HOUSTON (KTRK) --If you're living with poor credit, chances are you're paying higher interest rates and may have difficulty qualifying for loans.
While negative marks do fall off credit reports over time, some may find themselves waiting more than seven years for their scores to improve. But there are things you can do now to increase those numbers into the 700s.
But what can you do on your own, and when should you hire a credit counselor?
When Alfredo Lunar looked into his credit score, he was shocked.
"My credit was in the high 500s," Lunar said.
He attempted to fix it on his own, with not much success.
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"I tried to send some letters and do a little bit of research, but it seemed like it wouldn't work," Lunar explained.
In many cases, people looking to dispute negative marks will download a template letter and send those to the reporting agencies.
But credit counselor Robert Pfister says the credit reporting agencies are one step ahead of you in many cases.
"They know exactly where you got it from and they usually kick it out and you don't go further," Pfister said.
So how do you boost your score? The first step is to order a copy of your reports and look them over.
Is your name and address correct? Is your phone number current?
"Some people have 50 different numbers over the years and it actually dings you," Pfister said.
Your score may be affected between 10 and 20 points, so make sure all contact information is up to date.
Next, how old are those negative reports?
Manny Escalon told us, "I noticed there were some medical bills from way back, about 10 years ago."
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Those older marks lowered Escalon's score into the 600s. But after getting them removed with Pfister's help, he's now in the 700s.
So what's the rule for negative marks on your credit report?
Hard inquiries such as mortgage or new car applications should disappear after two years.
Late credit card payments, collections, tax liens, foreclosures and Chapter 13 bankruptcies should only remain for seven years.
If you filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, that can remain for 10 years.
If any of these are on your report after the time frame allowed, contact the agencies to have them removed.
Now if you have a collections ding on your report, there's help for you as well.
"Making a payment to the collections and make sure it's removed so it doesn't hurt your credit," Pfister said.
Experts advise to try and negotiate with the debt collector.
Offer to pay the balance, in exchange for them removing the collections off your credit report. Be sure to get that promise in writing from them, before paying.
Now in some cases, negative marks may not be accurate.
"A lot of times, especially collection agencies, they don't put anything correct on the credit report," Pfister said.
Anything from incorrect account numbers or a wrong balance, your situation may be more complex. In those cases, you may benefit from a credit councilor.
As for Lunar, within six months of getting Pfister's help, his score improved to the 700s.
To check your credit score, visit www.755creditscore.com