If you've ever had any money problems, then you're probably aware that they can affect your credit report. And you've probably seen the ads claiming to fix your credit problems quickly & easily.
If so, I've got two words of advice - BE CAREFUL!
For every legitimate company out there, there are several that are just out to get your money. And don't really care if they fix your credit properly or not.
Bad credit can be costly, embarrassing, and a pain in the neck.
Costly: With bad credit, you'll have a lower credit score, and therefore pay higher interest rates on credit cards and loans - if you can get them.
Embarrassing: If you've ever waited in line in a store and applied for credit to get a special deal, and been declined, you know how embarrassing that can be.
Pain in the neck: Credit problems don't go away on their, at least not quickly. It can take 7 years or more for the bad stuff to come off your credit report.
So if you've got credit problems, what can you do? And if you need help, how do keep from getting ripped off by a dishonest credit repair company?
Here are 7 tips to protect yourself from credit repair scams:
1) Know what credit repair IS & what it is NOT.
What credit repair IS:
- Removing inaccuracies from your credit report
- Removing damaging items from your credit report (yes, even accurate information can be removed, if you do it correctly, despite what many people will tell you)
- A way to fix past credit problems - not a way to keep you from making the same mistakes in the future! But hopefully you'll learn a few lessons that will help you stay on the right path
- A process that removes items one by one, not in one big step
What credit repair is NOT:
- Tricks or bribes or secret info available only to "special" people
- Anything illegal or immoral (don't let anyone tell you it is immoral to fix your credit report, it is not
- hey, the creditors and banks are far worse in the way they gouge their customers)
- Only done by lawyers or professionals (anyone can do it, trust me)
- Something that requires detailed knowledge of credit laws or financing
2) Consider doing it yourself.
It really is not that hard. But you need to know how to do it right or you could make matters worse. And be prepared for rejection, and sending letters over and over to the same places. That's where a good, inexpensive credit repair manual can help you out. You'll learn the little "tips and tricks" it takes to get rid of bad credit. Sure, you could learn on your own. But for under $50 you can save yourself a lot of time and trouble.
3) Keep in mind it doesn't happen overnight.
Even in the best cases, credit repair takes time. I did my own and it took me about 18 months to get my credit back to normal (of course, keep in mind it took a lot longer to damage it in the first place). There is no "magic potion" for fixing credit. It takes time. And effort. And knowledge. But it can be done, with a little bit of all of those qualities. The faster someone promises to fix your credit, the more you should be skeptical.
4) Check the company's references and BBB report.
If you're hiring a company to help you, ask for references. Go online and check out their Better Business Bureau (BBB) report, and see how many complaints have been filed. Or worse, if they have no BBB report. You can never be too careful. The people you will talk with will be trained salespeople, who's only job is to get you to sign up and pay. So take your time, and "do your homework" before you sign up.
5) Get everything in writing and read it carefully.
This is true when hiring anyone. But especially with any kind of debt reduction or credit repair. Make sure to get the agreement BEFORE you agree to sign up and READ it carefully. Even if it's written in fancy legal language that is hard to read. This is your contact, which will protect you if anything goes wrong.
6) Don't let anyone tell you that you need a "new" credit file.
This can only lead to trouble. No matter how bad your credit, DON'T fall for this scam. They'll either try to get you a second social security number (which is illegal), steal your current social security number (which of course is also illegal) or do something else that will cause you a lifetime of headaches!
7) Read the Credit Repair Organizations Act
To learn what these repair companies can and can't do. Just so you know, it's also written in fancy legal language so it may be hard to understand. But being an educated consumer is always a good thing
Of course there are many legitimate credit repair companies and manuals out there that can be a big help to someone in need of credit repair help. The key is to do your homework so you find one of the good ones and avoid the scams!
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