As Carmen warned earlier this week, you should watch out for so-called "credit repair" companies that claim to be able to work miracles with your credit rating by removing all of the negative items. Remember, if something sounds too good to be true, it usually is!
Today, the FTC and several state authorities revealed that they've gone after more than 30 of these shady operations in 'Operation Cleansweep.' Head over to the FTC site for a list of these unethical organizations, more information about Operation Cleansweep and general advice on spotting similar disreputable companies. For example, you always should be leery of companies that ask for up-front fees, that do not inform you of your legal rights or that suggest dubious tactics like creating totally new credit "identities."
The FTC also offers tips on ways you can improve your credit legally. The fact of the matter is that negative -- yet legitimate -- info can stay on your credit report for 7-10 years, under federal law. But if there are incorrectnegative items on your report, you often can resolve these issues on your own with the major credit bureaus -- without help from a third party.