You probably already know just how important your credit score is, and how this three-digit manifestation of your credit health can affect your life. Without a solid credit score, you may struggle to get your apartment, buy a home, or finance a car, for example — and that’s just the beginning. Let’s learn more about credit repair …
Should you use a credit repair service? A credit repair service will address the errors that could be hurting your credit score, but you can do the same things for free.
Credit repair service can cost around $100 a month and take several months to see any results — with no guarantee that your credit score will be higher at the end.
If your credit has been damaged due to late payments, debts in collections, or neglect, credit solutions may be exactly what you need. You can do the repair work yourself, or you can choose to hire a firm to help.
A good credit repair company can work as your advocate, providing you with counsel regarding your credit score and how it’s determined.
They also work to improve your credit score on your behalf, usually by negotiating with creditors and credit bureaus to remove negative marks, resolve issues, and help you repair your credit — once and for all.
Unfortunately, there are numerous credit repair scams to be aware of. Some companies will ask for money upfront before they have done any work to help repair your credit, for example, while others will ask you to take unethical steps, such as disputing information on your credit report that’s true.
Another scam to be aware of is any time a company promises you a “new credit identity” or asks you to give false information.
Fortunately, companies are governed by the Credit Repair Organization Act (CROA). This law requires credit repair companies to take certain steps such as informing you of your legal rights, giving you three full days to cancel your contract with them, and letting you know the full costs of their services upfront.
The law also gives you options if a credit repair company doesn’t live up to their promises, including the ability to sue them in federal court, the ability to seek punitive damages, and the right to join a class-action lawsuit against the company. Keep reading to learn more about how these companies work and what to expect.
While credit repair companies don’t have the legal power to do anything you can’t do yourself, they do play an important role for people who feel overwhelmed trying to fix their credit themselves.
There are legitimate reasons consumers may turn to a company, including getting fraudulent accounts removed from their credit report amending credit accounts that belong to someone else, and accounts in bankruptcy that is misreported.
Legitimate credit repair providers assist consumers by reviewing the consumer’s credit reports, identifying information that is adverse to the consumer, interviewing the consumer, and obtaining documents from the consumer to determine whether any of the derogatory information is false.
From there, they typically prepare a letter to the credit bureaus disputing the errors. The dispute letter should identify the errors with specificity, briefly explain why the disputed information is false or misleading, and state what the credit report should say instead.
Some of the steps credit repair companies can take on your behalf include:
Credit repair agencies may also help consumers fix incorrect credit limits that can inflate or skew credit utilization and adversely impact a consumer’s credit score.
While having a third-party company handle all your credit issues for you may sound ideal, it’s important to keep your expectations in check. Credit repair companies can help you improve your credit score over time, but they do have limitations.
Credit repair companies cannot do anything you cannot do yourself.
While agencies will work with your creditors and the three credit bureaus to improve your credit and have negative information removed, you can also take all of these steps yourself without paying for credit repair.
You can also call up your lenders and negotiate with them yourself. You do not need a firm for that. Many lenders may not even allow a third party to negotiate on the customer’s behalf.
Credit repair companies can’t remove accurate information from your credit report — even if you pay them.
While companies may work hard to get your credit report clear of any negative information, they cannot get accurate negative information removed from your report.
They may not offer budgeting or money management advice.
While credit repair agencies have the goal of getting you out of debt and repairing your credit, they don’t offer the same services as credit counseling agencies.
Credit counseling agencies offer a more holistic approach to solving your money and credit problems, focusing most of their efforts on helping you make a budget, manage money better, and reduce spending.
On the flip side, however, credit counseling services don’t take the same steps to boost your credit score and fix negative marks on your credit report as credit repair agencies do. Before you choose one service over the other, it helps to educate yourself on both options.
You can start by checking your own credit report from the major credit bureaus. Then you should dispute any errors that are on your credit report, directly with the credit bureaus. All three major bureaus have an online dispute process, it is the fastest way to fix the problem.
making sure that you pay your bills on time will improve your payment history, it is the most effective way to improve your credit score, but missed payments will drag your credit score down.
A little tip to help with your credit rating is to make multiple small payments during the billing cycle if you can.
Credit repair can help consumers boost their credit scores and get out from under their credit problems from the past. In that respect, yes, credit repair can work for everyone if you give it enough time.
For the process to work, however, you need to work alongside your agency to make needed changes such as paying down debt and paying your bills on time.
However, you don’t have to hire a credit repair firm to get your credit score back in good standing. It’s possible to dispute negative information on your credit report via the three credit reporting agencies yourself, for example.
Petersen notes that most consumers who have a good faith dispute can write a brief letter identifying the errors, explain why the information is false or misleading, and inform the credit reporting agencies of what the corrected credit report should state.
Consumers who take the time to write their dispute letter may also see better results versus the results they may get when a credit repair company sends a generic letter on their behalf.
You can also get a free copy of your credit report from all three agencies online for free from AnnualCreditReport.com instead of relying on a company to get your credit report for you.
Last but not least, you can take steps to improve your credit on your own, including paying down debts in delinquency, making all your payments on time, and lowering your utilization by paying down the amounts you owe.
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