Q: I see ads for credit repair on television, hear them on radio, and they pop up on the Internet. The ads often claim quick methods to improve my credit and erase bad credit. How do I know if these claims are true?
A: You can save yourself some money. Don’t be taken in by these claims. Only the passage of time, your conscientious efforts and an effective debt repayment plan will help you improve your credit.
Q: What are the warning signs that a credit repair offer could be a scam?
A: According the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), you should be very wary of companies that want you to pay hundreds of dollars for so-called credit repair before they provide any service; companies that suggest that you try to create a new “credit identity” and then a new credit report; and companies advising you to dispute all the information in your credit report.
Q: What steps should I take if I legitimately want to improve my credit standing?
A: First, get your annual free credit report from each of the three credit bureaus (Experian, TransUnion and Equifax). This can be done once during a 12-month period for each. The easiest way is to go to www.annualcreditreport.com and follow the directions. Review your report and then follow directions to correct any errors. Remember, time and good payment habits do “heal” credit wounds.
Q: What legal protections do I have with credit repair companies?
A: The federal Credit Repair Organizations Act (and its Ohio counterpart, found in Ohio Revised Code Chapter 4712), offers protection against credit repair scams. This Act regulates organizations that offer credit repair services. For further information, go to ftc.gov/credit. By federal law, so-called credit repair firms must provide you with a copy of “Consumer Credit File Rights Under State and Federal Law” before you sign any contract.
Law You Can Use is a weekly consumer legal information column provided by the Ohio State Bar Association. This article was prepared by Jay Seaton of Apprisen (formerly Consumer Credit Counseling Service) and Terry D. Zimmerman, a partner in the Akron firm of Kaffen & Zimmerman.