Do-it-Yourself-Repair is a booming business for houses. Just go in a Home Depot or a Lowe’s on a Saturday morning and find out.
But most people never even think about another thing that might be broken, even though it could cost them a lot more than a leaky faucet. It’s their credit report. One in four Americans have one that is broken by a mistake.
Fortunately, you don’t have to hire a plumber or mechanic to handle the repair job.
You can do it yourself. In fact, you might want to do it yourself considering the scammers out there.
Some companies advertise that they can remove harmful information, wipe out your debt and give you a “new credit identity.” It sounds as if they are KFC with 11 secret credit-repair herbs and spices, and for a monthly fee (typically $49.99 to $99.99), they will share it with you!
Many credit-repair companies are legitimate. But look out for these warning signs:
Only incorrect information can be removed from your credit report. If you’ve really had late payments, foreclosures or filed for bankruptcy, no secret sauce will erase those. And the fact is there is nothing a credit-repair company can do for you that you can’t do for yourself.
The problem is most potential victims don’t do anything. A Federal Trade Commission study found that 25 percent of people had at least one error that could negatively impact their credit score. That’s roughly 42 million Americans, yet only 8 million credit-report disputes are filed annually.
“These are eye-opening numbers for American consumers,” Howard Shelanski, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Economics, said in a statement. “The results of this first-of-its-kind study [making] it clear that consumers should check their credit reports regularly. If they don’t, they are potentially putting their pocketbooks at risk.”
How much at risk?
A bad credit score could cost you a job if a prospective employer sees it as a red flag, though employers need your permission to view your credit report.
Banks do not need permission. A poor score can cause them to reject your loan application or stick you with interest rates that will eat a hole in your budget.
For instance, a $300,000, 30-year mortgage with a 3.5% interest rate because of a great credit score translates to a monthly payment of $1,347.13. A 6% rate because of a mediocre or poor credit score, would be $1,798.65.
That’s a difference of $162,547.20 is interest payments. So it’s definitely worth your while to find out if your credit score needs a trip to the repair shop.
Start by getting a copy of your credit report from each of the nationwide credit reporting companies. Equifax, Experian and TransUnion are required to provide you with a free report once every 12 months. You can order them at annualcreditreport.com.
Thoroughly review the report for any inaccuracies. A misspelled name or wrong address should be corrected, though that won’t change your score. Incorrect payment information is the killer.
If you see errors, contact the bureaus. Here is the contact information:
TransUnion. Dispute electronically at dispute.transunion.com or mail to TrasnUnion, LLC Consumer Dispute Center, PO Box 2000, Chester, PA 19022.
Equifax. Dispute electronically at https://www.ai.equifax.com/CreditInvestigation/home.action, or mail to Equifax Information Services, LLC, PO Box 740256, Atlanta, GA 30374.
Experian. Dispute online at http://www.experian.com/disputes/main.html or mail to Experian’s National Consumer Assistance Center, PO Box 2002, Allen, TX 75013.
You should also contact the creditor or other institution that provided the incorrect information to the bureau. You can find a sample dispute letter at http://www.myfico.com/crediteducation/rights/sample-credit-report-dispute-letter-of-explanation.aspx.
Credit bureaus are required to investigate a dispute within 30 days. If they reject your complaint, you can file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau at http://www.consumerfinance.gov/complaint/. The CFPB only disputes claims you’ve made with the credit reporting agencies, not individual creditors that provided the wrong information.
If the credit agency rules in your favor, it might not appear on your credit score for 30 to 90 days, depending on billing cycles. That can be a problem if you’re trying to close a home or auto loan.
The solution is “rapid rescore,” a practice used by mortgage lenders and brokers. They pull your credit reports and report errors to the credit bureaus. It usually takes three to seven days for the correct information to be reflected on your credit score.
Rapid rescoring is only available through a mortgage broker or lender. A credit-repair company can’t order one.
If you don’t want to deal with credit bureaus, a legitimate repair company is still a viable option. Just remember that like a leaky faucet, that mistake on your credit report isn’t going to fix itself.
So whether you hire someone to do it for you or plan to do it yourself, just do it or you might take a real bath.
(NA), (2015, Jan. 21). FTC Issues Follow-Up Study on Credit Report Accuracy. Retrieved from https://www.ftc.gov/news-events/press-releases/2015/01/ftc-issues-follow-study-credit-report-accuracy
(NA), (ND)). Credit Repair: How to Help Yourself. Retrieved from https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0058-credit-repair-how-help-yourself
(Dratch, D). How ‘rapid rescore’ affects your credit. Retrived from http://www.bankrate.com/finance/credit/rapid-rescore-affects-credit-1.aspx
(NA), (ND). Disputing Errors on Credit Reports. Retrieved from https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0151-disputing-errors-credit-reports