How to Find All Your Debts: 4 Tips

Paying off your debts is a critical part of a healthy credit profile. Here’s what you need to know about how to find your debts.

It’s uncomfortable to admit, but it’s entirely possible that you have debts you didn’t even know about. Whether mail went missing or communication about medical debt got mixed up, it’s possible an account with your name on it is languishing somewhere in collections. Get some tips to find out all your debts so you can make educated decisions about how to clean up your credit history.


How to Find All Your Debts

Even if you keep meticulous records, it’s possible for some debts to have fallen through the cracks. And perhaps you know you owe a debt, but it’s been passed around between collection agencies so many times you’ve forgotten who currently owns the debt. Here’s how to find out which collection agency you owe or uncover debts you don’t know about.

1. Check Your Credit Reports

Our first tip for finding your hidden debts is to turn to your credit report. While not every debt is reported, many are. And if you’re in collections or have owed the debt for a while, chances are someone has placed a negative item on at least one of your credit reports.

The trick here is getting copies of all three of your credit reports from the major bureaus. Not all creditors report to all three, so TransUnion, for example, could have a detail that Equifax and Experian do not—and vice versa.

You can get one free copy of your credit report from each agency every year at AnnualCreditReport.com. (They’re available weekly for a limited time due to COVID-19.) But for those who really want to get a handle on who they owe and what’s on their report, a service such as ExtraCredit is a good choice.

ExtraCredit lets you see your credit reports from all three bureaus—anytime. The reports are pulled monthly. It also gives you regular updates on 28 of your FICO® scores, so you have a clear picture of what your credit history looks like to lenders. Plus, you can get rewards and offers for valuable credit services, including credit monitoring and credit cards.

2. Go Through Old and New Mail

Who among us hasn’t picked up the mail, only to put it in a stack by the front door and leave it there to languish for months? Life gets busy, and it can be tempting to slide unopened envelopes into a bin or drawer and forget about them. But mail can back up before you realize it, and you might miss a notice of a bill or debt.

Take some time to gather all the mail you have. Open it and sort it, carefully looking to see whether you need to take action on something or if you might owe someone money. Keep a notebook or computer nearby so you can make a list.

3. Listen to All Those Old Voicemails

Voicemail can back up just like snail mail. Many people never actually check their voicemail, assuming those who need them will call them back or text them.

Legitimate creditors and collections agencies should leave a voicemail, including contact information. They’ll also usually show up on your caller ID. 

Clear out your old voicemail, listening to each one and making notes about it. Compare that information with the notes you got from your mail and what’s on your credit report to compile a master list of debt you might owe. Keep an ear open for potential debt collection scammers and do your research before following up with anyone.

4. Contact Creditors You Think You Owe

In some cases, you know you owe someone, but it’s been a while. You can contact the last creditor you remember and find out if they still own the debt or if they wrote it off and sold it to a collection agency. They should be able to confirm your debt and give you the name and contact information for the agency that they sold the debt to, if applicable.

What to Do After You Find Your Debt

Once you go through a debt finder process and figure out who you owe money to, you have some decisions to make. Here are three tips for dealing with debt once you find it.

1. Decide Whether You Can—or Will—Pay

You might rush to pay off old debts thinking it will boost your credit, but that may not happen. Yes, the debt should then be marked as paid on your credit report. But the damage from the late payments and collection accounts could still linger.

So, you need to consider seriously how you can and will deal with old debt. If you simply can’t afford to pay, talk to a legal professional about your options, rights, and what consequences could come from paying or not paying old debt. For example, if you start making payments, the statute of limitations could restart and leave you at risk of lawsuits and legal collection activity much longer.

2. Consider Credit Repair Services

One result of digging through credit reports and chasing down old debt can be finding errors or collections you don’t actually owe. If you find inaccurate information on your credit reports, you might consider working with a credit repair service.

Credit repair services work on your behalf to dispute inaccurate information with the credit bureaus. You can actually do credit repair yourself, but if you don’t have time or just know you aren’t going to follow up, you might get more value by paying professionals to handle it for you.

3. Keep Up with Credit Reports and Debts in the Future

Finally, once you do the work to find your debt and clean it up, keep up with your credit reports in the future. While every single debt may not appear on your credit report—or appear right away—staying on top of your credit report ensures you’re aware of most of them. ExtraCredit gives you the access to your accounts that you need to keep track of your debts and your credit score.

Bonus Tip: Once you’ve found all your debts, use a debt management app like Tally to keep track of them moving forward so you’ll never have to wonder about them again.

TL;DR: ExtraCredit Could Help You Identify and Manage Your Debts

If you’ve lost track of your debts and what you owe to who, it can take some work and time to track everything down. But once you do, stay ahead of these things with help from ExtraCredit.


Source: credit.com

Why You Should Not Buy a Credit Privacy Number (CPN)

Why You Should Not Buy a Credit Privacy Number (CPN) – SmartAsset

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If you’re looking to repair your credit, you may have come across websites that advertise a credit privacy number, credit protection number or CPN. These numbers are nine digits like a Social Security number (SSN), and sellers claim that you can use them instead of your SSN. However, these CPNs are often actual SSNs lifted from real people, reportedly children, prison inmates and the deceased – and you can never legally buy a new SSN. In other words, a CPN is no solution to your credit rating problem. Under no circumstances should you try to buy a CPN.

Why a CPN is No Credit Fix

Websites have sprung up all over the internet, offering CPNs to people with bad credit or low credit scores. They advertise that this number can serve as a “get out of jail free” card for your bad credit. In theory, you can use a CPN instead of your SSN on credit applications to hide the poor credit associated with your personal SSN. If you have bad credit but still need a credit card or loan, this can seem like the solution, assuming you can pay anywhere from hundreds to thousands of dollars.

That price might seem worth it for a chance to wipe the slate clean. However, these offers are essentially a big scam. The CPNs you can buy online are not legally assigned credit protection numbers. Instead, they are usually stolen Social Security numbers, taken from children, the deceased or inmates.

Also, using a purchased CPN puts you in some hot water, too. Credit agencies can easily spot discrepancies if you try to use a CPN on an application instead of your SSN. Not only will this fail to help your credit, but it’s also committing fraud which is punishable by jail time.

How to Avoid CPN Scams 

If you’re dealing with some bad credit, don’t turn to a CPN. Only scammers sell CPNs, and they in turn may cheat you out of your personal information as well as hundreds or thousands of dollars. Using a purchased CPN can also put you in jail, even if you didn’t know the number was fraudulent. This is why it’s important to be aware of this popular scam.

If you really need a CPN or new SSN, it will be free. The process will go through the Social Security Administration Office, since a new number would be tied to your old SSN. That said, it is very hard to qualify to receive a new number. Having bad credit is never a qualifying reason.

How to Get a Legal CPN

With so many fraudulent websites and companies trying to sell you a way to reset your credit, it’s hard to know how to get a legal CPN. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of misinformation out there. Some experts say that you can speak with an attorney to obtain a legal CPN. The attorney can then contact the Social Security Administration Office on your behalf. However, others maintain that all CPNs are illegal.

Generally, it seems that you cannot get a legal CPN unless you actually need one. These situations include celebrities, government officials and people under witness protection. You can also apply in other specific instances, like if you’re a victim of abuse, stalking or identity theft. A real CPN would be attached to your SSN, so it’s still not an escape from the credit tied to your SSN.

You may also stumble upon offers to obtain an EIN, or Employer Identification Number. The IRS does issue EINs, but only businesses can use them for business costs. This means that you cannot legally obtain an EIN as an individual looking to improve your credit. You also cannot make up a home business, apply for an EIN and use that new number for a credit reset. It is a federal crime to obtain an EIN under false pretenses. In any case, the credit profile for your EIN is still tied to your SSN.

Bottom Line

You shouldn’t ever, under any circumstances, try to purchase a CPN. These offers are fraudulent and don’t provide any credit repair or relief. At the very least, buying a CPN wastes money you should put towards repaying your loans in the first place. At worst, you could go to jail for fraud. There are better, more constructive ways to repair your credit. If you’re truly in a situation that calls for a CPN, contact your lawyer for assistance.

Tips on Rebuilding Your Credit 

  • Of course, the best way to legally clean up your credit is to pay back your debts and improve your credit practices. A good place to start is to pay off your credit card debt with the highest interest.
  • Sometimes you’ll just have to wait for your bad history to fall off your record. Generally, negative info stays on your credit report for seven years. If you can’t get a debt collection removed from your credit report, for example, it’ll stay there for seven years. However, as time goes on, the toll it takes on your report lessens.
  • Don’t go it alone. If you have a good income, but you’re just bad at managing your money, a financial advisor can help. With guidance, you can make smarter choices – and even start growing your wealth. To find an advisor, use our free, no-obligation matching tool. It will connect you with up to three advisors in your area.

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/becon, ©iStock.com/Xesai, ©iStock.com/Kerkez

Danielle Klimashousky Danielle Klimashousky is a freelance writer who covers a variety of personal finance topics for SmartAsset. She is an expert on topics including credit cards and home buying. Danielle has a BA in English from Wesleyan University.
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What’s the Fastest Way to Boost My Credit?

October 29, 2018 &• min read by Jeanine Skowronski Comments 0 Comments

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Article originally published September 1st, 2016. Updated October 29th, 2018. 

It’s a common question around these parts: how do I fix my credit? And, while credit scores do have a lot of nuances, the answer is actually pretty straightforward: pay all your bills by their due dates, keep your debt levels low, add a mix of accounts as you can afford it and voila! — your credit score should rise steadily over time.

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  • Did you ever figure out what was going on with your credit?
  • Nope, all I know is, it’s still bad
  • Yikes. You should try Lexington Law.
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Still, for people plagued with bad credit or someone looking to get the absolute best rates on a new loan, waiting it out can seem like an unattractive option — and so the question gets a little more pointed: how do I fix my credit fast?

Truth be told, there are no guarantees when it comes to getting a quick credit boost. Exact point increases will vary depending on your full credit profile and, even if you’re teetering toward top-tier credit, your score’s beholden to a lender’s schedule when it comes to reporting new information to the major credit bureaus.

Most creditors provide updates to the big three bureaus every month — meaning, yes, you can boost your credit in 30 days, but any shorter timeframe is admittedly a long shot.

Still, there are few steps you can take to try to raise your credit score in the short-term. Here’s a breakdown of ten of your best options.

Credit utilization ratio— how much debt you’re carrying vs. your total available credit — is a huge part of credit scores, second only to payment history. But while you can’t just erase a missed payment from your credit file (most negative information takes seven years to age off of your credit reports), you can pretty readily boost your utilization rate by wiping out big credit card debts.

Experts generally recommend keeping the amount of debt you owe collectively and on individual cards below at least 30% and ideally 10% of your credit limit(s).

So, if you’re close to maxing out one card and/or you’re carrying big balances on all of them, paying those debts down can result in a fast boost. Just be sure to pay charges off by your statement’s billing date as opposed to their actual due date because that’s when most creditors will update account information with the credit bureaus.

And, of course, refrain from making any new purchases once the debt’s been eradicated.

Essentially, a different solution to the same problem — you may be able to improve your utilization rate by getting an issuer to give you a higher limit on one of your existing cards. Just be sure not to use up that extra credit. Otherwise, this move can have the opposite effect.

And be prepared to see an initial ding to your score — creditors sometimes pull your credit when you ask for a limit increase, and that could generate a hard inquiry on your credit reports and cost you a few points.

You might easily make up those points and then some, however, if the credit limit increase is large enough.

Errors on credit reports are more common than you may think, so it’s important not to simply take a bad score at face value — particularly because getting an error removed can be one of the faster ways to fix your credit.

The Fair Credit Reporting Act requires that the bureaus investigate and remove items deemed to be errors within 30 days of a dispute being filed.

That’s why it’s a good idea to pull your credit reports — you can do so for free each year at AnnualCreditReport.com — and routinely review them for any inaccuracies that may be unduly weighing your credit down.

Once you receive a copy of your credit reports from the three major credit bureaus- Experian, Equifax, and Transunion, you can take a closer look at each item that is on there.

You have already read about getting an error removed, and this is a good step to take, but don’t stop there. Look for accounts you have on your credit profile that show late or missing payments and verify the accuracy of each item. If you see something that is wrong, send your dispute so that the problem can be investigated.

Yes, you may be paying your balances each month, and you are paying them on time, but you need to keep in mind that your creditors are reporting your balances to the credit bureaus only once per month.

If you have a credit card, for example, that you are constantly maxing out and reaching your limit on throughout the month, the statement you receive will show the balance. You make the payment, but since it was reported only once that month, it is basically showing that you are using 100% of the available balance on that credit card.

If you send in payments twice a month, however, you are essentially breaking up your payments, and you are effectively keeping your overall credit card balances much lower than if you continue to only pay once per month.

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If you want a nice boost to your credit and you want to help improve your credit utilization ratio, you can consider opening a new credit account. This is especially helpful if you find that your current credit utilization ratio is much too high.

Opening the new account adds to the available credit you have and will show that with the new balance, you are using less. However, this is not a good option if you are already juggling multiple accounts. You may end up hurting your credit instead of helping it if you try to stretch your credit too thin.

Have you taken a closer look at the current debt you owe? Have you considered negotiating the debt you have in collections to rebuild your credit? Many collection agencies will be willing to negotiate because they really won’t be losing any money on the debt if you are able to settle for less because they most likely bought the debt account for a minimal price.

It never hurts to open a negotiation to try and settle the debt you have for a smaller and more manageable amount on your credit accounts. If you find that you are unsure about this process, or if you don’t know if it is something you should do, you can always seek the help of a credit counselor to help educate you on the process and offer suggestions as to what you can do otherwise.

Another fast way to boost your credit could be to become an authorized user on someone else’s credit account. For this to be a viable and recommended option, you will need to find someone you trust, such as a close friend or relative, that is financially responsible and is willing to do this for you to help improve your credit rating.

As an authorized user on someone else’s account, their account will still show up on your credit report, and their payment history, credit utilization ratio, and credit card balances will become part of your credit history and may award you with a good credit score.  Not all credit card companies report authorized users however, so you will want to make sure that if you do become an authorized user, that the account information will show up on your credit reports.

In addition to paying on your accounts twice a month, you should also make sure to make your payments on time every month. Your payment history makes up approximately 35% of your FICO score.

If you find it hard to remember your due dates, consider placing your accounts on auto pay with reminders so it reminds you that the payment is coming due and it will then automatically make the payment for you.

Finally, make sure you are mixing up your credit choices instead of focusing on using just your credit cards, for example. Using different types of credit can boost your score fast – even though it wouldn’t be a significant boost.

If you need an appliance, instead of using your credit card, you should consider a small personal loan instead. It shows that you can effectively and responsibly utilize different types of credit.

One of the biggest hits to your credit is a bankruptcy and people are often anxious and ready to begin boosting their credit following their bankruptcy. In theory, someone looking for credit after a bankruptcy may actually appear to be less of a risk because they are not able to qualify for Chapter 7 for another eight years.

Following your bankruptcy, it is recommended that you make all your payments on time, learn how to manage your money efficiently, and find ways to reestablish your credit without trying to borrow money too soon and this could prove to be the fastest way to build credit.

You should also keep a very close eye on your credit reports and credit scores from the major credit bureaus and look for any errors or inaccuracies including any mistakes with your address, employment, or personal contact information.

The best way to start improving credit following a bankruptcy is to open a secured credit card account and make your first deposit into the account.

Although these ten strategies are a good start to finding the fastest way to boost your credit, you need to remember that it still may take several months for the credit reporting agencies to report the improvements on your credit report.

While they may be “fast” methods, they are certainly not miracle credit cures, so you need to have a fair amount of patience when it comes to seeing the positive effects on your credit report.

Be sure to dispute any errors you find with the credit bureau in question (you go here to learn how). You can also view two of your credit scores for free each month on Credit.com as you monitor your progress toward building better credit.