Bankruptcy and Credit Repair Companies
My name is Jon Labella and I am a Bankruptcy Attorney. I wanted to take a couple of minutes to talk to you about your credit and credit repair services. You can barely pass a corner anymore without seeing signs begging you to call now to fix your credit. Some of these companies provide a legitimate service, but many do not. It’s time for you to get a peek into how credit repair works and see if it’s worth the price.
The Fair Credit Reporting Act says that everything, good, bad and ugly, stays on your credit report for 7 years from the date it is last reported to the credit bureau. The credit bureaus received massive updates of millions of accounts from national lenders every day. Sometimes mistakes happen and your report may contain inaccurate information. A credit account that isn’t yours, a delinquency that didn’t actually happen, and some stuff that is really old that never went away. Inaccurate or outdated information contained on your credit bureau can and should be removed.
The process is really pretty simple. Pull a copy of your credit bureau report and take a look at it. If you see anything that is old or inaccurate, you file a dispute with the bureau that is reporting it. That sounds pretty involved, but it really is easy to do. Federal law required the credit bureaus to set up a website so that consumers could order their free annual credit report online. You can use this exact same website to file a dispute. The credit bureau requests verification from the creditor, and the creditor has 30 days to respond. If the creditor fails to respond, the entry is removed. If the creditor responds, the credit bureau updates the entry with the new data. If it comes back the same, then it stays.
Most credit repair companies offer to pull your credit report, review it with you to see if there is anything old or wrong, and write dispute letters for you. Nothing is mystical or magical. No special expertise, no special technical training, no advance degrees needed. Look it over, find what’s old or wrong, and let the bureau know. You can do it all online yourself. How much is it worth to have somebody hold your hand while you do that?
That is all legitimate credit repair companies do for you. Now, let’s talk about the not so legitimate ones. Some credit repair companies will tell you that if you bombard the credit bureau with disputes, then the creditor will get overwhelmed and will miss responding to the credit bureau. If the creditor doesn’t respond, the entry will come off. As nice a thought as that is, the bureaus and the creditors caught onto this one and the law has been changed to only allow one dispute per entry. So while that may have worked in the past, it won’t fly now.
Other credit repair companies encourage you to set up an alter ego for yourself by changing your name slightly, altering your social security number, or otherwise adjusting your identity. Common sense should tell you this isn’t cool. Even suggesting that a consumer do this is illegal. Many other credit repair companies just take your money and don’t really do anything for you. I have even heard of one company that charged $500 for a box that had a credit bureau report order form and a bunch of form letters.If you do decide to use a credit repair company, know your rights. All credit repair companies have to use written service contracts and give you a signed copy of it. They have to provide you with a disclosure of your rights regarding credit information. They cannot require payment in advance, and all service contracts carry a 3 day right to cancel. If you have gotten tangled up with a questionable credit repair company, call us. We can help.
Tim is a freelance journalist who writes on everything from personal finance to investing and credit. He spends his spare time traveling, paddle boarding and working with local charities. He has a B.A. in English Literature from Oklahoma State University and lives with his wife and children in Phoenix, Az.