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609 Credit Verification Experiment Project Step 3: Round 2! Follow-Up Responses

by Colleen ElizabethTags: , , , , , , , Categories: 609 Credit Verification Experiment Project,Personal Finance

Disclaimer:  I am not being paid or sponsored by, and am in no way affiliated with any brands or products mentioned in this blog post.  The opinions and conclusions of such are my own and are as a result of my unsolicited use of said products and brands.

About a month after mailing out your initial credit verification letters to the three main credit bureaus, you will start getting your responses.  Each response will likely be a multipage document letting you know that an investigation has taken place and that the pages attached detail the results of that investigation.

Following are the results I personally experienced from each of the credit agencies.

  • TransUnion: As I mentioned in a previous post, TransUnion was the most stubborn of all the three agencies.  Their response was a multipage letter/report stating that an investigation had been opened per my request per each adverse item I had inquired about (Note that the letters I sent are NOT a request to investigate but rather, a demand to provide physical verification in the form of signed contract), followed by a detailed report of each item and the outcome of each investigation with updated status.  My first inquiry or letter resulted in NO deleted items and a whole lot of disappointment.  I immediately started doubting the effectiveness of this whole process.  A little over a week later, however, I was encouraged by the receipt of a response from Equifax:
  • Equifax: This agency was by far the easiest to deal with.  Only 2 weeks after sending in my first 609 credit verification letter, I was able to log onto Credit Karma and see that my score had gone up more than 43 points, and that there were some pending changes to the adverse items I had inquired about.  A month and a half after I had send in my first letter, I finally got back a response in the form of a detailed report of each item, and the results of their investigation.  Again, although I had not requested an investigation take place, one had been opened.  As expected, no physical verification was included in the report, but the good news is that approximately half of the items I inquired about were deleted.  The rest of the items came back as “We verified this item belongs to you.”  I was pleased that there was some progress, but I still had more work to do.
  • Experian: Experian seemed to be a mixed bag.  Their response was well over the 30‑day period allotted by law and of the 11 or 12 adverse items I inquired about, only 2 were actually deleted.  The rest were labeled as “Updated” with a notation that I was disputing the accounts.  I didn’t get real results until Round 2 of the 609 credit verification letters.

ROUND 2

I immediately set out writing my responses to all three credit agencies.  As you will see in the 609 credit verification letter No. 2, I addressed the fact that the agencies incorrectly assumed I was disputing the items and that I was still waiting on physical proof that I had entered into contracts with these companies.  I also addressed the fact that they claimed some of the items were “verified” as mine and asked them who specifically verified the items and how.  Additionally, I reiterated by basis for writing in the first place, referenced the law and demanded again that I wanted to see proof, and that I would seriously consider a lawsuit should my demands not be met.  I included a photocopy of the report they sent me, as well as a reference to the certified mail receipt from my initial letter with the date they signed for it to prevent the agency from claiming they ever received a letter in the first place.  Additionally, I took a highlighter and emphasized all points in the letter that I wanted the bureaus to take note of, especially the laws and the fact that I was demanding physical proof of a contract.

I sent each letter immediately upon receipt of the agency responses, thereby keeping with the staggered schedule.  The responses to this second letter were quicker in coming than the first round and looking back, I think that might have had something to do with the widespread snow storms we were experiencing earlier in the year.  The results were more a bit more encouraging and were as follows:

  • TransUnion: Still a bit stubborn, they deleted several of my items, but there were about 4 they simply addressed as “verified” and “updated”.  I could see no pattern, as their choice of accounts to delete seemed rather random.  My score through TransUnion did go up 27 points.
  • Equifax: They pretty much deleted all but one adverse item.  I don’t understand the rhyme or reason to it, but I have one negative item remaining on my Equifax credit score.  They didn’t even send me a response to my 2nd letter, they just deleted all but one of the items.  The one remaining item left is a collection account for an old cellular phone I had and it’s about to fall off anyway due to its age.  I’m not even going to sweat it.  My score jumped up another 49 points.
  • Experian: Less than 30 days after sending in Letter No. 2, I received a response that Experian deleted all but 2 negative items on my account.  That’s 9 more deletions.  I don’t really know what my score through them is, but judging from the effects the deletions of negative accounts has had in the other two credit agencies, I’m sure it’s substantial.

So that’s where things stand for me as far as my 609 credit verification experiment.  I recently sent out Letter No. 3 to TransUnion and Experian in an attempt to get those remaining negative items off my credit report, and am awaiting responses.  Letter 3, as you will see, is pretty much a repeat of Letter 2, with a reminder of the law and the possible outcome of a lawsuit if the agencies don’t comply with the Fair Credit Reporting Act by either providing physical verification of the credit accounts in question, or deleting them.  I will be sure to update you as to the outcome of those letters.

My takeaway from this whole experiment thus far is that it does work, it’s just a lot of tedious work and you really need to keep organized.  I have files on each of the credit agencies in which I keep copies of the letters I send, responses received from the agencies, and the certified mail receipts for the letters I mail.  I document EVERYTHING, including the date I receive responses from the credit bureaus.  It doesn’t look like I will have to make good on my threat to file suit, but if for some reason I did go in that direction, having everything documented would really help my case.

Do you think you want to try this on your own credit profile?  As promised, here is the link to download the letters in PDF format for you to send to the agencies, along with the agency addresses.  I hope things work out for you!


609 Credit Verification Experiment Project Step 2: Examine your credit report and start asking questions

by Colleen ElizabethTags: , , , , , , , , Categories: 609 Credit Verification Experiment Project,Personal Finance

Disclaimer:  I am not being sponsored or endorsed by, and am in no way affiliated with any brands or products mentioned in this blog.  The opinions and conclusions of such are my own and are as a result of my unsolicited use of said products and brands.

In my last post, we briefly discussed two key elements or laws of the Fair Credit Reporting Act that benefit you, the consumer.

First and foremost, the credit bureaus are responsible for verifying that the information they receive from banks and other creditors about you is true and correct.  In fact, they are required by law to maintain a copy on file of your signed contract or credit application.  The simple fact is that they don’t have it.  Your information is plucked right out of your application and sent electronically to the credit reporting agency in large batches, along with other consumers’ information.  It’s just more efficient that way.

Second, you have the right to your personal information from your credit file upon written request and proper identification verification, which by law is your driver’s license and Social Security number.

In this post, I’m going to tell you exactly what to do to get started cleaning up your credit report.

You need to obtain your credit reports from all three credit reporting agencies, TransUnion, Equifax and Experian, and start going over them with a highlighter to determine which accounts need to be removed.

As it had been a while since I’d pulled my reports, I was easily able to go to www.annualcreditreport.com, and pull all of them easily in electronic format for free.

When you’ve determined which accounts you will be removing, you will write a letter to each credit bureau, detailing that you are a consumer who is aware of the law (chances are, whoever opens your letter and reads it is completely unaware of the laws in the Fair Credit Reporting Act), and that you are requesting the copies of the contracts bearing your signature that they are required to keep on file for each of the derogatory accounts you are inquiring about.  You will detail each account in your letter by name and account number.  This part of the letter will be done by hand, as well as your personal information such as birth date, social security number and credit report number (which you will find on your credit reports).  The rest of your letter can be typed.  A template of the letter with what you need to say is provided here.

NOTE:  PLEASE READ ALL OF THE POSTS RELATED TO THIS CREDIT VERIFICATION PROJECT BEFORE YOU SEND OUT YOUR LETTERS.  NEGLECTING EVEN THE SLIGHTEST DETAIL CAN IMPEDE THE GOOD RESULTS YOU WILL GET FROM SENDING THESE LETTERS.

Once you’ve done this for all three of the credit reporting agencies, you will mail your letters, one at a time, several days apart.  YOU MUST SEND THE LETTERS CERTIFIED MAIL BY THE USPS!!  This is very important.  It costs very little to do this.  For all three letters, the postage for certified mail amounted to less than $12.00.

After you have mailed the letters it’s mostly a waiting game until you get your first responses.  To help pass the time, I downloaded the Credit Karma app to my Android phone and checked weekly to see what changes had been made to my credit, including the score.  As the credit bureaus take their allotted 30 days to respond, it was encouraging to me to see the changes updated weekly via the Credit Karma app.  Additionally, the information pulled weekly from Credit Karma are considered “soft” pulls and therefore do not negatively affect your credit score.

Some who have tried this 609 verification method have been fortunate enough to get everything removed in one round of letters.  I, however, was not so fortunate.  Trans Union seemed to be the biggest hold out, and as I will detail later, I had to actually write three rounds of letters to them before they finally removed all of my negative items.

It is strongly advised that during the 1 to 4 months it may take you to get the negative items off of your credit record; that you do not open up any new credit accounts, such as loans or credit cards.

If you have read all of the posts regarding this project (all found under the “609 Credit Verification Experiment Project” category to your right) and are ready to move on to the next step, click here!


Fluffy Homemade Nutella-Vanilla-Striped Marshmallows

by Colleen ElizabethTags: , , , , , , Categories: Recipes

With all of the bonfires my family has been  attending this fall, it’s been a challenge coming up with something different to bring to each one, so as not to bore our friends.

As the bonfire we had gone to about a month ago had included mostly teenagers, it seemed only fitting to bring something that would cater to their incessant desire to be standing close to the blaze, sticks in hand and continually poking aimlessly into the  alluring flames. What better than roasting marshmallows to give them a sense of purpose whilst fulfilling their innate pyromania?

Now I’ve made marshmallows before (and let me confess, I’m really not a fan of the things), but these marshmallows were such a hit that well before the kindling had ever been lit, the packages of Hershey’s chocolate bars and boxes of graham crackers I had piled on top of the giant plastic container full of these fluffy chocolatey, hazelnut wonders were discarded early on, and children and adults alike were snacking on my marshmallows with their chips and dip.  Can you blame them? I mean who doesn’t like Nutella?

Admittedly, my intention initially had been to make these ‘mallows solid Nutella, but after the first batch were spread in the pan, I was disappointed by how thin and flat they were.  That’s when I got it into my head to make another batch of plain vanilla ‘mallow “batter” to see if spreading it on top of the Nutella batch was feasible.  I didn’t want to risk wasting any precious Nutella on a hypothetical. But as it turns out, adding a layer on top of another works splendidly, and so for the sake of aesthetics I simply made an additional batch of the Nutella batter, layered it over the vanilla, and Voila! My Nutella-vanilla-striped marshmallows were born!

I was not only surprised by how much everyone loved them, but also how nicely they toasted and melted, making the gooey s’mores the highlight of the evening. Best of all, they’re so easy to make!  Let’s get started!

Each recipe makes one layer of the marshmallow. I suggest doing each sequence three times if you are planning on layering as I did.

**For the second layer, the vanilla, Simply omit the Nutella.**

If you’re feeling really confident, I suppose you could simply triple your recipe and stir the Nutella by hand into 2/3 of your batter, but work quickly! The batter begins to dry pretty speedily and may get too rubbery to spread. I found that it was just easier to repeat the recipe for each layer.

You will need (for each layer):

3 packets of plain gelatin

1 cup cold water, divided in half

1 1/2 cups granulated sugar

1 cup light corn syrup

1 pinch of salt

1 teaspoon vanilla paste (or extract. I love the appearance of all the vanilla bean bits in the paste)

4 tablespoons nutella

1/4 cup powdered sugar

1/4 cup corn starch

Place the gelatin in a clean bowl of your stand mixer and cover with half a cup of cold water. Let it sit.

Place the rest of the water, the granulated sugar, salt, and the corn syrup inside of a medium saucepan with a lid. Place over medium high heat, cover, and cook for 3 to 4 minutes.

After 4 minutes, uncover the mixture, place your candy thermometer on the side, and continue to cook until the mixture reaches 240 degrees.

Once mixture reaches 240 degrees, immediately take off of the heat.

Place your whisk attachment on your stand mixer and turn on low.
While mixer is going, slowly pour the sugar mix into the bowl.

Once all of the sugar syrup is added, turn the mixer to high, and let it continue to mix for about 12 minutes until thick and glossy.  While stand mixer is running, mix together the corn starch and powdered sugar.

Spray a 9×13 pan with cooking spray and dust it with some of the powdered mixture. Make sure all sides are covered. Place the leftover powdered mixture to the side to use for later.

Place the 4 tablespoons of Nutella in the microwave and heat for about 10 seconds to soften.

Pour in the vanilla and let mix for 1 minute, then add the Nutella and and let it swirl into the marshmallow mixture for about 1 minute.

Turn off mixer, and with an oiled rubber spatula, pour the marshmallow mix into the prepared pan. Put in refrigerator while next layer is being mixed.

Repeat the above steps for each layer, simply spreading on top of the previous. (For vanilla layer, simply omit Nutella).

Once the final layer is spread in the pan, lightly dust the top with your corn starch and powdered sugar mixture and place pan in fridge to set. Some recipes day to let set overnight, while my marshmallows took only an hour to set.

Alternatively, you could just triple the recipe, including the Nutella and just make them straight Nutella flavor. Nobody would complain!

After the marshmallows are set, turn them out onto a cutting surface and cut them into your preferred shapes and sizes, and store in an airtight container at room temperature. Be sure to put the remainder of your corn starch-powdered sugar mixture in with the marshmallows to prevent them from sticking to one another.

Bon Appetit!


Transformation Tuesday 10/20

by Colleen ElizabethTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , Categories: Health & Nutrition,Weight Loss Journey Progress

Good morning! It’s time again for an update on my weight loss progress. I’ve posted a photo wearing my traditional Transformation Tuesday uniform of my denim shorts and Guinness shirt (Oh my, what am I going to do when it gets really cold?).

 

10-20

 

Since my last weigh-in and since I’ve cut sugar and sweeteners from my diet completely (13 days ago), the scale has recorded a 4 pound loss. At first glance that can be disappointing, and quite honestly, the scale has been up and down the past two weeks. That means that my weight has been recorded between 316 and 320, a total of 14 pounds lost since the beginning of this journey (which has been side tracked quite a bit). I’m not doing any formal exercise (something I intend to remedy), but since eating like this, I’ve had a lot more energy and so I am on my feet and busy much more than I had been.

The telling aspect for me is how my clothes are fitting, in particular, my pants. I have one pair of jeans that I normally have to wiggle my way into and then lie on the bed, suck in my breath and push down my fat stomach in order to zip up. This week, however, it was just a matter of sucking in my stomach and pulling the zipper up (while standing!). The denim shorts I’m wearing in the photo above can now just be pulled up over my hips and belly without even undoing the button or zipper.

I’m not seeing much of a change in my liver roll, that fatty roll that started right beneath my boobs and is migrating downward. But the roll beneath that, my stomach roll, is definitely disappearing, and when I compare this photo to the last photo, it’s much less perceptible in the new one.

Over all, I feel better than I look, and so I will not discredit my progress. I have more energy, I’m sleeping better, I have no more regular sugar/carb cravings and I’m getting a lot more nutrients in my body with the raw greens and veggies and moderate protein and organic grass-fed dairy.

On occasion I make cakes for different events and I’ve got two coming up this weekend. I started this week on some aspects of the cakes, such as the modeling chocolate decorations, and I was surprised to find how easy it was to avoid consuming any of it. The desire is just gone and the smell of the sugary sweets is a little sickening to me.

I feel like any time now, things will start moving faster as I maintain consistency. As lame as it sounds, 13 days of anything is quite rare for me. They say it only takes 21 days to form a habit. I really want to see this out.

Thanks for checking in and I hope you have a wonderful week and achieve all your goals!


Two Funerals and a Wedding

by Colleen ElizabethTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , Categories: Weight Loss Journey Progress

Nope, it’s not a hokey movie sequel. It’s been my life of late, and let me tell you right out of the gate that I am just not the kind of person who can maintain a healthy lifestyle during times of distress.

Two weeks ago my family lost a very dear friend after a year-long battle with cancer. It’s still such a challenge to wrap my head around the fact that he is no longer.

That same week, I attended a wedding wherein my husband was the Best Man and my daughter, a bridesmaid. The marrying couple and bridal party were also rather connected with the friend who had passed away just days earlier. In fact, one of the groomsmen was actually the deceased man’s son. As you can imagine, the weekend was just emotional all the way around.

Last week, another friend of ours was mowing his lawn when he was apparently stung by a wasp and went into anaphylactic shock and died a day later. So much turmoil in such a short span of time!

Finally, my husband’s spirits were sunken by the news that a founding member of his all‑favorite progressive rock band Yes, Chris Squire, passed away yesterday after a short bout with Leukemia. Of course he didn’t know the man personally, but when you’ve become so connected to one’s art for as long as my husband has been, the loss is still profoundly felt.

Despite having an incredible support network of the dearest friends imaginable, I still found myself reaching for my usual comforts: Sugar and alcohol. But after a tear-fueled beer, wine and cake fest, I’m again back on track. Have I ever told you that I’m an incredible optimist? I’ve always been. In the words of Chumbawumba, “I get knocked down, but I get up again. You’re never gonna keep me down.” I’m sorry. I had to go there.

So that’s the update as to where I’ve been and what I’ve been up to. I woke up this morning and started back on health eating plan, which, just to reiterate, is tailored to my body type of estrogen dominance and subsequent hypothyroidism. Heavy on the raw greens, moderate on the protein, moderate to high on the healthy fats, and void of sugar and processed carbohydrates. It sounds unpleasant, but I assure you that after two days, the sugar cravings are gone and I actually have started to crave the greens and vegetables. There has been no formal exercise to speak of, but I spent this past Saturday helping a friend move from one apartment to another, both on the second floor, and my already-massive calves seem to be in a permanently contracted state from running up and down stairs carrying furniture and heavy boxes for hours.

Anyhoodle my friends, I got this!

Look for an update post with a photo very soon. Until then, have an awesome week!


330 Pounds (With Photo)… And We’re Off!

by Colleen ElizabethTags: , , , , , , , , , , , Categories: Weight Loss Journey Progress

Today is the day I set up my plan for my journey to health.  This will be a challenging task for me, as I am not really an organized person.  I have in the past managed to sit down and map out a very good plan to my goals, but maintaining said schedule or plan is another story.  This is where I most need support.

Before I lay out the plan, let me give you a bit of my nutrition and exercise philosophy.  I will elaborate on these in posts during my journey, but just so you can understand my game here, I will outline them for you.
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