If you have bad credit and you're desperate to fix it, the first thing you should do is request a copy of your credit report. The 3 reporting agencies are Experian, Equifax and Trans Union.

Here are a few things to keep in mind:

1. Legally, you cannot be charged more than $9 for each copy of your credit report (1 from each agency would therefore be $21).
Editor's note: The actual cost varies from state to state.

2. If you have been denied credit within the last 60 days, you're entitled to a free copy of your 3 credit reports. All you have to do is send a copy of the denial along with your request for the report.

3. When asking for your report, send the following things: a copy of your current driver's license (or state ID); a copy of a bill with the address matching your ID; a copy of your social security card (a pay stub will also work as long as the ss# is on it). They'll ask you for them anyway (mostly to prove that you are who you say you are), and if you send them in the first place it saves you about a month.

4. It is important to send for all three reports because not only could they be inacurate, but very rarely do all three agencies have the same information about you! (Kind of makes you queasy, doesn't it?)

Once you have recieved your reports, challenge everything. I know all of this sounds like a lot of stress and more complicated than it's worth, but you can dispute items on your reports yourself, at no cost. Just stick with it. You'll get letters from the agencies saying they are always right, you may as well give up. DON'T! They are trying to intimidate you to make you give up, and prevent them from having to work.

I know, it sounds paranoid, but after working at a credit repair company for 2 years, I'm privy to the agencies tricks. Trans Union just lost a lawsuit regarding hundreds of people who proved that someone had stolen their credit cards and went so far as to buy cars, have bank accounts, get loans, and even get jobs using other peoples identities. Trans Union had proof of this in their databases, and still refused to update their reports!

I just mentioned working for a credit repair company...sounds tempting to go through them rather than doing it yourself, right? WRONG! At this time, I'm part of an FBI investigation regarding this company (which is why I'm not saying who they are). They charge anywhere from $210-$410 to "repair your credit for you for a year." All they're doing is literally going through your reports (which you still have to buy and mail to them at your expense), and filling out the same dispute forms you get in the mail from the credit reporting agencies, and mailing it for you.

First of all, you can do this yourself for free, and second of all, it is illegal to charge someone for this service until it is completed. This company charges up front. They say they're charging you for some debt management books and the repair is free, but I know that the books only cost about $8. This place targets senior citizens and minorities whose first language is not english. It is a pyramid scheme, and a scam.

Please take care of yor credit problems yourself, and don't fall into the trap of a credit repair company. There are a lot out there, and they are all rip offs. Do it yourself for free.