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Credit Repair

Buyer Beware!

The marketplace is full of so-called “Credit Repair” companies that make promises that sound too good to be true. They claim to specialize in making bad marks on your credit history disappear or giving you an entirely new and clean credit history. They may scare you into believing that if you have bad credit, you will never be able to obtain future credit with out their help. Don’t believe it! The wise old saying says, “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably isn’t”.

First of all, some of these agency’s tactics are illegal, putting you in the position to unknowingly commit credit fraud. One tactic they use is known as “file segregation”, in which the consumer is instructed to obtain an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) or an Employee Identification Number (EIN) and use them in the place of their Social Security Number. This is a violation of federal law and getting in trouble with the law definitely will NOT help your financial situation!

Secondly, there is NOTHING a credit repair agency can do to repair your credit history that you can’t do yourself, with a little know-how, determination and dedication. However, if you don’t have the time or the means to perform a credit repair, there are reputable credit agencies that can help, but you need to know your rights first. By law, a credit repair agency must inform you of all your legal rights concerning the repair. They are not permitted to charge a fee until their services have been completed, so don’t pay for anything up front. You must be presented with a written proposal detailing all the services to be performed, how long the process will take, any guaranteed results, and the final cost. The proposal must include a provision for a 3-day window in which you can cancel the service at no charge. You have the right to sue the agency for actual loss and punitive damages if you suspect fraud.

Check out or report a credit repair company at:
Better Business Bureau of New Jersey
http://www.trenton.bbb.org/

If you are a do-it-yourself person, here are some guidelines to follow to make the most of your efforts.


STEP 1: GET A COPY OF YOUR CREDIT REPORT

Anytime you take out a loan, are late with a payment on a loan, or have a tax problem the big 3 credit bureaus are notified. Incidents are added to your record and will stay there for 7 to 10 years, unless you take action to get them removed.

You are entitled to one free credit report per year
www.freecreditreport.com
www.annualcreditreport.com
www.bestcreditreports.com

IMPORTANT: You are entitled to one free credit REPORT per year, which is very informative and helpful in examining your credit record and seeing what the creditors see when they run an inquiry, however, your REPORT does NOT contain your credit score. You will have to pay a small amount ($6-$8) to receive your credit score along with your report.


3 Major Credit Bureaus:

Equifax 800-685-1111
Experian 888-397-3742
Transunion 800-888-4213
http://www.equifax.com
http://www.experian.com
http://www.transunion.com

Note: The credit bureaus are not governmental agencies. They are for-profit business entities that are not favorable to increasing their workload for no return. They will do everything in their power to dissuade you from pursuing credit repair. Do not count on getting any help from them in regard to your credit repair beyond simply obtaining your report from them.

It makes no difference if the debt has been paid off. If you were late or the account went into collections at any time, there is a record of it on your credit report, and your score will reflect it.


STEP 2: ANALYZE YOUR CREDIT REPORT


Delinquent Accounts

You may have collections, liens, charge-offs, foreclosures, judgments, repos on your credit report. You may think that paying them off right away is the first step to getting your credit repaired, BUT WAIT. This is not necessarily true. Paying these accounts WILL NOT help your credit score. Why? The negative record appears on your report for up to 7 years no matter if it’s paid or not. The better solution is to conditionally settle the debt, with the agreement that the lender will delete the listing from your credit report. Be sure to get this in writing and do not take no for an answer. They will more than likely tell you that this cannot be done, but it most certainly can. You just have to be persistent and ask talk to the right supervisor.


Reason Codes

You will see codes on your credit report made up of numbers and/or letters, ordered by their importance, that are intended to call attention to areas of your credit history that need further examination, however, more times than not, they are strictly used by lenders to provide a reason for declining a consumer that does not meet the lending criteria. According to the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, when declining credit, a lender can't just tell you "Your score wasn't high enough", or "You didn't meet our internal standards." A statement of specific reasons must be provided, or you must be advised of your right to demand specific reasons. Credit scoring with reason codes helps the lender provide this information.


Sample Reason Messages

Sample
  • Not all accounts paid as agreed.
  • Recent delinquency.
Explanation
You had some late payments or defaults.
Recent late payments weigh more heavily.


Sample
  • Lack of recent information on auto loans or lack of auto loans.
  • Lack of recent information on revolving accounts.
  • Lack of recent information on bank or national accounts.
  • Lack of recent installment loan information.
  • No recent non-mortgage balances
Explanation
Scores can be computed differently depending on the kind of credit you are seeking. For example, if you seek an auto loan, a score model that giving special weight to how you've handled auto loans might be used. Messages often indicate that the scoring model is not seeing recent activity in the category being evaluated.


Sample
  • Insufficient recent payment history.
  • Accounts not open long enough.
  • Loan balance too high, compared to original loan amount.
Explanation
Credit scoring requires current information, as well as a history. New loans may not be help your score, because there is not enough history to see your repayment track record.


Sample
  • Number of accounts in total
Explanation
Too few or too many. It's probably obvious which applies to you.


Sample
  • Too close to credit limit on revolving accounts.
Explanation
Department stores often view this as an opportunity to increase your limit.


Sample
  • Recent legal filing or collection.
  • Derogatory public records.
Explanation
Credit reporting agencies look at court house records - and this can affect your score. Transfer to a collection agency or collection account is also considered very derogatory.


Sample
  • Number of finance company accounts compared to length of finance history
Explanation
Taking out multiple loans in a short period of time is a sign of trouble.


Federal law allows you to dispute any item on your credit report if you feel it is incorrect or un-provable. This puts the burden of proof on the credit bureaus, and this is not always easy for them. This is an advantage for you, the consumer.


STEP 3: START A CREDIT REPAIR CALENDAR


Make a record of when you ordered your reports, sent disputes, made phone calls, etc.


How to Conduct a Dispute

If you see an error in the report, file a dispute with the credit bureau. You can usually do this online, but a phone call might be your preferred method of communication. You can find their phone number directly on the credit report. If you do call, always follow up the phone call with written evidence of everything you discussed. Send copies (not originals) of all the relevant documents supporting your claim. Including a copy of the credit report with the disputed items highlighted is also helpful. Keep careful records of what you sent and when you sent it. Certified mail is highly recommended.

Send a copy of the package to the business that originally sent the negative information to the credit bureaus. By law, they must investigate all disputes and report their findings to the credit bureaus within 30 days.


Dispute Pointers

Keep your language courteous, assertive, and simple. If you use too many legal or financial terms, you may be perceived as a credit repair professional, and your letter may be ignored. Simply state that the disputed item was either “not late” or “does not belong to me”. If the item does belong to you, provide a legitimate reason for why you are disputing it. Make your desired outcome of the dispute clearly known to the credit bureaus. Tell them if you want the listing completely eliminated or to just have the notes removed.

Don’t write a follow-up sooner than 90 days after the last one. Turn the heat up with each round of letters you write, again, keeping your language courteous, but more forceful. If applicable, point out inconsistencies and inaccuracies on your report as prime examples of why you believe your report to be incorrect. Keep at it. Stay the course by closely monitoring your credit report calendar and remaining diligent with your disputes.


Your Work Pays Off

If the disputed information is found to be incorrect, the business must rescind the claim and notify all the credit bureaus of the error. The credit bureaus must in turn delete the incorrect negative information and restore all verifiably correct information. Upon removing incorrect information from your credit report, you have the right to a written statement of the correction and a free copy of your credit report. You have the right to request that the bureaus send a correction notice to anyone that received you’re your credit report during the last 6 months. If the recipient of your credit report was an employer, the time window is expanded to 2 years.

If, at a later date, the business finds proof of the disputed information, the negative mark can be added back to your report, at which time, you are entitled to a written notice from the credit bureau, stating the business’ name, address and phone number.


GOING FORWARD…

If you still have a large amount of debt, in order to try to keep things under control, you may want to consider credit counseling. There are many different types available, each with varying rates and programs. Do your homework and look for one that has a record of success and an agreeable program that suits your situation. Seeking credit counseling does not appear on your credit report.

Another consideration is a debt repayment plan. A credit counselor can negotiate a favorable program for you to consolidate and reduce the amount of your debt. However, consider this carefully as the appearance of a debt repayment account on your credit report will negatively affect your credit score. This information can and will remain on your report for up to 7 years, however, if it saves you from declaring bankruptcy, it is a far better solution, as a bankruptcy will stay on your report for up to 10 years and is part of the public record.

Don’t pay anything late!! Do whatever is necessary to make sure that your payments arrive on time. If your financial institution has automatic deductions from your account to pay bills, take advantage of it. As long as you keep the account funded, it will save you a lot of worrying.




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