Despite the massive efforts of the credit reporting agencies to convince you otherwise, there are many credit repair companies that are no different than most other services. Like all industries, less-than-honest companies do exist and are damaging to their clients and to the credit repair industry as a whole.
For example, you may have 20 car mechanics in your hometown. Most likely, 17-18 of these mechanics are honest, hardworking people who want to earn a living and give you the best service possible. The other 2 or 3 mechanics may not be so honest and will take your money while not giving you the quality or quantity of service you pay for… or, they may be out-and-out crooks who take your money and lie to you.
This doesn’t mean that your town is a bad place to get your car fixed; it just means that, like any industry anywhere, there are good companies, mediocre companies, and really bad companies.
As for credit repair- do your homework. Is the company you are selecting a non-profit organization or credit union service organization? Are they claiming that they can delete accurate negative information? Do they provide you with consumer rights information? Do they charge outrageous fees?
Consumers should take these things into consideration when hiring a credit repair company to help them with their credit issues.
To better understand the credit repair business some background on the industry is necessary. Beginning in the mid to late 1970s, many unscrupulous entrepreneurs realized that millions of Americans have damaged credit report ratings and that they could make money by convincing these people they could remove all negative information from their credit files.
Because the industry was completely unregulated, hundreds of credit repair companies sprung up all over the place. Most of them were dishonest and were interested only in stealing money from gullible consumers. As a consequence, thousands of consumers were milked out of millions of dollars while receiving little, if any, of what was promised to them.
Federal and state authorities received numerous complaints about credit repair companies, and as a result, both federal and state governments began passing laws regulating the credit repair industry. In addition, credit repair companies must contract with all clients in writing before work begins and cannot collect any upfront fees unless they exempt from CROA.
Be sure to read ‘Credit Repair Fix‘ for more details regarding laws governing credit repair companies.
Despite such regulation, dishonest credit repair companies still operate. This bit of knowledge is used by dishonest credit repair services to perform credit repair for their clients. Their aim is to either overwhelm the Big Three with reverification requests (letter writing) with the goal of getting as much negative information removed as they possibly can, or hoping that a few requests slip through and result in the removal of negative information.
It is important to note that not all credit repair companies are dishonest. Some companies offer a valuable service to those who find the whole process of credit repair too boring or complex, or just don’t have the time to learn about credit repair. A Credit Repair Service is as legitimate and worthwhile as a tax preparation service — the IRS claims that everyone can do their own taxes, but most people hire someone else to do them.
There are a number of credit repair companies offering to give consumers a “fresh start” with their credit histories. These companies seek to obtain a second Social Security number or federal ID number for their clients. This is commonly referred to as “file segregation”. File segregation is a fraudulent practice and violates many Federal and State Laws.
I strongly oppose the abuse of consumers by companies and individuals which direct you to commit fraud in order to obtain “clean” credit reports. In this scheme, you are promised a chance to hide unfavorable credit information by establishing a new credit identity. That may sound perfect, especially if you’re afraid that you won’t get any credit as long as bankruptcy appears on your credit record. The problem: “File segregation” is illegal. If you use it, you could face fines or even a prison sentence.
If you have filed for bankruptcy, you may receive a letter from a credit repair company that warns you about your inability to get credit cards, personal loans, or any other types of credit for 10 years. For a fee, the company promises to help you hide your bankruptcy and establish a new credit identity to use when you apply for credit. These companies also make pitches in classified ads, on radio and TV, and even over the Internet.
If you pay the fee and sign up for the service, you may be directed to apply for an Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Typically, EINs – which resemble Social Security numbers – are used by businesses to report financial information to the IRS and the Social Security Administration. After you receive your EIN, the credit repair service will tell you to use it in place of your Social Security number when you apply for credit. They’ll also tell you to use a new mailing address and some credit references.
To convince you to establish a new credit identity, the credit repair service is likely to make a variety of false claims. Listen carefully; these false claims, along with the pitch for getting a new credit identity, should alert you to the possibility of fraud. You’ll probably hear:
Claim 1: You will not be able to get credit for 10 years (the period of time bankruptcy information may stay on your credit record).
Each creditor has its own criteria for granting credit. While one may reject your application because of a bankruptcy, another may grant you credit shortly after you filed for bankruptcy. And, given a new reliable payment record, your chances of getting credit will probably increase as time passes.
Claim 2: The company or “file segregation” program is affiliated with the federal government.
The federal government does not support or work with companies that offer such programs.
Claim 3: The “file segregation” program is legal.
It is a federal crime to make any false statements on a loan or credit application. The credit repair company may advise you to do just that. It is a federal crime to misrepresent your Social Security number. It also is a federal crime to obtain an EIN from the IRS under false pretenses.
Further, you could be charged with mail or wire fraud if you use the mail or the telephone to apply for credit and provide false information. Worse yet, file segregation likely would constitute civil fraud under many state laws.
All the information in this post is provided to help clear up those “questionable” items on your credit reports. “Credit repair” is a general term usually used to describe a systematic process of rehabilitating an individual’s creditworthiness, or financial credit reputation.
The process is generally started by obtaining copies of the individual’s credit report, reviewing the credit report for errors, omissions, and misleading information, and requesting corrections to such information by means of a formal dispute letter. Many laws, regulations, and practices govern this process, and many organizations exist that will assist in guiding individuals through this sometimes complex process, though much, if not all, may be accomplished by individuals by their own efforts.
When you identify inaccurate, erroneous, and obsolete entries on your credit reports and bring it to the credit reporting agency’s attention they must do one of two things by law. Correct it or delete it!
If you are in the process of applying for a mortgage, immediately notify your lender of any incorrect information in your report and you may be able to do a rapid re-score.
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About the Author
Marco Carbajo is a business credit expert, author, speaker, and founder of the Business Credit Insiders Circle. He is a business credit blogger for AllBusiness, a subsidiary of Dun and Bradstreet and author of “Eight Steps to Ultimate Business Credit” and “How to Build Business Credit with No Personal Guarantee.” His articles and blogs have also been featured in the SBA Community, American Express Small Business, Business Week, The Washington Post, The San Francisco Tribune, Scotsman Guide, Alltop, Entrepreneur Connect, and Active Rain.