A bad credit score can work against you in more ways than one. When you have poor credit, getting approved for new loans or lines of credit may be difficult. If you qualify, you may end up paying a higher interest rate to borrow. A low credit score can also result in having to pay higher security deposits for utility or cellphone services.
In those scenarios you may consider a tactic known as “pay for delete,” in which you pay to have negative information removed from your credit report. While it may sound tempting, it’s not necessarily a quick fix for better credit.
- “Pay for delete” is an agreement with a creditor to pay all or part of an outstanding balance in exchange for that creditor removing derogatory information from your credit report.
- Credit repair is paying a company to contact the credit bureau and point out anything on your report that is incorrect or untrue, then asking for it to be removed.
- You can do your own credit repair, but it can be labor intensive and time consuming.
‛Pay for Delete’ Defined
First, it’s helpful to understand what it means to pay to have bad credit report information removed. According to Paul T. Joseph, attorney, CPA, and founder of Joseph & Joseph Tax and Payroll in Williamston, Mich., “Pay for delete is essentially when you are contacted by your creditor, or you contact them, and you agree to pay a portion or all of the outstanding balance with an agreement that the creditor will contact the credit bureau and remove any derogatory comments or indications of late payment on the account.”
A pay for delete letter should include:
- Your name and address
- The creditor or collection agency’s name and address
- The name and account number you’re referencing
- A written statement saying how much you agree to pay and what you expect in return with regard to the creditor removing negative information
You’re essentially asking the creditor to take back any negative remarks it may have added to your credit file in connection with late or missed payments or a collection account. By paying some or all of the outstanding balance, you’re hoping that the creditor will exercise a show of goodwill and remove negative information from your credit report for that account.
Consumers have the right to sue credit bureaus and creditors with regard to inaccurate information that, once disputed, is not investigated and, if warranted, removed.
Is Pay for Delete Legal?
The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) governs credit reporting laws and guidelines. Anything that a debt collector, creditor, or credit bureau does regarding a credit report will be based on the FCRA, says Joseph P. McClelland, a consumer credit attorney based in Decatur, Ga.
Credit bureaus are required to produce accurate credit reports, and consumers have the right to sue creditors and the credit bureaus in certain instances. Specifically, that includes inaccurate information that continues to be reported after a consumer initiates a dispute that the credit bureau fails to investigate.
Technically, pay for delete isn’t expressly prohibited by the FCRA, but it shouldn’t be viewed as a blanket get-out-of-bad-credit-jail-free card. “The only items you can force off of your credit report are those that are inaccurate and incomplete,” says McClelland. “Anything else will be at the discretion of the creditor or collector.”
Removing Collection Accounts From a Credit Report
Whether your attempts to pay for delete are successful can depend on whether you’re dealing with the original creditor or a debt collection agency. “As to the debt collector, you can ask them to pay for delete,” says McClelland. “This is completely legal under the FCRA. If going this route, you will need to get that in writing, so you can enforce it after the fact.”
What you have to keep in mind, however, is that paying for delete with a debt collector may not remove negative information on your credit history reported by the original creditor. The creditor may claim that its contract with the debt collection agency prevents it from changing any information it reported to the credit bureaus for the account. That said, some debt collection agencies take the initiative and request that negative account information be deleted for customers who have successfully paid their collection accounts in full.
Removing Bad Credit History With Credit Repair
Hiring a credit repair firm is another option for paying to delete bad credit information. “Credit repair agencies essentially do the work for you by contacting the credit reporting agencies and providing objections to errors contained in the report or requesting that items that are untrue or incorrect be removed from the report,” says McClelland. In this instance you’re not necessarily paying off any outstanding balances. However, you will pay a fee to the credit repair firm to act on your behalf in having negative information removed.
$30 to $100
The typical monthly fee for a credit repair company
The fees a credit repair company charges can vary. Typically, there are two types of fees: an initial setup fee and a monthly service fee. The initial fee can range from $10 to $100, while the monthly fee typically runs between $30 and $100 a month, although some companies do charge more.
When considering the fees, it’s important to weigh what you’re getting in return. According to the Federal Trade Commission, credit repair firms can’t legally do anything for you that you can’t do for yourself. You just have to be willing to spend the time reviewing your credit reports for negative or inaccurate information, reaching out to the credit bureaus to dispute that information, and following up on those disputes to make sure they’re being investigated.
If you decide that the time-saving aspect of working with a credit repair firm is worth your money, research any firms you’re considering thoroughly to make sure you’ll be working with one of the best credit repair companies available. Joseph says most credit repair agencies are legitimate, but if you come across one that’s making promises that seem too good to be true or using methods to repair credit that aren’t covered by the FCRA, that’s a red flag that the company might be a scam.
Also consider the timing before pursuing credit repair services. “After several years of being on your report, the negative impact on your credit score has likely passed,” says McClelland. That’s because, eventually, negative information can fall off your credit report automatically. Late payments and collection accounts can stay on your credit history for up to seven years. A chapter 7 bankruptcy filing can stay on your credit report for up to 10 years.
Paying your bills on time has the single biggest impact on your credit score.
Repairing Bad Credit Yourself
If you’d rather not pay for delete or pay a credit repair firm, there are a few steps you can take to begin getting your credit back on track.
- Review your credit reports for negative information that’s inaccurate. Initiate a dispute of inaccuracies or errors online with the credit bureau reporting the information.
- Consider having someone you know with a strong credit history add you to one of their credit cards as an authorized user. This can transplant that person’s positive account history to your credit report.
- Research credit builder loans and secured credit cards as additional credit-building options.
- Get in the habit of paying your bills on time monthly. Payment history has the most significant impact on credit scores.
- Weigh the pros and cons of debt settlement to resolve collection accounts or charge-offs.
The Bottom Line
Bad credit doesn’t have to be a permanent situation. There are things you can do, including pay for delete, to help your credit recovery. Paying to have bad credit removed can be effective, but it’s worth exploring other options if you don’t have money to pay off an outstanding balance or cover the pricey fees a credit repair firm can charge.
7 Ways to Identify a Credit Repair Scam
Unfortunately, there are people out there always trying to take advantage of anyone that they can. Whether it is a spam call, phishing email, or even a guy on the street trying to take your money, these scammers are everywhere. Credit repair scams are predicated on taking advantage of already desperate people. People who need their credit fixed in order to get a car or home loan will often look for anyone that can help. While there are a lot of legitimate places that can help, there are also hacks that will take your hard-earned money and not do a thing to help you out. We want to help you avoid these scams, so here are 7 ways to identify and avoid a credit repair scam.
1. Look at the documents you are given
If you are entering into a contract with a credit repair company and they do not give you a document called “Consumer Credit File Rights Under State and Federal Law,” then they are breaking the law. They may not be scamming you, but they are knowingly withholding the information that you have the legal right to carry out any actions on your own to repair your credit that they are also going to do. That is a red flag.
2. Read through the contract
Check to see if there is anything in the contract that stands out as unusual and feel free to ask them, search the internet, etc. about it. In addition, make sure how much you are paying and what actions they will perform on your behalf are spelled out in great detail in the contract. You want to be sure to have a legally binding document that ensures that you are actually getting what you pay for. In addition, make sure the contract is very specific and includes your name and the name of the company you are working with. Finally, ask to see if there is a clause that allows you at least 3 days to decide to cancel.
3. Request an unsigned copy beforehand
You should not have to sign the contract to review it first, so before you even decide to sign it, make sure that you have a copy that you can read through and keep. Then check for the information we have listed in the point above.
4. Look out for the fees
Credit repair agencies are not allowed to charge you any upfront fees by law. Some companies do because they are not aware of this law, but it is still a red flag that you should pay attention to. This combined with not getting a contract may be a very strong sign that you are about to get scammed. Usually, scammers will try to take your money and run with as little proof as possible, which is why upfront fees can be a sign that there is something amiss.
5. The company promises too much
We all want credit repair strategies to work, but there are just some things that credit repair agencies just cannot fix due to their nature. One of these is legitimate debt where the lender has plenty of evidence that the debt is valid. If a company promises to get you out of legitimate debts, they are either scamming you are doing something shady and illegal to get you results. Either way, if a company promises that you will see any type of results or score change, then it is a good idea to avoid them because you can be almost certain that they are breaking the law one way or another.
6. They ask you to create a new identity
As mentioned in the last point, some companies try to do illegal things in order to get you the result that you want. One of these is trying to claim identity theft and to get you to register for a new SSN or EIN. While these companies may not be scams, the results they get will be predicated on major felonies and should definitely be avoided like the plague. Do not give these companies your business and make sure to report them.
7. They ask you to waive your rights
If you are given a document to waive any of your rights, that is a major red flag. Credit repair does not require you to waive any of your rights. Luckily most of them, such as your rights under the CORA, cannot actually be waived, regardless of anything you sign. Usually, companies that engage in these practices will try to take your money and then pressure you and tell you that you have no recourse in getting your money back and they will never deliver any services.
Can you trust any credit repair companies?
Absolutely! While there are people in this world always trying to take advantage of you, there are also legitimate businesses that care about you as a person and as a customer. These companies will be transparent about their services, fees, and your rights throughout the entire process and will not try to pressure you with any aggressive sales tactics. The best agencies for credit repair will not engage in any of the red flags covered in this article, so if you do not see anything on this list in an agency that you are contracting, you can likely rest easy.
If you are interested in finding legitimate credit repair services, we recommend the Best Credit Repair Companies.
DIY Credit Repair Guide: 7 Quick Steps to Fixing Your Credit Score
Having bad credit can set you up for a multitude of challenges, from loan approval to a renter’s agreement on your apartment. Understanding how your credit score works is the first step in determining how to fix your credit.
Keep your credit card in the wallet for now. We’ve done the research so you can focus on fixing your credit and hitting those financial goals on your dream list.
Getting Started With DIY Credit Repair guide
Dealing with credit bureaus is a necessary evil for most people residing in the United States. For younger persons in their 20s and early 30s, their experience is sometimes lacking, leading to additional difficulties.
Do you have an outstanding credit card balance? Don’t worry; we’ve all been there. A free credit report is usually the first step when you’re new to the process. You’ll want to understand the ins and outs of credit reports, especially if your credit score needs a boost.
What Is a Credit Score?
A Fico score is an important number when it comes to managing your personal finances as an adult.
This digit ranges between 300 and 850. It provides a picture of you, as a consumer, and how you spend your money. If you’ve managed to pay your bills on time and have responsible spending habits, your score will be just fine.
It’s all based upon your history: how much debt you have, repayment scenarios, number of accounts, and more. This is what lenders use to determine if you qualify for a mortgage or car loan. These are just two examples of many where credit counts.
The higher the score, the more likely you are to make timely and appropriate payments, or that’s how they see it, at least.
How Does a Poor Credit Score Affect You?
Is your credit score above 670 or so? This is optimal. Anything below that number is a moderate result (unless you stoop even lower than 580). If you fall into the latter category, that means you have poor credit.
Credit reporting companies can make life more difficult than it needs to be. Sour credit history may affect you in numerous ways, including but not limited to:
- High-risk label: You could be labeled high risk by lenders, which means your chance to qualify for loans will be quite slim.
- Insurance premiums: Poor credit may mean your insurance premiums are higher than they need to be.
- Employment: Some employers might deny you a job based on this, as it could indicate a lack of responsibility in their eyes.
- Interest rates: You may face higher interest rates because of it.
Why Pursue Credit Repair?
Everything listed above makes for good reason to pursue credit repair. Bad credit can put a damper on big financial decisions and keep you in a ditch of debt, which you’re probably trying to get rid of in the first place.
Buying a House With Bad Credit
If your credit history drops below that moderate category of approximately 580, this will affect your ability to buy a house. This doesn’t mean it’ll be impossible, but it could come with a higher interest rate or other stipulations that can actually worsen your original financial situation.
How To Repair Your Credit: Step by Step
The best news is that it’s possible to fix your credit. It takes some know-how, but we’ve got you covered.
1. Determine Where You Stand
It’s a simple process to determine your score. Credit reports are numerous, and you can also snag a free credit report online.
Get a Credit Report for Free
You’ll find plenty of options for a free report when you open your browser. Some websites and credit bureaus offer credit reports from two to three companies, so you can see how they compare.
Know Your Credit Score
Now that you understand what the numbers mean, you’ll have a good idea of your credit picture when your report is complete.
Get a Copy of Your Report
In most cases, the company will email your report to you. It’s important to make a hard copy, though, in case you need to meet with credit counselors or a credit repair company.
2. Know What To Look for on Your Report
Your credit report will contain more than just the number.
What Information Is Displayed on a Credit Report?
Most credit reports feature the following categories.
- Payment history: Do you have late or incomplete payments?
- Credit utilization: The ratio of outstanding credit card balances to your limits.
- Types of credit: This includes open accounts, installments, and revolving.
- Credit inquiries: When an outsider checks your credit report, like an employer.
- Length of credit history: How long you’ve had credit.
3. Check For Errors on Your Report
It happens from time to time and usually in the following scenarios: personal information, reporting mistakes, debts from a former spouse, or older debts beyond seven years.
Repair Your Credit By Disputing Errors
The only way to dispute your errors is by contacting the credit report company.
4. Pay Late or Past Due Accounts to Build Your Credit
Improving your credit by paying late or past due accounts is possible. But this could take up to a few months at least to positively affect your credit score. You can’t rely on this method alone for boosting credit overnight.
5. Increase Your Credit Card Limit to Improve Your Credit Score
Higher credit scores are often due to maximum limits on credit cards, indicating that an individual is responsible enough to handle that specific amount.
If you’re not confident in your ability to handle your finances just yet, avoid this route. You could end up in a worse place, and that added stress isn’t worth it.
6. Pay New Credit Accounts First to Fix Bad Credit
Some professionals recommend that you pay new or high-interest accounts first to fix bad credit. This might help you increase the length of your credit, improving your score over time.
7. Don’t Apply for a New Credit Card
Applying for a new credit card to increase your score isn’t the best idea. It shows desperation on your part, or at the least that you’re in a financial emergency. There are other, more constructive ways to improve your credit.
8. Pay Balances on Time Going Forward
Need an excellent tip for diy credit repair guide? Timely payments are one of the most surefire ways to boost credit. If you’re unable to make this happen, you’ll want to call the companies responsible for the particular payment lines you’re struggling to pay. That way, they can advise you on the best scenario to avoid disrupting your credit even further.
This could include a new repayment plan, for example.
DIY Credit Repair Guide and Tips
Those that are new to the game of credit repair will have questions, and here we cover the most common topics to round out the critical steps you need to take.
DIY Credit Repair Guide versus a Credit Repair Company
Fixing your credit yourself versus contacting a company or counselor is possible with a little know-how. Options include making payments on time, paying off your high-interest installments first, and minimizing lines of credit until you’re in a better place.
Other ways to help improve your credit include:
- Limit hard inquiries: Mortgages, credit cards, or loans qualify as “hard inquiries” or “hard pulls” and indicate financial trouble. Keep these at a minimum.
- Use auto-payments: You won’t have to worry about missing payments. This system can help you improve your spending habits, too.
- Keep old accounts open: These boost your credit as it shows a long history on your report.
- Stay on top of your credit report: Most bureaus recommend running a credit report once per year. Keep your files and note your progress.
What Is the Credit Repair Organizations Act?
The CROA, or Credit Repair Organizations Act, protects you from companies trying to misguide you into a poor financial decision.
It prohibits businesses from using misleading or untrue representations of a credit agreement. The act also requires clear disclosures from credit repair businesses, so you’re not taken advantage of there, either.
When Do Debt Collection Agencies Get Involved?
Typically, diy credit repair guide recommends anywhere between three and six months of nonpayments for a debt collection agency to get involved. This depends on the stipulations laid out by the lenders and creditors, but your account has to be listed as “very delinquent” or something similar first.
How Does “Pay-for-Delete” work?
“Pay for delete” is a practice used by debt collection companies. It’s when your collection amount is erased from your credit report because you made the payment in full.
How Long Does It Take to Repair Credit?
How long it takes to repair credit depends on your financial state and what’s involved. Issues like disputes and errors may take three to six months to get resolved.
Other outstanding credit issues can take years to clear. Seven years is a popular marker for credit reports because this is the length of time required for credit details to be wiped clean from your report.
Recap on DIY credit repair guide
Credit repair is possible. The most important factor is understanding your score and increasing it for a better financial future. Take advantage of free reports and make your timely payments. Auto payments help, as does spending within your means. The best credit repair companies can help you fix your credit score.
Diy credit repair guide Final Thoughts
It’s normal to worry about your Fico score and credit bureaus, given all the facets of life this seemingly minor number can affect. A credit card, in and of itself, isn’t a bad thing, but poor spending habits can make it a beast of a burden.
Repair your credit yourself by making all your payments on time, keeping old accounts open, and checking your score at least once per year. Contact a professional if you have any doubts; that’s why they’re there.
The reviews and statements published here are those of the sponsor and do not necessarily reflect the official policy, position or views of Observer.
Avoid These Credit Repair Mistakes
Credit repair involves removing or correcting inaccurate information from your credit report to provide a fair and complete picture of your finances, taking steps to boost your credit score, and resolving to avoid credit problems in the future. You can do this yourself or hire a company that specializes in credit repair to do it for you. Either path can present opportunities for error. Be sure you know your rights and avoid the 16 mistakes listed below.
- Know your rights under applicable credit laws.
- Obtain and read your credit reports once a year and look for errors.
- Only dispute information that you believe is wrong.
- Keep records of everything and get everything in writing.
- Avoid disreputable credit repair companies.
Know Your Rights
Several laws protect consumers when it comes to credit. These include the Credit Repair Organizations Act (CROA); the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA); the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act (FACTA) of 2003; and the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act (FDCPA) of 2010. Among other things, these laws stipulate that:
- You must have free access to your credit reports once a year.
- You may dispute errors on your credit reports, and credit agencies must correct them if proved.
- You must be informed when your credit report has been used to, for example, deny you a loan.
- You must give permission for your credit information to be provided to someone else.
- The amount of time negative information remains on your reports is regulated.
- Creditors must follow rules when it comes to contacting you about debt, including staying within certain hours and not making threats or informing family members about your debt.
- Credit repair agencies cannot lie to your creditors or encourage you to lie, alter your identity, or misrepresent their services. They also must provide you with a contract and a three-day cooling off period. If a firm doesn’t adhere to any of these standards, then there’s a chance you’re dealing with a scammer, instead of one of the best credit repair companies.
Knowing your rights is only part of the picture. You must also avoid making mistakes along the way. Here is what to watch for.
Mistake #1: Failing to Check Credit Reports
Step one in repairing your credit involves knowing what your credit reports say. If you have never requested your reports, or it has been at least 12 months since you last looked them over, you can check your reports by going to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Free Credit Reports page and following directions. Other websites sell access to credit reports and a few even offer select reports for free, but the FTC gateway ensures you get the reports guaranteed by the FCRA. Read all three reports carefully, looking for information you believe to be false or inaccurate.
Mistake #2: Procrastinating
Don’t put off credit repair. If you discover negative information on any of your credit reports and believe it to be wrong, you should try to correct the record as soon as possible. Although most negative information comes off after seven years, that’s a long time to live with an inaccurate credit report.
Mistake #3: Avoiding Credit Education
Whether you are attempting to remove or correct bad information on your credit reports or simply trying to reduce debt and forge a new financial path forward, the more you know, the better. This includes knowing how to dispute wrong information in your credit report as well as knowing you probably need to pay down high-interest credit card debt before installment loans.
Mistake #4: Not Keeping Documentation
Complete and accurate documentation regarding all debt is essential to disputing wrong information, protecting your rights, and keeping spending within parameters that make sense for you. You should know the penalties for missing a payment as well as the optimum conditions for requesting a credit increase. Be able to show payments were made on time and always be prepared to back up your claims with paperwork.
Approximate number of “credit report” complaints reported to the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau in 2018.
Mistake #5: Disputing Too Much
Obviously, you should only dispute things you honestly believe are inaccurate. Some credit repair companies like to dispute everything in the hope that one or two things “stick.” The problem is that credit bureaus are not likely to take such an approach seriously. Even if they do, you could end up removing positive information that helps your credit score. It’s also important to take your dispute to the right entity. In most cases that will be the credit agency, not the creditor.
Mistake #6: Disputing Online
All three credit agencies provide online dispute systems, but critics say using those systems may rob you of some of your rights under FCRA. The online systems allow credit agencies to avoid doing things—for example, forwarding your information to creditors, providing you with written responses to your disputes, and providing you with the “method of verification” of the item you disputed. Instead, you should file your dispute using paper “hard copies” and certified snail mail, critics say.
Mistake #7: Disputing with Boilerplate Language
Along with not disputing “everything” it’s also wise to individualize the language in your dispute filing to avoid having the credit agency “red flag” your paperwork for being repetitive. Instead, use the template as a guide and make sure the words are your own.
Mistake #8: Sending Uncertified Mail
Any paperwork you send to a credit agency, collection agency, or creditor should be sent certified mail with return receipt requested. This provides you with the documentation mentioned above as well as proof the agency received your letter. The same “proof” rule applies to any communication to you from any of the above entities. Do not verbally agree to anything unless it is also in writing. That way you will know what the agency has agreed to and, more important, will have written proof.
All communication should be in writing; you shouldn’t verbally agree to anything unless it is also in writing.
Mistake #9: Falsifying Documents
Offering false and misleading statements or written communication isn’t just illegal for creditors and credit agencies. If you lie, chances are you will be prosecuted. Documentation you provide as part of a dispute or question about an issue of credit must be accurate. You need not elaborate, but what you say must be true.
Mistake #10: Transferring Credit Card Balances
Transferring a balance from one credit card to another is not a good credit repair tactic. You will still owe the same amount and in most cases the balance transfer fees will outweigh whatever interest advantage you may get. The same applies to consolidating debt onto a single credit card, especially if you close the other cards, thereby losing any available credit they would show.
Mistake #11: Missing Payments
Another credit repair mistake some people make happens when they miss payments on some accounts to make payments—or larger payments—on others. The only exception might be if the account in question has either already been charged off or gone to collections. If choosing between paying a collection account and one that is current, always pay the current account to keep it that way.
Mistake #12: Canceling Credit Card Accounts
Since 35% of your credit score is based on your credit history, it’s seldom a good idea to close a credit account. It may be much better to keep a small balance and pay it off monthly instead of canceling the account or cutting up the card. It will take discipline to keep from going into debt, but your credit score will be higher for the effort.
Mistake #13: Applying for New Credit
If you’re trying to repair your credit, the chances of being approved for additional credit, especially unsecured credit, is not great. You could be wasting a hard inquiry that ends up lowering your credit score right at the time you’re trying to raise it. It’s best to save applying for new credit for later—after your credit has been repaired.
Mistake #14: Paying Debt Collectors
It may sound counterintuitive, but paying a debt collector can cause unforeseen damage. If, for example, you have old debt that has outlived the statute of limitations, making a payment on that debt could update the debt. If you are unsure about the validity or status of the debt, it’s important not to pay until and unless the debt collector proves the debt is legit and current. It’s important to remember that debt collectors are expert at trying to frighten you into paying up. Don’t pay based on anything verbal. Written communication is the only acceptable form of communication.
Mistake #15: Hiring a Shady Credit Repair Company
Some people don’t feel they have the time or expertise to do their own credit repair. For those people, hiring a credit repair company can be beneficial and convenient although the convenience comes at a price. According to Credit Karma, the cost of professional credit repair services could include a flat fee or “per deletion” charge of $35 or more. Total cost could go up to $750 or more. Some companies charge a monthly fee ranging from $50 to $130 or more. Only you can decide if the cost of paying someone else to repair your credit is worth it. It’s worth noting that credit repair companies in general don’t have a great reputation, so review your rights above and as spelled out in the CROA.
Mistake #16: Filing for Bankruptcy
Some people think they need a fresh start and decide to “repair” their credit by filing for bankruptcy. Unfortunately, bankruptcy will not improve your credit rating, it will remain on your credit report for up to 10 years, and even when it’s gone, many lenders will ask if you’ve ever filed for bankruptcy as part of the loan application process and use that as a reason for not approving a loan.
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