October 18 2010 (Chris Moore)
Surely to be one of the most frequently asked questions for years to come. With foreclosures and bankruptcies at record highs, millions and millions of Americans face the long term prospect of dealing with the effects of the current economic crisis and the credit crisis that could slow the economic recovery. The answer to the question is, usually no, sometimes yes.
The unfortunate truth is many people will turn to credit repair companies that promise the quick and easy who in turn will victimize them once again. The fact of the matter is, it takes time to repair your credit history. There are things you can do immediately that will start the healing process and if you’re willing to take a little time and effort you can save yourself a bundle of money by staying away from the scammers.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is the government agency that regulates credit repair agencies. Credit repair agencies usually over promise and under deliver for one reason:
No one can legally remove accurate and timely negative information from a credit report.
That’s right…you cannot legally remove accurate and timely negative information from your credit report. And what does most credit repair agencies promise to do? That’s right…remove negative information from your credit report.
The only negative information that can be removed from a credit report is information that has been mistakenly reported or recorded on your report. And you don’t need to have a credit repair agency do that for you, you can do it yourself just by sending a letter to the credit bureau in question with proof of the mistake and they will investigate the claim on your behalf and if proven accurate, they will take the negative information off of your credit report.
Here’s a few things that the FTC tells you to look out for if you do decide to enlist the help of a credit repair agency:
If you see a credit repair offer, here’s how to tell if the company behind it is up to no good:
- The company 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.
- The company doesn’t tell you your rights and what you can do for yourself for free.
- The company recommends that you do not contact any of the three major national credit reporting companies directly.
- The company tells you they can get rid of most or all the negative credit information in your credit report, even if that information is accurate and current.
- The company suggests that you try to invent a “new” credit identity — and then, a new credit report — by applying for an Employer Identification Number to use instead of your Social Security number.
- The company advises you to dispute all the information in your credit report, regardless of its accuracy or timeliness.
If you follow illegal advice and commit fraud, you may find yourself in legal hot water, too: 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 Internal Revenue Service under false pretenses. You could 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.
The Credit Repair Organizations Act specifies your rights when dealing with credit repair agencies. Here’s a brief synopsis of what you should expect when considering a credit repair agency:
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. Read these documents before you sign anything. And before signing, know that a credit repair company cannot:
- make false claims about their services
- 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
So the bottom line is you can take off inaccurate information that is mistakenly entered on your credit report, but no one can legally remove accurate information. The best course of action is to find ways to rebuild your credit. Consider secured credit cards or secured loans that require you to use a cash deposit as collateral and rebuild your credit the right way…and stay away from the quick and easy, it’s just going to cost you more money.