The advice you have been getting about rebuilding your credit score hasn't been very good. I hope you haven't been paying for this advice - if so, get your money back! I have written a 10 part series explaining how credit rebuilding works to help those who have already filed bankruptcy and I am posting a link to a list of all my legal guides so you can look through the various topics and take a look at what interests you.
You do not have to file bankruptcy for these guides to provide you with useful information, but a main reason for bad credit is simply too much debt and late payments month after month. It is impossible to fix credit if you continue this way with late payments or no payments. Settling will just trash your credit more and do very little to solve the ultimate problem. Hope this perspective helps!
Your statement leaves open a lot of questions, including the age of the charge-off accounts. These items may stay on your credit for seven years, but are only subject to suit within the statute of limitations, in California, four years. You mention that you want to avoid bankruptcy because you want to be able to get loans in the future. That is a common misconception. Often times, you can get loans immediately following a bankruptcy, depending on the situation. It seems as though you have a lot of debt and that you do not have the means to repay it, currently. I would strongly suggest consulting with a bankruptcy attorney so that you will have a clear understanding of your options, then you can make an informed decision on how to proceed.
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As previously stated, settlements will do little do help improve substantially the existing problems on your credit report. If you are behind that period of time you can assume that your credit score is in a bad state already. Filing for bankruptcy in such situations can generally help you improve and recover your credit much faster then having these debts just sit around while you wait for them to fall of your credit report. or settle.
There are many companies out there that are willing to provide people who recently received a discharge in bankruptcy with credit. The rational for this is that you are more of a good credit risk because your unsecured debts are gone and you cannot file for bankruptcy again within the near future. A creditor who sees numerous debts on your credit report that have not been resolved is unlikely to provide you credit.