If you’re struggling with bad credit, chances are you have heard a lot of empty promises:
“Credit problems? No problem!”
“We’ll fix your credit, guaranteed!”
“Create your new credit identity—legal and free!”
The truth is, these are almost always false claims and the only guarantee you’ll find is that you’re being scammed. Credit repair operations making these claims continually make things worse. So what’s the bottom line? There is no quick fix when it comes to handling bad credit, but there are ways of handling bad credit that will help or hinder your efforts to solve the problem.
So where do you start? The best thing you can do is to arm yourself with knowledge. If you are in a vulnerable spot financially or owe an unsettling amount of money to a creditor or collector, it’s easy to jump at the first opportunity to absolve yourself of the pain bad credit causes. At Michigan Consumer Credit Lawyers, we want to help you avoid poor credit to begin with.
That is why we are providing you with this list of five things you need to know about dealing with credit related issues. Take control of your credit now.
Get the Facts
Each of the nationwide credit reporting companies — Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion — is required to provide you with a free copy of your credit report once a year, but you have to ask for it. You can order reports from each of the three credit reporting companies at the same time, or you can stagger your requests throughout the year.
It does not cost anything to dispute mistakes or outdated items on your credit report. Both the credit reporting company and the information provider (this can include a person, company, or organization that provides information about you to a credit reporting company) are responsible for correcting inaccurate or incomplete information in your report. Take advantage of all your rights and contact both the credit reporting company and the information provider.
The item(s) in question must be investigated by credit reporting companies within 30 days. They must forward all relevant data you provide about any inaccurate information to the organization that provided the faulty data. After the information provider gets notice of a dispute from the credit reporting company, it must investigate, review any information relevant to your dispute and report the results back to the credit reporting company. If the investigation should prove the disputed information is indeed inaccurate, the information provider is required to notify the nationwide credit reporting companies so they can make the necessary corrections to your file.
Avoid a DIY Disaster
If you have contacted an organization that claimed to be able to reverse your credit, you may run into some tell-tale signs of a scam. For example, if a creditor insists you pay them before they do any work on your behalf, advises you not to contact the credit reporting companies directly, gives you information you feel is incorrect or fails to explain your legal rights to you prior to assisting you—it’s likely you have been scammed. In this situation, Michigan Consumer Credit Lawyers can help.
Remember, there is a difference between a credit counseling agency and a credit repair organization. Counseling agencies work to educate the consumer and in some cases help to negotiate reduced rates owed by the debtor to the creditor. A credit repair company claims to have the ability to repair your credit in a short period of time. These are the operations to avoid as, almost 100% of the time, they’re a scam.
Any company that claims itself to be a credit repair organization must follow certain guidelines in order to be deemed legitimate. As the consumer, you should remember:
- You may dispute inaccurate information in your credit report by contacting the credit bureau directly.
- There is no right to have accurate, current, and verifiable information removed from your credit report unless it is over seven years old. Bankruptcy information can be reported for ten years.
- You have a right to sue a credit repair organization that violates the Credit Repair Organizations Act.
- You have the right to cancel a contract with any credit repair organization for any reason within three business days from the date it was signed.
A written contract is also required and must:
- Specify the terms and conditions of payment, including the total amount of all payments to the credit repair organization or any other person
- Contain a full and detailed description of the services to be performed by the credit repair organization for the consumer, including:
(1) all guarantees of performance; and
(2) an estimate of the time required for the performance of the services
- Contain the credit repair organization’s name and a physical business address.
Time is of the Essence: The Three P’s
The best credit counselors will advise anyone with a tarnished credit score to be patient. It takes years to build good credit—decades even. Those with a credit score that defines them as “high achieving” have accounts that have been open more than 20 years. So remember, don’t close your oldest accounts. These are the biggest players in improving your credit.
If you don’t pay your bills on time, it’s time to make a point of it. This is perhaps the most significant thing you can do to rebuild your credit. In fact, 35% of your credit score is based on this factor alone. In addition, keep any credit card balances below 50% of their maximum rates. These are vital to the sustained health of a good credit score.
Stay on top of where you stand. Check your credit score frequently (three times a year, once from each credit union). Be diligent. Should you receive notice of any changes to your credit, check for its accuracy as soon as possible. Any of your accounts that are past due should be balanced. Seven years after the date of the last declared delinquency, you can have this information removed. The more time that passes with an increase in positive credit activity, the less negative information will affect your credit score.
Don’t get taken advantage of or abused. If a collector contacts you, they are required by law to send you a written validation notice within five days of first contacting you. This should state how much is owed, the name of the creditor seeking payment and a list of steps you need to take should you want to file a dispute.
A debt collector may not contact you at inconvenient times, falsely claim you will be arrested, and threaten to seize or garnish any kind of property you own. Additionally, should a debt collector represent themselves as an attorney or part of the government, this is untrue.
If you believe you may be the victim of debt collector harassment, presently or in the past, seek legal counsel immediately.
Find The Right Attorney
If you have made the decision to seek legal counsel, you need to find the right attorney for your needs. Make sure the attorney in question meets the following guidelines:
Although it’s not essential to find an expert in your particular field, it makes sense to look for someone who specializes in credit law as opposed to maritime law. You would’nt go to a foot doctor for a heart condition; the same goes with choosing the right lawyer.
The attorney you choose should be completely involved with understanding the ins and outs of your dispute. If you feel you are not getting the consideration you deserve, seek more attentive counsel.
A great attorney knows how to translate legal jargon into laymen’s terms. If you, the client, are confused about any legal terms, a thoughtful attorney will make the effort to explain them. If you knew it all, you wouldn’t need a lawyer!
Make sure the attorney you select is someone you can get along with. Handling credit issues takes time and it is important both you and your attorney are on the same page. You don’t need more stress and unpleasant people in your life—dealing with debt collectors is bad enough.
Don’t be afraid to ask for references. Ask what types of clients or cases the attorney has worked with in the past. Get a list of clients or other attorneys you can contact to discuss competence, service and fees. It’s your money—don’t waste it on a disreputable lawyer.
If you think your rights have been violated, call Attorney Gary Nitzkin, toll free at (888) 293-2882. The call is free and the advice is priceless. You can also email him at [email protected].