Having good credit is an essential tool in today's economy - it allows you to have a credit card, to obtain car and house loans, and many other conveniences. While you can live without good credit, a bad credit rating will certainly affect you negatively throughout your life. The key to your credit rating lies with a credit bureau. There are a handful of credit bureaus in North America that handle all reports - positive and negative - from creditors to create a credit report specific to you. If you have a poor credit history, you must take steps to engage in credit repair, and one of the first and most essential tools is to learn how to effectively deal with your credit bureau.
When dealing with a credit bureau, understand that they are in the business of collection and selling information. For this reason, it is in your interest to never provide them with any information that is not legally necessary. Legally, you only need to provide a credit bureau with your name, social security number and legal address in order to obtain your credit report. The bureaus may request a copy of your social security card, and - if the address they have on file is different from your current one - a copy of something proving your address. Although they may ask for a driver's license to prove your address, send them a copy of a bill showing your address. The reason you want to be cautious when dealing with credit bureaus is that they own many collection agencies, and if you have a credit problem you want to give them as little information as possible with which to harass you with.
Once you have received the report, examine it closely for any errors. If anything is in question, send a written request for an investigation to the credit bureau. Legally, the onus is on the credit bureau to document anything on your credit report - if they cannot document it within 30 days, it must be removed. This is the basic strategy of many credit repair companies that charge exorbitant fees: challenge everything negative. In many cases if the negative item is more than a few years old it will be difficult to verify and the item will be removed.
By learning to properly deal with a credit bureau you can engage in effective credit repair that other companies change high fees for. By educating yourself as to the legal obligations of the credit bureau, you can, in many cases, repair your own credit quickly and effectively.