According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), "No one can legally remove accurate and timely negative information from a credit report." So, what does that mean for credit repair? Simply put, it is possible to have dated and incorrect information removed, but any further action is considered illegal and should be avoided at all costs.
Professional Credit Repair
Are you desperately looking to repair your credit so you can be more financially stable or qualify for more competitive financing offers? Either way, professional credit repair services may be worthwhile as they will help you accomplish your objectives without requiring you to do all the legwork.
Unfortunately, credit repair services can be pricey and somewhat unaffordable, especially if you're already strapped for cash. It could also be a complete waste of the money if the company is iffy, attempts to repair your credit in manner that is illegal, or doesn't deliver on their promise.
Is It Worth It?
The following scenarios may deem professional credit repair services worthwhile:
- You have inaccurate information or extremely dated items on your credit report, and your attempts at disputing them thus far have been unsuccessful.
- You aren't knowledegable about how credit repair works.
- You have questions about the dispute process or don't know where to start.
- You have multiple negative remarks on your credit report from a single account that has passed through several collection agencies.
- You are strapped for time and would prefer to pay someone to repair your credit for you.
Finding a Reputable Company
If possible, seek the assistance of a nonprofit credit counseling agency that offers services in-person for free or a very nominal fee. These companies will also be able to provide you with the tools needed to get on track financially, including budgeting and debt-management resources. Additionally, review the credentials of the representatives to ensure they carry the proper licensure and insurance required by your state. Finally, ask around for recommendations and refer to the Consumer Affairs and Better Business Bureau's websites for customer reviews.
Credit Repair Scams
Some credit repair companies will go the extra mile to obtain your business, even if it means making false claims. Per the FTC, here are a few slogans to be on the lookout for.
|"Credit problems? No problem!"||If your credit is damaged due to a series of financial missteps or hardships, only time and responsible financial and debt-management will lead to improvement.|
|"We can remove bankruptcies, judgments, liens, and bad loans from your credit file forever!"||Negative items and collection accounts will remain on your credit report for seven years. Bankruptcies linger for 10 years. Unless the entries were made in error, or you enter into a pay to delete agreement, the items have to run their course. (Also, select tax liens can remain until they're settled).|
|"We can erase your bad credit - 100% guaranteed."||Only untimely and inaccurate information can legally be removed from your credit report.|
"Create a new credit identity - legally."
Some credit repair companies promise to "give you a fresh start" by creating a new identity. This is typically done by transposing your Social Security Number or creating a FEIN (Federal Employer ID Number) to use with new accounts, both of which are illegal.
Do-It-Yourself Credit Repair
If you wish to save a little time and money, it is possible to take the necessary actions to repair your own credit. "Some people hire a company to investigate for them, but anything a credit repair company can do legally, you can do for yourself at little or no cost," notes the FTC.
To get started:
- Retrieve a free copy of your credit report or visit AnnualCreditReport.com.
- Review the contents and highlight any items that are untimely or inaccurate.
- Use this sample dispute letter for disputed information.
- Send a copy of the letter and any supporting documents (via certified mail with a return receipt) to each of the credit bureaus and the original creditor who reported the information.
Professional credit repair may be a viable option but be sure to get acclimated with how it works before moving forward. However, do-it-yourself credit repair may better suit your needs once you familiarize yourself with the process.