How can I tell a credit repair scam from a reputable credit counselor?
Recognizing a credit repair scam
Warning signs for credit repair scams include companies that ask you to pay before providing services. The company may tell you it can guarantee a specific increase in your credit score or get rid of negative credit information in your credit report, even though the information is accurate and current.
If you see ads or receive offers to repair or fix your credit, it could be a warning sign if the company:
- Pressures you to pay up-front fees. The company wants you to pay before it provides any services. A simple rule to follow is “Don’t pay upfront.” If the company uses telemarketing such that the federal Telemarketing Sales Rule applies, the credit repair company may not request or receive fees until it gives you a credit report generated more than six months after the promised results that shows the results. Under the federal Credit Repair Organizations Act, credit repair companies can’t request or receive payment until they’ve completed the services they’ve promised. Some companies will structure monthly payment plans to try to avoid this requirement. You should know that all forms of upfront payment before services are completed are illegal.
- Promises to remove negative information from your credit report. The company tells you it can get rid of the negative credit information, even if that information is accurate and current. No one can do this.
- Requests you dispute accurate information in your credit report. The company advises you to dispute all the information in your credit report, regardless of its accuracy or timeliness.
- Refuses or avoids explaining your rights to you. The company doesn’t tell you your rights and what you can do for yourself for free. Disputing errors in your credit reports is a free legal right available to you under the Fair Credit Reporting Act; you don’t need to pay a credit repair organization to do it for you. Also, if you have just signed up for a credit repair service, you have the right to cancel your contract with any credit repair organization for any reason within three business days at no charge to you.
- Tells you to not contact credit reporting companies. The company recommends that you don’t contact any of the nationwide credit reporting companies directly.
Credit repair companies are subject to numerous federal laws, including the Credit Repair Organizations Act and often the Telemarketing Sales Rule, both of which forbid credit repair organizations from using deceptive practices and from accepting up-front fees. These laws prohibit many deceptive practices by credit repair organizations. You may have a right to sue a credit repair organization using these laws.
How do I find a reputable credit counselor?
Most credit counselors offer services through local offices, online, or on the telephone. You can find a list of approved credit counselors online.
Once you've developed a list of potential counseling agencies, check them out with your State Attorney General’s office, and local consumer protection agency.
Finally, ask the credit counseling agency for free information about their services and what they provide.A reputable credit counseling agency should be willing to send you free information about itself and the services it provides without requiring you to provide any details about your situation. If a service doesn’t do that, consider it a red flag and go elsewhere for help.