Is Credit Repair Ethical?

One issue for a lot of people who are interested in checking out credit repair options is that it actually ends up becoming a moral debate for them. On one side, they (usually) did make the payments late, or stop paying on the accounts. On the other side, should you really have to suffer for years by paying so much more in interest payments than everyone else?

Really, there shouldn’t be any moral dilemma with repairing your credit. The only problem really exists if you’re intending to get credit for the sole purpose of not paying it, and then planning to get it removed from your credit a year or two later so you can do it all over again. That kind of “gaming the system” should not be tolerated. However, if you’re one of us who just made a mistake and don’t feel we should have to suffer the consequences for such a long period of time, then by all means, work on repairing that credit.

Wouldn’t it be much easier to make the payments on your car if they were a little lower? With a higher credit score, that’s possible. Do you feel that it’s right for you to pay an extra $100,000 on your house over the life of the loan, just because you made a few mistakes in the last 3 – 5 years?

It’s very easy to rebuild your credit, if you take a systematic approach to it and keep yourself very disciplined. Limit your credit card spending by using your credit cards in the best way to increase your credit scores. Yes, it’s actually better to use your credit cards than to leave them locked away. Once you’ve established the credit card rules (when to use them for best results), you can then focus on eliminating the negative items from your credit. By focusing on the laws created to help us (FDCPA and FCRA), there are ways that you can get those items wiped clean from your reports. Start today, and you should notice sizable increases in your credit scores within the next few months.

So if you’re still stuck wondering if you should actively work on repairing your credit or just let things drop as they age, think about a few things. Is it right that the people who may have trouble paying bills at the level they’re at now, be required to pay more for the same thing just because they’re credit score is lower? With a higher credit score, they might be able to easily cover those payments, but they don’t have the option. Well, they didn’t have the option. After reading through this site, you should realize that you have many options available to rebuild your credit and take advantage of those same lower rates.

The absolute most important thing to do, though, is make your decision and start today. The sooner you start, the faster you’ll be able to accomplish your goals.

How Should You Deal With Collection Agencies?

If you’re like 99.9% of the people in this country, you absolutely hate talking to a collector if they call.  No matter what caused you to get in that position in the first place, most of them seem like they’re just out to harrass you and ruin your day.  They act like they don’t care about your current situation, they’re just trying to collect the money that you owe to them.

This is probably what you do after taking a few calls…
a) Stop answering the phone when they call
b) Hang up if you answer and realize it’s them
c) Get rude and start mouthing off when you realize they won’t go away

Do you really want to be afraid to answer your phone when it rings?  Do you like explaining when you don’t answer it “It’s just a collector”?  They are persistent, but there are things that you can do to protect your sanity.  Reading this post is the first step.

If you have a collector contacting you, the FIRST thing you should do is get their name (Collection Company) and address.  If you can’t get their address, then the name should be enough to lookup their address online.  If you can’t find their address anywhere, then you can generally find it on your credit report, so it’s worth the little money that may be required to purchase it.  You don’t need your score or anything, just the report.

After you have their name and address (if you can get it), the next step is to let them know that you would like them to stop calling you and continue ALL correspondence through the mail.  You can also let them know, if you’d like, that you are preparing a limited Cease and Desist letter and you would like them to not contact you until they have received it.  Technically, this should be enough to get them to stop calling.  Some companies don’t follow the FDCPA as well as they should (which means they break the law, but that’s another story), and if you’re dealing with one of those people, then you may as well just hang up there.  Don’t let them break you down over the phone, don’t tell them that you’re going to pay anything, don’t even acknowledge that the debt is yours yet.  You don’t want to give them ANY information that could be used against you at a later date.

Now, you’ve told them to stop calling, and there’s a chance that you may have a little peace and quiet for the next couple days.  AS SOON AS POSSIBLE, you need to get that limited cease and desist letter out to them.  Check around online, and I’ll see if I can find a good copy to post here for you, but basically you’re looking for a letter saying that they are not allowed to contact you or anybody that you might know by phone.  All future correspondence needs to be through the mail.  Once you do this, you shouldn’t have to be afraid to answer your phone any more.  This is where some people like to play a little game, which is trying to see how many violations the Collection Agency can do.  If they call you after they have received the cease and desist letter, then that’s a violation, with a fine of up to $1,000 for each one.  Keep track of all those calls, and when it comes time to play hard-ball, you’ll be ready with a few aces up your sleeve.

Along with your Cease and Desist letter, you’re also going to want to send a Debt Validation letter.  What this will do is force the Collection Agency to prove that they are allowed to collect on the debt.  Many times, you’re being called and hounded by somebody who has purchased the debt from another source, who has already written it off.  In that case, you don’t legally owe them anything unless they can prove that you do.  99.9% of the time, you’ll find that they don’t have any paperwork to back it up, and they’re just hoping for an easy payday.  In those instances, paying the debt will do nothing to help you, and can even cause your credit score to decrease.  If they can’t verify the debt, then you don’t owe them a dime.

The Collection Agencies count on people not knowing their rights, which is why they get away with the things they do.  Now you can be one of the informed, and you can fight to protect those rights.

Recap: Request all communication be done through the mail.  Send a limited Cease and Desist letter, along with a Debt Validation.  This will require them to only contact you through the mail, and to also prove that you actually owe them something.  You are not legally obligated to pay a debt that you don’t owe.  Once you do that, then sit back and relax because there’s a great chance that they will never call you again.  If they do send the validation of the debt, then yes, you owe the money and you can go about trying to pay it (if you can or want to).  If the company continues calling after receiving the letters, then that is a violation of your rights, and you want to record every single violation.  It could be worth a lot of money if you decide that you need to take them to court to get them to leave you alone.

Finally, one last thing that I want to say…
NEVER give out the following information to a collector that calls:

I’m sure I’ll come up with more, but that’s all I have for right now.  If you can think of anything else to say, please leave a comment.

Thanks!

Credit Repair Service Precautions

Here’s a little helpful info from our friends at the ftc regarding signing up for a Credit Repair Service:

The Credit Repair Organizations Act

By law, credit repair organizations must give you a copy of the “Consumer Credit File Rights Under State and Federal Law” before you sign a contract. They also must give you a written contract that spells out your rights and obligations. Read these documents before you sign anything. The law contains specific protections for you. For example, a credit repair company cannot:

  • make false claims about their services
  • charge you until they have completed the promised services
  • perform any services until they have your signature on a written contract and have completed a three-day waiting period. During this time, you can cancel the contract without paying any fees

Your contract must specify:

  • the payment terms for services, including their total cost
  • a detailed description of the services to be performed
  • how long it will take to achieve the results
  • any guarantees they offer
  • the company’s name and business address

Have You Been Victimized?

Many states have laws regulating credit repair companies. State law enforcement officials may be helpful if you’ve lost money to credit repair scams.

If you’ve had a problem with a credit repair company, don’t be embarrassed to report it. While you may fear that contacting the government will only make your problems worse, remember that laws are in place to protect you. Contact your local consumer affairs office or your state Attorney General (AGs). Many AGs have toll-free consumer hotlines. Check the Blue Pages of your telephone directory for the phone number or check www.naag.org for a list of state Attorneys General.

As you’ll see, some of these companies are legit, and several are outright scams.  There is absolutely nothing that they do, however, that you can’t do on your own.  I highly recommend avoiding them like the plague, taking time to learn the rules of the game, and then start playing it yourself.  It really isn’t tough, it just takes time to gain the knowledge you need.

Can’t Access Your Free Credit Report At AnnualCreditReport.com?

If you’re having trouble pulling your free credit reports up online at AnnualCreditReport.com, the FTC has provided some additional methods to access them.

Each of the nationwide consumer reporting companies — Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion — is required to provide you with a free copy of your credit report, at your request, once every 12 months.
The three companies have set up a central website, a toll-free telephone number, and a mailing address through which you can order your free annual report. To order, click on annualcreditreport.com, call 1-877-322-8228, or complete the Annual Credit Report Request Form and mail it to: Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281. You can print the form from ftc.gov/credit. Do not contact the three nationwide consumer reporting companies individually. They are providing free annual credit reports only through annualcreditreport.com, 1-877-322-8228, and Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281. You may order your reports from each of the three nationwide consumer reporting companies at the same time, or you can order your report from each of the companies one at a time. For more information, see Your Access to Free Credit Reports at ftc.gov/credit.
Otherwise, a consumer reporting company may charge you up to $9.50 for another copy of your report within a 12-month period.

Hope this helps you get on your road to that stellar credit score!

Is That Free Credit Report Really Free?

If you believe everything that you see on tv, you would happily like to believe that you can get a copy of your free credit report just by going to freecreditreport.com and then entering in all of your information, along with your credit card number.  You get logged in, check your credit report and possibly your credit scores, pat yourself on the back for finally taking action and checking your report, and then proceed to forget about it.  You got your free credit report, right?  Well, imagine your surprise when that monthly bill hits your credit card and you get charged around $20 for access to your credit monitoring service that you inadvertantly signed up for when you requested your “Free” Credit Report a month ago.

This kind of thing is what causes so much confusion among people.  Companies will sell you on the fact that you can access your credit reports for free, but they don’t make it obvious that you are really signing up for another service that has monthly costs tied to it.  There is a way to access a current snapshot of your credit reports, however.

AnnualCreditReport.com is the website that you need to go to in order to view a copy of your credit report from the three major credit bureaus.  There’s a fourth credit bureau, Innovis, that isn’t included in this yet for some reason.  Access their website to find out how to request your Free Credit Report directly from them.  When you go to the Annual Credit Report website, you’ll be presented with a few forms to fill out.  Just continue through them and you will be able to view your credit reports online, completely free.  Make sure you have some way to save them to a PDF or print them out (takes a LOT of paper), so you can refer back to them later.  After you access your free credit reports through that site, you are then able to go about correcting any errors that you find on your report.  It’s very important that you thoroughly read your credit report and find everything that is wrong with it.  A simple error on your report can be costing thousands in interest fees, so you want to make sure that everything is being reported properly.  You also need to check and make sure you personal information is all accurate and up to date.  Many times you’ll have some weird names showing up, unknown addresses, and even extra social security numbers.  Get all of that fixed now and save yourself from Identity mistakes later.  I’m going to talk more about disputing the errors later, so take a stab at it now if you can.  If you have trouble, then check back regularly (or sign up at the upper right and I’ll email you when that post is ready).

So, for those of you who are interested in accessing your free credit report, but don’t want the monthly fees that are associated with those services, then go to the real source.  It’s completely free there, with no catch.  Try it out and come back when you’re ready for the next step.