Consumers cannot boost their own credit score by ‘piggybacking’ on someone else’s credit
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has agreed to a settlement with a credit repair company after filing a complaint that accused it of lying to consumers about its ability to improve credit scores and lower mortgage rates.
The operators of BoostMyScore.net (BMS) allegedly told consumers that it could “drastically and immediately” increase credit scores by engaging in a practice called “piggybacking.” The idea behind the concept is that consumers can improve their own scores by listing themselves on another person’s well-maintained credit account. However, the FTC says that isn’t how building credit works.
“Good credit isn’t for sale. This company charged people thousands of dollars based on hollow promises that ‘piggybacking’ on a stranger’s good credit would raise their credit score or help them get a mortgage,” said Andrew Smith, FTC director of the Bureau of Consumer Protection.
The defendants reportedly charged between $325 to $4,000 in illegal fees for its services.
In the FTC’s complaint, the defendants were charged with violating the Credit Repair Organizations Act, the FTC Act, and the Telemarketing Sales Rule.
BMS will pay over $6.6 million under the terms of the settlement, but that amount will be largely suspended after a payment of just under $65,000 due to an inability to pay. The company is also barred from collecting advance fees for credit repair services and selling fake access to third-party credit accounts.
Cases like these are prime examples of the importance of knowing how credit scores work. To learn more, visit ConsumerAffairs’ page here.
Christopher Maynard is a New York-based writer and editor who has worked as a security guard, high school teacher, theatrical lighting designer and volunteer fireman. He is a graduate of Marist College.
HOLLAND, Mich. — Your credit score is just a number, but it can make a difference in your ability to get a loan, house, or even a job ,and after a tough year for finances, now is an important time to pay attention to your score.
“You need to have options, and you need to be able to have access, and all of that boils right back down to your credit score,” says Bree Austin-Roberts, a credit expert and founder of Lakeshore Credit Management and Repair Services in Holland. “I think it was a reality check for a lot of people to saying, ‘Hey, it’s time for me to start thinking about my financial situation.’”
Bree’s story is similar to so many of her clients. A few years ago, before she founded her credit repair business, she and her family were evicted from their apartment. Searching for a house and facing homelessness, Bree noticed a similar roadblock everywhere she looked.
“The credit became a problem,” she said. “It always boiled back down to the credit.”
Bree buckled down on payments and in no time had raised her credit score enough to move her family into a home and start up her business. Now helping others achieve the same success, Bree says a few simple adjustments can make a big difference. Her first call was to the three major credit bureaus to check the accuracy of her score.
“Like 80 percent of people in the United States have something that’s inaccurate on their credit report, but a lot of people don’t know because they don’t monitor their credit.”
If you’re having a tough time making payments this year on bills or installment loans (which Bree says you should always have at least one of), try contacting your creditors to see if they can delay payments or work out some sort of payment plan that works for you.
“Directly related to the pandemic, a lot of lenders are being very lenient,” said Bree.
In addition to making all your monthly credit card payments on time when you can, Bree says it also matters how often you use your credit card, and on what. She says most repair experts will recommend you keep your card usage below 30 percent, but Bree recommends a lower limit for her clients.
“When you’re in the building process, you want to keep it 10 percent or below,” she said. “If you’re planning on making a major purchase in like 30 to 60 days, you probably want to keep your credit card balances between 1 and 3 percent.”
Other tips include becoming an authorized user on a loved one’s credit card. If they have good credit, spending responsibly on their account could help boost your score faster. Just have them ask their bank or credit union about adding you as an authorized user.
You can also open a secured card on your own. A secured credit card is essentially a prepaid card that ensures you don’t miss payments.
And remember: no credit doesn’t mean good credit. Lenders want to see you can responsibly handle debt.
“Having something to report is positive, but it’s the amount that reports that shows your credit worthiness,” said Bree.
What it boils down to, Bree says, is having good habits and sticking to them. Building or rebuilding credit is a marathon, not a sprint, and Bree says patience is key.
“I was never always a credit expert. It was trial and error,” she said. “I have been there before, and it doesn’t take much to end up right back there again if you’re not budgeting well–if you’re not being credit conscious.”
You can reach Bree at [email protected] or on her website or her Facebook and use the hashtags #lakeshoreCredit and #CreditQueen to join the conversation with her.
Adam Reich was born on December 17th, 1985, and brought up in Long Island, New York. Gym and fitness lover, Adam Reich, founder of True Credit Repair, Passive Profits Ecom Automation, ReinventU wellness center, and Health Supplements didn’t always have it all. He found a great deal of success in bodybuilding competitions when he was young. He was falling short of turning professional and thus, in the time that he had, he built a late online personal training business with over 100 subscription-based clients. In 2014, Adam Reich was blessed with twin daughters and a few months later, he had to go take up a job for the New York City department of corrections on Rikers Island. He worked 16 hours a day for 5 years straight surrounded by a bunch of violent people. It was an unsafe job. Adam Reich got fed up and decided to invest all the little money he had onto himself. He worked hard and invested all of his time to finally have something of his own and he did, not just one but multiple companies with 7 figure turnovers.
Adam believes that the success he has had by far is because of the client relations and the results and satisfaction that he and his company have given over time. He believes that he should treat his clients exactly how he would expect to be treated as a customer himself. The reason behind investing in a credit repair agency was because Adam Reich first paid to have his credit repaired by the same parent company and 4 months later his credit soared from 550 to 740 and that opened a plethora of financial opportunities for himself. All of his companies are driven by customer satisfaction. He has learned that he must never over-promise to make a sale. He provides a service to his clients that he is proud of but sometimes he tends to over-deliver but he has learned from his past mistakes. Adam Reich believes that delivering a product is important but what’s more important is building a brand along with a reputation as this would help him and his company in the longer run.
Since Adam Reich realized his worth was more than that 9 to 5 job, within 6 months, he left the prior job to invest in himself, moved to Boca with his family, and built a beautiful life in South Florida. It has been great for Adam since then as he has been able to increase his salary tenfold and all the credit goes to his determination and hard work. He also worked towards making it easier for his clients to change their financial situation by providing them with abundant opportunities. That’s all that Adam has always wanted, to help others better their situations. He has had the time to experience a 9-5 job and knows how it feels to miss important events and not being able to spend time with family because of lack of financial freedom which is why he has built this empire so that nobody else has to go through what he went through.
Adam Reich has always kept his priorities straight and his clients are everything to his brand. He goes out and about for them and relates with each individual. He believes in the saying, “show me your friends and I’ll show you you’re future” and that’s why he surrounds himself with the right people always. Since he moved down to South Florida from New York, he has made sure to keep the right people beside him who give him the motivation he strived for. Adam Reich even met his fellow investors at that time and is friends with them. These are the people he used to look up to and hoped to become like them one day. To the colleagues in his industry, Adam Reich wants to mention that people should focus their energy more on customer service. Building results and winning client’s trust is very important to go far ahead in this business.
While most Americans have weathered the pandemic financially, about 38 million say they are worse off now than before the crisis began in the U.S. a year ago.
Overall, 55% of Americans say their financial circumstances are about the same now as a year earlier, and 30% say their finances have improved, according to a new poll from Impact Genome and The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. But 15% say they are worse off.
The problem is more pronounced at lower-income levels: 29% of Americans living below the federal poverty line say their personal finances worsened in the past year. Roughly that many also find themselves in a deepening financial hole, saying they struggled to pay bills in the past three months.
The financial outlook for Americans below the poverty line also appears bleak, as 18% say they’ve fallen short on their bills by between $100 and $500 every month. Another 4% say they fall short more than $500 per month.
Despite this high financial need, just 15% of these Americans are getting help from financial services such as debt relief, credit repair, or financial counseling. When they do use these services, low income Americans are more likely to seek some of these services from government or a nonprofit, as opposed to private firms than those with higher income (32% vs. just 4%). Affordability is often cited as a barrier among those lower income adults who do not use these services.
“Living paycheck to paycheck” but paying bills
Britney Frick, 27, is among those whose finances have taken a hit. She worked as a substitute teacher before the pandemic but her role was eliminated. Initially, she found a telecommunications job that allowed her to work from home, but the hours began to dwindle then dried up altogether.
Frick ended up unemployed for six months but was able to get by using her savings, reduced rent and help from her parents.
“I am slowly getting back on my feet but am nowhere near where I was before COVID,” she said.
Frick got a job at a daycare in March, and the steady work is helping her rebuild her financial picture.
“I am still living paycheck to paycheck but at least the paycheck is covering the bills,” she said. “But I am happy to be back at work honestly and happy that things are kind of returning to normal.”
The pandemic has wreaked havoc on the economy — the United States still has 8.4 million fewer jobs than it had in February 2020, just before the pandemic struck.
The government has passed three major relief bills in response, which included direct economic relief payments to individuals. That has helped ease the suffering of some.
The latest round of government payments — $1,400 to individuals — were sent out beginning last month. Households, on average, are using, or plan to use about one-third of the money to pay down debt, about 25% on spending and put the rest into savings, according to a report released last week from the New York Federal Reserve. That closely mirrored spending of prior relief payments.
Stark contrast in savings
Overall, the Impact Genome/AP-NORC poll found 52% of Americans say they were able to save money for most of the past three months, while 37% broke even and 10% were short on paying bills. Among Americans living below the poverty line, 29% say they struggled to pay bills recently, while just 16% have saved. By comparison, 61% of those living far above the poverty line say they have been able to save, including some who are putting away more than $500 per month.
Nearly a third of all Americans had not set up a long-term savings account up, such as a 401(K) retirement plan or college savings account, before the start of the pandemic, while 11% of those who did made an early withdrawal to pay for an immediate financial need.
There also are wide racial disparities in financial wellbeing, with 57% of White Americans, 47% of Hispanics and just 39% of Black Americans saying they have saved recently. Black and Hispanic Americans are about twice as likely as White Americans to say they have come up short on bill payments.
Andrew Holland said his family’s finances were fairly steady for most of the pandemic. The California resident worked as a hospice nurse and case manager and his wife kept her job with a refinery. But the stress and isolation of the pandemic led him to reconsider his work.
Unlike before the pandemic, he had no in-person interaction with colleagues or friends to relieve some of the pressure of his job. So he quit and found a new job in hospice care with fewer hours. His wife also got a new job with better pay.
While their family finances took a temporary hit and they spent some savings, he expects to recover. Holland and his wife have started tracking their spending more closely and are now planning for an earlier retirement.
“This really made me look at what do I want to do and when do I want to do it,” Holland, 35, said. “I feel incredibly lucky that the worst that happened is I lost a month’s wages and got a job with fewer hours.”
The poll found many Americans — nearly a third — had not had investment or similar long-term savings accounts set up even before the pandemic. Another 19% say they have been able to add more to investments like a 401(k) or a college savings plan, and 38% say the amount hasn’t changed compared to last year.
Holland said he is disheartened by the inequality of how the pandemic has played out for people, and is concerned the imbalance will never be corrected.
“I am glad that it gave me the push to look at my finances and plan a little bit more for the future,” Holland said. “I definitely wish it had come at a much lower cost for the world as whole.”