paying more than 20 percent interest, due to my bad credit. I applied at several locations and was denied by all, even though I had paid on-time for my car since I bought it in October 2012.
I took an offensive approach to my score and used my free credit reports to get started.
I went through the reports with a fine tooth comb, noting everything that was outdated and incorrect. I was shocked to see how much information, including my own name, was incorrect and outdated.
I sent a letter to each credit reporting agency explaining the inaccuracies, and as of today close to 90 percent of outdated and inaccurate information has been removed. Since sending the letters, my credit score has improved and is now 542. Still not great, but better.
Now I am going through everything that is negative, but still correct. I am contacting the companies that I will be able to pay off within the next 60 days to negotiate payment options and/or payoff details. I am still waiting for confirmation from a couple of companies and if I do not receive it within 30 days of contacting them, I will send a dispute letter to the credit reporting agencies.
I am also working on adding new positive items to my credit history. I am in the process of saving up to get a secured credit card from my bank and a secured loan from another small bank here in town.
Changing the past
If I could change the past I would have established an emergency fund to help pay for things when I lost my job. Other things I would have done include not ignoring the situation and contacting the credit companies long before going into default.
The biggest piece of advice I would give to someone facing a similar situation is to do what you can to communicate with your creditors. In some cases credit companies will work with you if they see you making an effort.
Other advice I would give is to regularly check your credit report and dispute anything negative. Depending upon your report, removing outdated and inaccurate information may be enough to raise your score 50 points or more.
Trust me, it is embarrassing to have someone come to your door threatening to take your furniture or to walk out in the morning to discover your car missing due to repossession. Because we cannot change the past, we can work on making the future easier and brighter. Focus on what you can change. It may take time, but with every baby step you make, you are that much closer to an improved credit score.