Is Credit Repair a Scam or Illegal?
Home & Mortgage
This topic is a really hot one right now. People are falling victim to so many scam artists out there who are taking peoples money and offering false hope.
What is credit restoration? It is a means by which one can have negative information removed from ones credit file by using the 340 different laws contained in the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). If you know how to use and manipulate those laws, you can successfully remove any information from your credit report, even if it is legitimate. This is possible because of many factors, but chief amongst these is that there is no law in any jurisdiction in the United States which requires information about you be reported for seven minutes, much less seven years. The truth is that anyone can write to the credit bureaus to have negative information removed from their file. But, like fixing your cars engine, it is usually better to have a professional do it for you.
That is easier said than done. Currently in the United States, there are ONLY THREE legitimate credit restoration companies. Each has their strengths and their flaws, but they are professionals with many years of experience backing them up. Unfortunately, this cannot be said about most people in the country who are performing credit repair. What has happened in many cases that I have investigated is a person bought a do-it-yourself kit over the internet and had some success with their own credit file. Problem is, now they think they can repair anyones credit. This is what worries me most. An untrained, unlicensed, un-bonded and uninsured person handling other peoples credit files. There is absolutely NO accountability if, or rather, when this person screws things up.
Generally speaking, credit repair is a scam and credit restoration is legit. Does this mean all credit repair offers are scams and all credit restoration offers are legit? NO! It is up to you to do the research. If you cant do the bare minimum to protect yourself, then dont come crying to me if you are taken for all of your money. But, to help you determine the scams from the legits,I have compiled10 tips on how to tell the difference:
1: If they advertise that they will repair your credit in anything less than 18 months, you are not dealing with a legal company. The LAW requires that any credit restoration agency cannot advertise or represent that they can restore or repair your credit in less than 18 months. (Remember this number, it is going to come up again later.)
2: Check on how long the company has been in business. If they have been around for more than 10 years, you are probably dealing with a reputable company.
3: Do your due diligence. Check with the BBB. The BBB will provide an unbiased report of how many complaints have been filed against the company in the previous three years. There are two things that you want to consider here. First, if there are more than a dozen complaints over the previous three year period, then this company has serious issues and you should be concerned. Also, if the BBB has no file at all on the business, just walk away from the business. Anyone who is hiding from the BBB should be looked upon with suspicion.
4: Ask for pricing when talking to one of their reps. If they hem and haw about what they charge, or say that it depends on how much they have to remove from your report, they are hiding something from you. A good rule of thumb, if the rep is unwilling to answer any question of yours up front and with honesty, you are not dealing with a legitimate company. This does not mean that if the rep states that they will answer the question in a moment, that they are hiding something. It just means that they are getting there and just need to lay a little groundwork first. Remember, reps are all salespersons. They are there to sell you their service. This is good, believe it or not. This encourages competition in the business and keeps costs down. (Which reminds me: DONT PAY MORE THAN $1000 PER PERSON FOR THE SERVICE.)
5: Ask if the company is licensed, bonded and insured. Ask for proof. If they will not show you their business license (which can only be obtained AFTER they have purchased their bond and insurance) this should raise alarm bells.
6: Ask for examples of successes the company has had. A legitimate company will have copies of investigation results (with personal information blacked out of course) that will show you how successful they can be.
7: How long are they going to work for you? Yes, thats right, remember that these companies work FOR you. If they are just going to maintain a business relationship with you for the length of time it takes to repair your credit, beware. What often happens in these cases is that after the company has cleared negative information from your credit report they sever their relationship with you and a couple of months later the information returns to your credit report. Now what are you going to do? Your options are to leave the negative information and suffer for 7-10 years or hire someone, again, to remove the information, again. A reputable company will stay with you for the FULL 18 months (I told you this number would come up again). This allows them to continuously monitor your credit reports and remove any negative information that may re-insert itself after the initial sanitizing.
8: What other services do they offer? If they are a legitimate company, they will have resources that will help you to re-establish yourself in the financial world. Things like the ability to help obtain a debit card even if you cant open a checking or savings account. (Yes, believe it or not, it can be done!) Can you call their credit advisors any time for advice? Is legal representation available if you have to go to court against the credit reporting agencies? ASK! If the company is legitimate, they will have a team of lawyers that will handle these kinds of legal matters for the duration of your contract.
9: Does their contract advise you of your rights? If not, why? Because they dont know the laws! And if they dont know the laws that are designed to protect you, how can you expect them to know the complexities of the Fair Credit Reporting Act which has 340 different laws?
10: Is there a money back guarantee? In this business refunds are usually prorated. In other words, if you have 50 negative things on your reports and they can only have 30 removed, you are refunded 40% of your money since they were able to get 60% of the information removed. If there is no money back offer, run away! A company that has faith in their services will offer to refund the money if they cant do the work.
I hope this information helps people out there who are confused about credit restoration programs. In a future article I will discuss who should and should not use credit restoration.
My field of expertise is credit advice. My clients are people who need help with anything from obtaining first time credit cards, to credit restoration, to obtaining a checkless debit card and many other issues. My philosophy is "Because sometimes bad things happen to good people, I am here to help." I believe in educating people so they are not defrauded by lending institutions, credit card companies, credit reporting agencies, etc. It seems that the larger a company is, the less attention is paid to their fraudulent business practices. That is why people like those who work in our company exist.
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