So if you haven’t seen these ads, commercials, pop-ups or other propaganda saying something like “We can fix your credit today” or “Bankruptcies, tax liens, removed” you must be living under a rock. It is so tempting to sign up for these services and give yourself the fresh start you deserve, but if you believe what these companies are selling, I have a bridge that I can sell you too.
I have been a credit counselor for almost a decade and I have seen every trick in the book. Lets face a major fact: NO ONE can legally remove items from your credit that belong there. Many companies make promises that they can remove any flaw from your credit and that simply is not true. Read up on credit reporting policies from the Federal Trade Commission, most negative credit items can legally remain on your credit report for up to 7 years (bankruptcies, tax liens, etc can remain there longer).
Another outright scam are these companies that try to get you to pay upfront for their “credit repair” services. Check the FTC’s guidelines again, they are not allowed to do so. They can only collect money from you if they are successful in the services that they promised to you. I have seen people shell out thousands of dollars only to be hit with the harsh reality that they were scammed and their credit is the exact same as it was when they got started.
Please also be leary of someone trying to sell you a CPN (Consumer Profile Number) or a new social security number for the purposes of obtaining credit. While a CPN is perfectly legal, using it to obtain credit is against the law. Just using a CPN on any document that calls for your social security number is considered fraud. As far as getting a new social security number, run from anyone who tries to sell you one of those and run fast. I have seen people spend upwards of $8,000 for a new number only to find out that the number belonged to a deceased person. Creepy and criminal all at the same time.
So how do you fix your credit without it costing you a fortune and without having to look over your shoulder for the feds? Simple, do your homework. Their are countless reputable books, articles and the like that can guide you on ways to improve your credit. Some simple tips would include checking your credit annually. You can get a FREE credit report from all three credit bureaus once per year from www.annualcreditreport.com. Just reviewing your report and notifiying the credit bureaus of any errors can help your report and score as well as alert you to things you may not be aware of such as identity theft. Another tip is to, wait for it, don’t mess it up in the first place! I know it sounds painfully obvious but if you are proactive you won’t have much to fix. Keep an eye on payment due dates, how much credit you are using, etc.
Credit repair is almost like losing weight. There is no quick fix. You can’t take a pill and drop 30lbs overnight and fixing your credit works much in the same way. It takes hard work, diligence and patience especially since credit bureaus are allowed up to 30 days to respond to your initial inquiry and you may not see changes reflected for up to 90 days. If you anticipate making a major purchase like a home or car, you should start working on your credit six months to a year in advance.
If you choose to seek professional help, I would urge you to exercise extreme caution. Read the FTC’s guidelines, do a background check on the company, read all their disclosures and ask for references. Not only should you be thorough investigating the company, but you should also make sure that your expectations for the results are reasonable. Keep in mind one very important fact, you can fix your credit all by yourself for FREE so don’t feel too overwhelmed if you are having difficulty finding someone reputable to help you.
Your credit is very important, but don’t skip over the important factors or go for a quick fix. It will not benefit you in the long run.
All of the articles listed here are good reads: http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/menus/consumer/credit.shtm
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