In the mafia, there’s always a “fixer:” someone in the organization who will do the dirty work, get things done, and do so without any hesitation at all. And while the “fixer” is good at what he does, he has a tendency to be an unseemly character, whose unscrupulous tactics leave a lot to be desired.
This is a good parallel to remember when people promise you quick “fixes” to your poor credit score. Unfortunately, it’s a practice that happens often out in the world—especially in these tough financial times, when credit is expensive and loans aren’t easy to come by, especially for those with a poor credit history.
Most credit repair firms are good with the sales pitch: promising to fix your credit score, but then, in the end, like an average criminal, they will simply take your hard-earned (and often limited) cash and leave you with a worse credit score than when you started. The biggest irony is that many of the same lenders who put people into bad mortgages pre-real estate crisis, are now in the credit counseling business, getting a second crack at beleaguered borrowers who are now fruitlessly searching for a better financial future.
As such, you need to prepare (and protect) yourself from these so-called “fixers.” Here are a few quick tips that will give you a fighting chance:
Don’t Believe the Hype
If a credit counseling or repair company promises you that they can remove negative marks from your credit report, don’t believe it. Accurate information cannot be removed. And inaccurate information can easily be fixed by you by simply contacting the major credit bureaus (Experian, TransUnion and Equifax), filing a dispute on your own and asking them to remove the strikes—for free. The credit bureaus must respond within 30 days and all inaccurate (or unprovable) info can be stricken.
Don’t Make it Worse
Credit repair firms make all sorts of promises, some small and some more elaborate. But when a credit repair firm offers you the equivalent of a “new credit life” by means of an employer identification number that allows you to evade rightful searches by credit bureaus, it is important that you recognize this “opportunity” as a crime—a federal crime—warranting prosecution. Don’t make bad credit matters worse by allowing fraudulent credit bureaus to take your money and reputation.
Don’t Be Fooled by Fees
Avoid credit counseling firms that charge fees or solicit so-called contributions. In addition to scam artists preying on debtors, one other sign of these economic times is the availability of free credit counseling. This counseling provides real advice in the form of information about how to budget for your future rather than just a debt repayment plan. Instead of using a firm that advertises, choose a legitimate counselor from the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC), counseling from the United Way or a state government, or by seeking solutions via your local bankruptcy court.
Do Your Part to Keep Track of Your Plan for Payments
Do your due diligence when embarking on any sponsored credit repair plan. If you do find yourself working from a debt repayment schedule, make sure it’s one you can afford. And, if a credit counseling firm is paying your bills for you, confirm that any and all payments start immediately, are timely and are verified yourself as paid to your creditors. Otherwise, your credit report can quickly go from bad to worse.
Already feel swindled by a credit repair firm? File a complaint with Federal Trade Commission for the Consumer at www.ftc.gov.