Even if you are careful about guarding your information, you can still be a victim of identity theft. Anyone who gains access to personal information like social security numbers and addresses can open credit cards or loans in your name with no intention of paying any of the money borrowed back. When this happens, your credit will suffer and it can take awhile to repair the damage. Pull your credit reports on a regular basis and look out for accounts and information that are not yours.
Communicate with your creditors. If you are having trouble paying your bills or if you are really serious about cleaning up your credit report, then talk to your creditors. Be honest and upfront with them and try to make arrangements to reduce your balance or payments to something more manageable. You need to know your rights and options, but you also must remember to be cooperative and professional. State facts, but don’t make threats.
One of the best ways to quickly build a payment history is to use a credit card. A secured credit card can help with this step if your poor credit precludes you from qualifying for a “regular” credit card. A secured card requires that you keep money in a linked savings account as collateral. Because the money is already there, it is easier to get approval for a secured card — especially when you have poor credit. In either case, your payments are reported to the bureaus every month, so it makes a big difference in showing that you pay regularly — and on time. (See: Wise Bread's review of the 5 best secured credit cards.)
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