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TrustLink Reviews
 

Credit Repair Facts

The Law is on Your Side

Many consumers have the mistaken idea that credit bureaus are federally supported organizations backed by a vast array of laws meant to protect creditors. Nothing could be further from the truth. Aside from the government simply recognizing the need for credit reporting, credit bureaus have absolutely nothing to do with the government. Credit bureaus are simply huge bureaucratic companies which exist for the soul purpose of making money by selling information about you-information they never bothered to verify.

Because of the vast potential for error in the credit reporting system, the United States Congress has enacted laws to protect the consumer from being victimized by the credit bureaus. It is your right and responsibility to make use of these laws.

The Law versus Practical Reality

As the credit bureaus computerized their processes and greatly expanded their reach and influence in the late 1960s and early 1970s, consumer complaints began to mount at the FTC and state attorney general offices. The credit reporting agencies quickly became huge bureaucracies second only in size to the federal government. The credit bureaus expressly served only the needs of their clients, the credit grantors. Many consumers were negatively affected by the credit bureaus, but they had no way to correct or change their credit information.

The American consumer lay completely at the mercy of the credit bureaus. The United States Congress enacted the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) in 1971 to insure that the credit bureaus investigate the credit items disputed by consumers. This federal law set procedural guidelines, which gave the consumer the right to challenge the accuracy, validity, and verifiability of the credit listings appearing in their consumer credit report. It also required that the credit bureau delete any credit listing if it was inaccurate or could not be verified.

In theory, the FCRA charges the credit bureaus with responsibility to the consumer as well as the credit grantor. In reality, the credit bureaus resist, resent, and reject consumer disputes. The credit bureaus would rather be left alone to make a profit. And, each time a consumer challenges his credit, profit is lost.

The credit bureaus first defend their profits by erecting walls of stall tactics, including requests for more information, further clarification, and additional identification. The vast majority of consumers give up before they even receive copies of their credit reports. If a consumer manages to get a credit report, decipher the codified information, write a coherent dispute, and mail it, the bureaus may still find some reason to disregard the challenge. The entire dispute system is designed to frustrate and discourage the consumer.

Many consumers have the idea that the credit bureaus must complete their investigation within thirty days or be forced to remove all disputed information. They threaten to sue the credit bureaus if they don't conclude their investigation in time. In practice, such thinking is delusional. Nobody forces the credit bureaus to do anything. However, if you manage to submit a valid dispute letter, and the credit bureau investigates your dispute, the chances of success are good.

If a credit bureau cannot verify an item before completing its investigation, that item will be removed. Many creditor grantors are simply reluctant to take the time to verify the data. While the credit bureaus are in the business of reporting credit histories, creditor grantors are not.

Can Bad Credit be Deleted?

Yes, it can. Despite the fervent proclamations of bureaucrats and credit bureaus everywhere, a simple fact remains: negative credit listings are deleted from peoples' credit reports by the thousands each and every day.

A few years ago, an attorney visited with a regulatory agency for a casual conversation with two agents. The Agency's office, as a matter of course, believed the credit bureaus' claim that bad credit couldn't be deleted. The visiting attorney asked, "How many negative listings would you have to see deleted from consumer credit reports before you would believe that bad credit can be deleted: ten? fifty? a hundred? one thousand?" The agents responded with only blank stares.

"How about 50,000 deleted listings, would that convince you?" continued the attorney. From his briefcase he pulled a stack of papers six inches high.

"In these pages, we have listed the permanent deletion of over 50,000 listings from our clients' files in the last two years alone," he explained. The agents pulled the stack across the conference table and began to pick through the pages, taking in the massive list.

"But have you deleted any bankruptcies?" shot back one of the agents, "we know that bankruptcies can't be deleted." The attorney leaned across the table and ran his finger down the first page.

"There's one deleted bankruptcy... and, there's another,... and another,... and another. Should I go on?" asked the attorney.

The agents sat back in their chairs. "You know," began the junior agent, "I have this one listing on my credit report that simply must belong to somebody else..."

How is it possible?

The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) allows a consumer to challenge the information on his credit report on the basis of "completeness and accuracy." When a consumer files a dispute, the credit bureaus must contact the source of the credit information (the creditor) and confirm that the information is accurate, verifiable, and not obsolete. In some circumstances, the credit bureau is required to go beyond a simple verification of the creditor's own computer record. If, within 30 days, the credit bureau has not received verification from the creditor, then the credit bureau must promptly delete the credit listing.


Legal Credit Repair Methods

To better understand what legal credit repair is, it would be helpful to understand a few types of illegal credit repair:

Illegal: Changing your social security number to obtain a clean bill of credit.
If any company should suggest this type of credit repair, report them to the authorities.

Illegal: Disputing every item on your credit report, regardless of nature.
The Fair Credit Reporting Act specifically states that only items that are unverifiable, inaccurate or misleading should be disputed. Items that are clearly yours, and reflect your credit history should not be disputed.

Illegal: Charging for services that have not yet been completed.
This is to protect the consumer from fraudulent companies that charge for services that never get completed (charging to "repair your credit", then hitting the road...)


So, what exactly is Legal Credit Repair?

Legal Credit Repair consists of removing the negative items on a credit report. There are a few different methods of going about this, the most common and effective are:

"Goodwill" Negotiation Negotiating directly with creditors and asking them to "please" remove negative items from your credit reports is a viable method of credit repair for mild late-pay accounts. There are no laws that require that negative items stay on your reports for any amount of time, and creditors have the ability to simply remove these items if they see that it could somehow work to their benefit, even if that simply means a pleased customer.

Credit Disputation The Fair Credit Reporting Act gives you the right to contact credit bureaus directly and dispute items on your credit reports. Just as in a court of law, you have the right to plead "not guilty" to negative information on your credit reports, and leave the burden of proof to the credit bureaus. You can dispute any and all items on your credit reports that you feel classify as inaccurate, unverifiable, or misleading. If the bureaus can not verify that the information on your reports is indeed correct, then those items must be deleted.


Does the CCCS help consumers restore credit?

Consumer Credit Counseling Service or CCCS is a nonprofit debt counseling service that assists consumers who are over their heads in debt. CCCS is funded and controlled by the credit grantors and the credit bureaus. Often, CCCS provides a beneficial service to the consumer. Because of the obvious allegiance between CCCS and the credit bureaus, you cannot reasonably expect CCCS to do anything that the credit bureaus would frown upon, such as help you restore your credit. In fact, if you decide to leave CCCS before you have finished their program, they can list your failure to complete the process as a negative listing on your credit report. When you participate in the CCCS program, your creditors will sometimes (though rarely) note it on your credit report. The fact that you resorted to a debt counseling program is a huge red flag for prospective credit grantors. Remember, paying off your debts is a step in the right direction, but it does not restore your credit.


Can credit repair companies be trusted?

Many "credit repair" companies claim to remove negative credit with the flick of a wrist. Their advertisements make bold assertions and money-back guarantees: "Bankruptcy, tax liens, judgments... no problem!! One hundred percent guaranteed!! Credit report 100% cleared in 30 days!!" Can they really make such sweeping guarantees?

While some credit repair companies are outright frauds, others are not fraudulent and they use the dispute process to obtain impressive results. In fact, they delete thousands of negative credit listings every day.

Unfortunately, it is risky to trust anyone to help you restore your credit. It is estimated that fraudulent credit repair companies have bilked Americans out of more than fifty million dollars. The majority of credit repair companies were started by entrepreneurs with a penchant for marketing. Consumers have flocked to these "credit doctors" only to discover that their advertisements proved far more impressive than their results. Hiring a credit repair company is like playing Russian roulette. Many of them are effective and legitimate, but it is difficult to tell a rip-off from the real article.


So, can credit repair companies guarantee results?

Not a chance! No credit repair company is so good that it can guarantee a specific outcome. It would be like a defense lawyer guaranteeing that the jury will find his client innocent. Guarantees are a sure sign of credit repair fraud. A warranty, where the credit repair company promises a refund if certain results don't occur, is a better, more realistic claim.

Not surprisingly, the credit bureaus have declared war against the credit repair companies and those selling instruction on how to do-it-yourself. The bureaus lambaste credit repair companies in the media and send anti-credit repair literature to anyone whom they suspect of using credit repair services. The bureaus unflinchingly deny that accurate information can be removed from a credit report.

The simple truth is that you do not have to endure bad credit for seven to ten years as long as you feel comfortable challenging the accuracy or verifiability of your credit listings. If so, it is possible to restore creditworthiness within a much shorter time.

However you decide to address your credit challenges, realize that regardless of what you may hear in the news media, thousands before you have sought help and restored their credit. They can show you their homes, cars, and credit cards. Despite the newspaper articles, TV reports, and other credit bureau propaganda to the contrary, the simple truth remains: you can restore your credit.

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