Every day, companies target consumers with poor credit – promising instant credit repair for a fee. You see their advertisements on newspapers, on TV and on the internet:
“Fix bad credit in 24 Hours“
“We can remove bankruptcies, judgments, liens, and bad loans from your credit file forever“
“Credit problems? No problem!”
“Erase your bad credit – 100% guaranteed”
The truth is that these companies can’t improve your credit score using the methods they promote.
Why? Because it’s illegal – No one can remove accurate negative information from your credit report. So after you pay these so called “credit clinics” hundreds or thousands of dollars in fees, you’re left with the same credit report and someone else has your money.
There are, of course legitimate credit repair operation. None of them makes these promises. In fact, these promises are the tell-tail of a scam.
You must understand two key elements:
- Fixing bad credit takes time. There are no shortcuts.
- There is nothing they can do for you that you can’t do for yourself for little or no cost at all!
So how do you recognize a credit repair scam?
You should suspect any company that:
- Guarantees to remove late payments, bankruptcies, or similar information from your credit report, especially if that information is accurate and current.
- Asks you to dispute the same credit account information on your credit report month after month, even though it has been determined to be accurate.
- Wants you to pay for credit repair services before they provide any services. Under the Credit Repair Organizations Act, credit repair companies cannot require you to pay until they have completed the services they have promised.
- Doesn’t tell you your rights and what you can do for yourself for free.
- Suggests that you invent a new credit identity by applying for and using an Employer Identification Number instead of your Social Security number.
A word of caution
If you follow illegal and fraudulent advice you may be charged and prosecuted. It’s a federal crime to lie on a loan or credit application, to misrepresent your Social Security Number and to obtain an Employer Identification Number from the IRS under false pretenses.
You may also be charged and prosecuted for mail or wire fraud if you use the mail, telephone, or Internet to apply for credit and provide false information.
Are there legal credit repair services?
There are a few Trustworthy & legal credit repair debt management services that offer free (in most cases) help in debt management, credit repair and education (See Credit Repair Debt Management Services for more information).
Their counselors will discuss your entire financial situation and help you develop a plan based on the best option for your personal financial needs. They will also offer free education on personal finance, using credit and more.
Your Rights under the Credit Repair Organizations Act
Credit repair organizations must give you a copy of the “Consumer Credit File Rights under State and Federal Law” before you sign a contract. They also must give you a written contract that spells out your rights and obligations.
You should also know that a credit repair company CANNOT:
- Charge you until they have completed the promised services.
- Perform any services until they have your signature on a written contract and have completed a three-day waiting period. During this time, you can cancel the contract without paying any fees.
Before you sign a contract, be sure it specifies:
- The payment terms for services, including the total cost.
- A detailed description of the services the company will perform.
- How long it will take to achieve the result.
- Any guarantees the company offer.
- The company’s name and business address.