In years past, the credit repair industry was tainted by fly by night credit repair clinics and other credit fixing scams. Despite the need that many people had to get help with repairing their credit, it was hard to find a credit repair company they could trust.
Today, the credit repair industry has matured thanks to increased awareness and federal regulation. The keystone of this regulation is the Credit Repair Organizations Act, also known as CROA. Recognizing the value of professional credit repair services, Congress enacted CROA in order to define appropriate actions of a credit repair organization and to outlaw many of the practices typical of a fraudulent credit repair clinic.
While there are still some fraudulent credit repair organizations trying to take your money, by understanding the basic ideas of CROA, you can easily identify these scams and make sure you avoid them. Knowing what things credit repair companies are and are not able to do, will keep you from becoming a victim.
Below are three key points of CROA and what they mean to you as you are shopping for a credit repair company.
1) Credit repair organizations cannot charge fees for services before they are rendered
Most credit repair scams start off the same way. You are required to pay a large upfront fee, often times in the range of hundreds or even thousands of dollars. Then, after you have made the payment, the credit repair company does little or nothing to repair your credit and in some cases, simply disappears with your money.
To keep you from becoming a victim of this type of scam, CROA prevents credit repair companies from charging for services before they have been provided. If a credit repair company charges a set up fee, they cannot collect that fee until after the task of setting up your case has been completed. If a credit repair company charges monthly fees, those fees cannot be collected until after a month’s worth of services have been provided.
Keeping this requirement in mind is probably the most important thing you can do to avoid becoming a victim of a credit repair scam. Even today there are companies like Champion Credit Consulting and Credit Clean who will try to charge you $795 and $1223 before they have done anything to repair your credit.
2) Credit repair organizations cannot make incorrect or misleading statements
Preying on the naivety and lack of knowledge of people looking to improve their credit, many credit repair companies entice people with claims of improving their credit score 100 points in 60 days or removing bankruptcies from their credit reports. The truth is that while it is possible for each of these things to happen, no credit repair company can promise that they will.
In fact, no credit repair company can promise to remove anything from your credit reports because ultimately, it is up to the credit bureaus what items are listed on your reports. Disputing credit is not failsafe. There are cases where no matter what you do, a particular negative item will not be removed from your credit reports.
Any company that promises to increase your credit score or remove any negative items from your credit reports is violating the law. According to CROA, and the nature of the credit system, the best any credit repair company can do is promise to put forth a best effort. Just like in a court of law, a lawyer can promise to work as hard as they can, but they cannot promise that you will win over the jury.
3) Credit repair companies must inform you of your rights
The credit system is not easy and many people do not adequately understand their rights within the system. This lack of education makes it easy for con-artists to prey on the unaware.
So you do not get caught off-guard, credit repair organizations are required to inform all prospective customers of their right to order their own credit reports and their right to dispute the questionable information they contain. They are also required to inform you of your right to cancel your credit repair service within 3 days of signing up for no reason and with no penalty.
When signing up with a credit repair organization, CROA dictates that you should be presented with a disclosure statement titled “Consumer Credit File Rights Under State and Federal Law”. This statement describes the rights mentioned above.
CROA has changed the landscape in the credit repair industry and has been very effective in helping the FTC identify and prosecute shady credit repair organizations. Because of CROA, you can feel confident that your money will be well spent when you enlist the services of a legally compliant credit repair company.
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