Financial Experts and the three major credit reporting agencies discourage the use of credit repair services, while consumers have disclosed that some companies may indeed be helpful.
This article is free of personal opinion and bias, and is based solely on accredited financial and media reports. No financial advice is offered herein on the part of the author, save for the encouragement to speak to a tax or legal representative if you have any questions. All listed theories and facts within this article, as it regards one’s personal economy, are fully-attributed to several financial entities and media outlets, including Credit Sesame, Credit Karma, Experian, Equifax, TransUnion, National Consumer Law Center, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, ConsumerVoice.org, and CNN News.
We should begin prudently, with the understanding that consumers can repair their own credit without the aid of any company. If one elects to work with no-cost informational groups, Credit Sesame is a free service that also provides up-to-date personal credit reports upon request. They are not a credit repair company. Credit Sesame provides online information, in a step-by-step format, as to how to fix one’s own credit. See here for further information, and also here for Credit Karma, a company with a similar mission.
However, companies that market themselves as fixing credit for a fee are many. The word “guarantee” is rarely used by them due to legal purposes, but most promise fast and easy results that they claim would otherwise take far too much time for the average consumer to undertake with any degree of success. See this PDF from the National Consumer Law Center, entitled “The Truth About Credit Reports and Credit Repair Companies” for a comprehensive view of the matter, which emphasizes how one can repair their own credit and also clarifies myths and realities of credit repair claims:
► Myth: “Credit repair companies can erase bad credit.”
► Fact: The truth is that no one can erase bad credit information from your report, if it is accurate.
► Myth: “Only a credit repair company can remove old or inaccurate information.”
► Fact: The truth is that if there are legitimate errors on your report or old information, you can correct the report yourself for free. “Legitimate error” means that the information is inaccurate, not just that it is information you don’t like. “Old information” means credit information older than 7 years, or bankruptcy information older than 10 years.
► Myth: “The bad information on your report is accurate, but a credit repair company can erase it anyway.”
► Fact: The truth is that if this means lying to the credit reporting agency, it is illegal.
The gist is, once again, consumer repair companies can work but a service is being paid for an end result that one can achieve on their own.
Let’s explore further.
Credit Repair: Myth vs. Reality
Most financial experts quoted online appear to agree that paying a firm comes with risks, which range from no results to disappointing results. The federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, via their official U.S. government website, prints the following question and response:
- “How can I tell a credit repair scam from a reputable credit counselor?”
- There are counselors who can help you with your credit report, and others who take your money but don’t help you. Warning signs for credit repair scams include companies that ask you to pay before providing services. The company may claim that 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.
All of this said, can paid credit repair companies under any circumstances be considered safe and effective?
They can work but they cannot do anything you cannot do yourself.
In the interest of balance for this piece, ConsumerVoice.org lists the “Best Credit Repair Services (Updated February 2022).” That list for such paid services largely discouraged by financial professionals but oft-acclaimed by consumers can be found here, and contains links to websites and (alleged) consumer reviews.
Yelp searches and other consumer ratings services display reports both pro and con on many of the most visible credit repair companies.
Regardless, on repeat, please speak to your legal or tax representatives for advice on these matters.
Jennifer Yellen of CNN News recently reviewed the well-publicized Experian Boost, a repair tool offered by one of the three major credit reporting agencies, the others being Equifax and TransUnion. See here for Yellen’s report, which concludes there is no notable disadvantage to using the tool but also discloses no one on the CNN staff who tried it raised their FICO scores due to paying their bills on time.
Finally, Kathryn Vasel of CNN contributed “Do These 5 Things If You Want to Improve Your Credit Score.” Those five items include finding out about one’s credit history, catching up on missed payments, lowering credit usage, not closing old cards, and establishing new credit.
Again, these are all actions a consumer can undertake on their own.
I hope this article has helped. Thank you for reading.
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