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All reviews, research, news and assessments of any kind on The Tokenist are compiled using a strict editorial review process by our editorial team. Neither our writers nor our editors receive direct compensation of any kind to publish information on TheTokenist.io. Our company, Tokenist Media LLC, is community supported and may receive a small commission when you purchase products or services through links on our website. Click here for a full list of our partners and an in-depth explanation on how we get paid.

Thinking about getting a loan but noticed a change in your credit score recently? Maybe you want to figure out why, or maybe you just want to check that there’s no inaccurate information on there – mistakes do happen.

Your credit report is a helpful way to manage your financial data, holding information like your payment history and credit history, which financial institutions depend on to decide whether you’re a worthy borrower. Keeping an eye on your credit report, therefore, is crucial if you plan on taking out any huge loans, like a mortgage, in your lifetime.

Typically, you are entitled to a free credit report from one of the three major credit bureaus every 12 months. Normally, accessing a credit report any more than this will cost you.

However, with many facing harsh financial times as a result of COVID-19, everyone is entitled to a free financial report each week from Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. And accessing them is simple!

In this guide we’ll show you how you can get your free credit report from the three major credit bureaus, why they matter, and how often you should check them to help keep your score in tip-top shape.

Overview & Summary

Here is a brief summary of the top five key points in this guide:

  1. Under the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act, you are entitled to a free copy of your credit report from the three major credit bureaus once a year – you just need to request it.
  2. You can access a copy of your free credit report from one of the three major credit bureaus by visiting www.AnnualCreditReport.com.
  3. Keep an eye out for imposter sites attempting to mimic annualcreditreport.com.
  4. A credit report holds all of the positive and negative elements of your credit history. 
  5. Checking your report once every 30 days is probably the most ideal because credit reports go through a full cycle of changes in this time.

What is a Free Credit Report?

Under the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act, you are entitled to a free copy of your credit report from the three major credit bureaus once a year – you just need to request it. You can do this through either Experian, TransUnion, or Equifax.

These three companies collect information on your financial history including your record of paying bills, public records related to debt (like bankruptcy) and any inquiries made about your credit.

These reports make up the basis for your credit score and so, companies buy them to help them decide how much risk a customer poses when deciding whether to offer loans, credit cards, insurance, and even to assess your ability to take on a new position.

John Ulzheimer, a credit expert who formerly worked with Equifax and FICO said, “The importance of checking your credit report can’t be understated.” The reports can also help determine your likelihood of becoming a victim of identity theft.

How do I Obtain My Credit Report for Free?

You can access a copy of your free credit report from one of the three major credit bureaus. 

Consumers can access a free credit report easily through the Experian website.

Website: To get your free Experian credit report, you can visit www.AnnualCreditReport.com. After answering some questions, you can download the report. We suggest downloading the report there and then. It could be up to 12 pages long, depending on the length of your credit history, like if you’ve applied for a mortgage before, or credit cards.

Toll-free number: If you call 877-322-8228, the report can be mailed to you.

Mailing address. To conduct the process almost entirely by mail, download the annual credit report request form, fill it out and mail it to Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281.

What Does a Credit Report Look Like?

A credit report holds all of the fantastic and not so fantastic elements of your credit history in plane site. The reports have been designed specifically in such a way that they are relatively easy to read and understand.

The first part of the report will display your personal information like your number, addresses dating back decades, contact information, and current and former employers. Following this are the public records, for example a bankruptcy.

After this, all the details about problem accounts appear, such as anytime you missed a payment or any that went to collections. Negative marks can stay on your credit file for up to seven years. 

Person holding an iPad to improve their credit score fast
Your credit report will contain your credit score, and more.

Keep an eye out for a drop in your credit score if your repayments were accommodated in any way by creditors throughout COVID-19. After some creditors began helping ease the financial stress for consumers, some people are now noticing it has impacted their credit score.

If this has happened to you it would be a good idea to contact Experian, or one of the three major credit bureaus and ask them to investigate, and correct the issue.

Following this is the list of satisfactory accounts – these are the ones that have been reported to be in good standing.

Moving on, you’ll see the inquiry section. This will show the various request types for your credit information. The promotional requests reference the companies that have received limited information about your credit to help them determine your risk for loans, credit cards or insurance. 

You might see some other credit inquiries displayed from a time when you compared loans or mortgages, for example. Thankfully, these kinds of credit inquiries are not as detrimental to your overall report as they once were. You can begin making notes on what you want to get removed from your credit report to begin the process of improving your credit score.

📝 Why Should You Review Your Credit Reports?

Reading and understanding reports takes time and patience. Taking a quick look through and tossing it for recycling won’t do it justice. Experts recommend you set aside a fair amount of time – perhaps about an hour – to review it thoroughly.

We suggest three stages of review for each report. First, read through and note any questions you have. When you’ve done this, try and find the answers on a reputable site or get in touch with the credit bureau.

After this, you should attempt to highlight any inaccurate, out-of-date, or misinformation. Should you find any, you can dispute this information online or by mail. To finish, take a look at it from the lender’s perspective.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that because you pay your bills on time you’ve nothing to worry about. Mistakes happen.

Your report can end up being confused for someone else, or it could show that you are at a higher risk for fraud. Knowing how to build credit, and what could prevent you from building credit will help make the overall process easier. 

🗓 How Often Should You Check Credit Reports?

Think about it like any other necessity in your life, visiting a dentist, a doctor. It’s not the most fun, but doing so once a year will improve your life. Checking your report once every 30 days is probably the most ideal because credit reports go through a full cycle of changes in this time.

If you haven’t had a chance to pull a free credit report in some time – or maybe ever – then consider pulling three reports at once so you’ll have a good idea of how you are rated on each of the credit reporting companies.

🦠 Free Credit Report Amid COVID-19

Typically, you can only access a report from the three major credit bureaus once every 12 months. However, throughout COVID-19, the credit reporting bureaus are offering free credit reports each week for the next year. To get your free report, go to annualcreditreport.com.

Reports should be free and accessible and no one should have to pay to see their own credit history.

If you need to pull out a credit card to pay for a credit report then you haven’t tried hard enough to find the numerous free options. Be careful not to go overboard with monitoring.

Doing so any more than once a month can make an already time consuming process slow and painful. You will see slight changes and additions here and there, but there won’t be any drastic differences.

Trading During Covid-19
Weekly credit reports are available for free during COVID-19.

It’s also worth noting that explanatory notes in credit reports have little impact because scoring formulas can’t read, so additional words won’t improve your score.

Another option to think about is a credit freeze. This would enable you to restrict access to your credit report. By law, the three major credit reporting agencies allow you to freeze your credit for free.

You can also contact Experian, or one of the other two reporting bureaus to request fraud alerts or credit freezes, or you can opt out of prescreened credit offers:

Experian

888-EXPERIAN (888-397-3742)

Equifax

800-685-1111

TransUnion

888-909-8872

Watch Out for Fraudulent Websites

There is only one website authorized to fill orders for your free credit report – annualcreditreport.com. This doesn’t mean that other websites won’t claim to offer a “free credit report”, “free credit monitoring”, or “free credit scores”. These are not covered under federal law. 

In some cases like these, the “free” product might have strings attached. For instance, some sites might ask you to sign up to a “free” service that changes to a paying service once the trial period ends.

Man creating fraudulent schemes to steal credit report scores
While there are some scams that target credit reports, following a few simple steps can decrease your susceptibility.

If you fail to cancel this period, you might be unknowingly agreeing to paying fees for the service. Some fraudulent, or imposter sites hijack the term “free report” or similar in their names; others will put a misspelled version of annualcreditreport.com in their name with the hope you mistype it on the official site.

Other times, you might be directed to other sites that try to convince you to buy something, or worse, try to collect personal details.

Experian, or any of the other credit reporting bureaus, will not request personal information from you by email. Should you receive an email or phone call, or get hit with a pop-up ad from a service claiming to be Experian, or any of the other reporting agencies, do not click on a link or respond to the message because it is more than likely a scam.

⚠️ What to Do if You Find Fraud in Your Credit Report

While mistakes do happen, some are more serious than others. Minor variations on your name and a listing of an address you never lived at could be a tell-tale sign of fraud. In addition, if you discover accounts in default that are not yours, this could be a sign of fraud, too.

The first thing you should do to rectify this is to contact the credit bureaus and the creditors to assess the information, and potentially dispute it. For example, if an unpaid debt shows on the account you might need to file a police report and affidavit.

This will help you stand out from those who tell creditors and credit bureaus the same thing, when their intention is simply to get out of paying a bill.

🕑 The Right Time to Check Your Credit Report

If you think you might want to make a major purchase in a few months or even in a few years, you should regularly check your free credit report to make sure it is accurate.

To give you more options and better interest rates, you should try to keep a high credit score, or work to improve it, if not. Don’t think you’re too young, either. From the age of 18 years, looking at your credit report is important, especially if you plan on making a big purchase in the future.

You are probably interested in owning a house during the course of your life. It’s a huge purchase, so getting the best interest rates possible can make a significant difference.

After all, excellent credit is one of the best ways to build wealth – it’s far more to your benefit to pay a 2% APR over a 4% APR on things you plan on buying.

Credit Report FAQs

Can I Get a Free Credit Report Once a Year?

Under federal law, you are entitled to a free copy of your credit report from each of the three nationwide bureaus once a year. You can access the report through annualcreditreport.com, this is the only site authorized by the Government to issue free credit reports.

Make sure you keep an eye on your credit report regularly. To help, you could leverage the leading credit monitoring services.

What is the Best Site to Get a Credit Report?

There is only one official site to get a free credit report, and that is annualreportcreditreport.com. Be aware of other fraudulent sites claiming to give free credit reports.

What Credit Report do Banks Use?

Banks pull credit reports from the three major bureaus when assessing a person’s likelihood to repay debt. These are Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax. Understanding how to get a personal loan takes a bit of work. But doing the work will help you get the best possible rates.

Can I Get My Credit Report from a Bank?

You may be able to access your credit score for free through your bank or credit card issuer. Some banks offer free credit scores. These can be checked by logging into your account, or by reviewing your monthly statement.

Which Credit Report is Most Important?

Lenders use credit reports from one of the three major credit bureaus. These include:

  • Experian
  • Equifax
  • TransUnion

What Are the Mailing Addresses for the 3 Credit Bureaus

Experian: Experian National Consumer Assistance Center at P.O Box 4500, Allex, 

TX 75013. Alternatively, you can upload your document at experian.com/upload to submit it online.

Equifax: Equifax Disclosure Department, P.O. Box 740241, Atlanta, GA 30374.

TransUnion: TransUnion, Consumer Services Tea, P.O. Box 1000 Chester, PA 19022.

How Do I Get a Free Credit Report From all 3 Credit Bureaus

You have a right to one free credit report every year from the three credit bureaus. You can get your free copy by going to annualcreditreport.com, or calling 1-877-322-8228.

Does Checking my Credit Report Hurt my Credit?

No, checking your credit report will not hurt your credit. Checking your credit report regularly is recommended as it is a good way to ensure that information is accurate. When a financial firm conducts a hard inquiry in response to your credit application, this will impact your credit score. 

Are Four Hard Inquiries Bad?

Four hard inquiries within a short period could result in a lower score. According to FICO, people with six or more inquiries in recent times are eight times more likely to file for bankruptcy as those with none, something which is reflected by scoring formulas. 

On top of this, FICO is changing its scoring formula. This will see those with good scores should see their scores jump a little higher. Those already in financial distress could see their score fall. If you’re concerned, you can easily access a credit repair company near you to help you get your credit score back on track.

Can a Bank Pull my Credit Report Without my Permission?

The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) has a strict limit on who can check your credit and under what circumstance. The law regulates credit reporting and ensures that only business entities with a specific, legitimate purpose, and not members of the general public, can check your credit without written permission.

Is AnnualCreditReport Safe?

AnnualCreditReport.com is the official website for free credit reports. However, be aware of other fraudulent sites that might try to appear to be annualcreditreport.com by using a similar url.

Is My Credit Clear After 7 Years?

While you will still need to repay any debts you owe after seven years, having a clean credit report will do wonders for your financial well-being. Note only the bad stuff disappears from your credit report after seven years. The positive information will remain on your credit report. If you want to start improving your credit score you could check out the most popular credit repair software.

All reviews, research, news and assessments of any kind on The Tokenist are compiled using a strict editorial review process by our editorial team. Neither our writers nor our editors receive direct compensation of any kind to publish information on TheTokenist.io. Our company, Tokenist Media LLC, is community supported and may receive a small commission when you purchase products or services through links on our website. Click here for a full list of our partners and an in-depth explanation on how we get paid.

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Credit Repair Companies

How to Remove a Charge Off From Your Credit Report

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Charge offs are bad news when it comes to credit reports and scores. They’re considered major derogatory items (aka “major derogs”) and are among the worst types of entries you can have in your credit history.

In many cases, charged off accounts can remain on a credit report for up to seven years. But removing a charge off early is sometimes possible. Keep reading to discover three ways to remove charge offs from credit reports, along with other helpful details about these negative credit entries. 

Before we continue – If you want to avoid the hassle of removing a charge off by yourself and just want to hire a company to handle the process for you, our top recommendation is Credit Saint.

3 Ways to Remove Charge Offs from Your Credit Report

1. File a Dispute with the Credit Bureaus

The companies you do business can legally share details about how you pay your bills with the credit bureaus. Those credit bureaus, in turn, can gather information about you from multiple sources and package it together into easy-to-read reports. The credit bureaus then sell those reports to others who want to review your data to forecast the risk of doing business with you.

You also have rights when it comes to your personal credit information. One such right comes from the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). Per the FCRA, a consumer can “dispute with the consumer reporting agency the accuracy or completeness of any information in a report.” 

When you dispute a charge off or any other item, the credit reporting agency that receives your request has 30 days to investigate. At the end of the investigation period, the bureau must take one of the following actions with the disputed item:

  • Delete it
  • Update/correct it
  • Verify that it’s accurate   

If your dispute is successful, they may remove the charge off from your file. But if the investigation doesn’t go in your favor, the account will stay put. 

2. Pay for Delete

A pay for delete is a type of deal you can sometimes make with the original creditor. It starts with an offer to settle or pay back the full amount of a charged off account or a collection. In exchange for the debt being paid in full, you ask the original creditor to have the bureaus delete the account from your file. 

A creditor can ask a credit bureau to remove a charged off account from your report any time it wishes. There’s nothing illegal about the practice since credit reporting is optional. The bureaus, however, frown upon pay for delete settlements. 

Credit bureaus instruct debt collectors that report information to the credit bureaus (aka data furnishers) not to request deletions of accurate accounts in exchange for payment. In fact, data furnishers sign agreements with the credit bureaus promising to follow these and other rules. If a data furnisher violates its user agreement and gets caught, it might lose its ability to submit customer data to the credit bureaus in the future. 

Credit reporting is important to many businesses. It helps creditors encourage customers to pay on time. For this reason, convincing a creditor to accept a pay for delete offer can be a long shot. If you negotiate a payment for deletion deal on a charge off, get the offer in writing before you make any payments. 

3. Hire a Credit Repair Company

The FRCA gives you the right to dispute inaccurate information on your own. However, you don’t have to manage the process by yourself. Some people prefer to hire credit experts to assist with getting a charge off removed.

Credit repair companies can dispute questionable and inaccurate information on your credit reports—charged off accounts included. And if your initial dispute is unsuccessful, an experienced credit repair company should be able to help you follow up again. 

Of course, there’s no guarantee that credit experts will be able to remove a charge off from your credit report. Any trustworthy company will be quick to point out this fact. But if you’re comfortable with the fees and you don’t want to send and track credit disputes yourself, working with the best credit repair companies might be a good fit for you. 

If you’re looking for a good credit repair company that gets results, our top recommendation is Credit Saint. They are the most successful company for getting negative items removed from your credit, including charge offs. Take advantage of their free credit consultation to see how they can help you.

What Is a Charge Off? 

When you borrow money from the original creditor, you promise to repay the debt, plus interest and fees, at a certain amount (or percentage) per month. If you miss a payment, the credit card issuer may report you as late to the credit bureaus. Miss enough payments and that same creditor could opt to charge off your account.

The term charge off describes a debt on which you’ve fallen so far behind that the creditor no longer believes you will pay it back. So, the creditor writes the account off as a loss for accounting and tax purposes. 

A charge off, despite how it sounds, isn’t the same as debt forgiveness. If the debt is legitimate, you still owe the money you borrowed plus any interest and fees you agreed to pay. 

How Does a Charge Off Affect Your Credit Score? 

Derogatory information, like a charge off, has the potential to hurt your credit. To make matters worse, a charge off doesn’t just have the potential to damage your credit once. It might hold your score back to some degree for several years.

Should I Pay Charged Off Accounts? 

There are several factors to consider as you decide whether to pay a charged off account.

  • Are you expecting a credit score increase? Paying a charge off often won’t increase your score. If your goal is to boost your score, you may be better off to focus on bringing past-due accounts current, or paying down debt balances before you address charge offs. 
  • Do you plan to apply for new credit in the future? Some lenders may not be willing to work with you if you have outstanding, negative debts. A mortgage lender, for example, might want any charged off accounts on your credit report to show $0 balances before approving your application. 

If you decide to pay or settle a charge off in full, it’s important to keep good records. Get a copy of the debt balance you owe (or the debt settlement offer) from the creditor before you pay. Then follow up to get a receipt and zero balance statement afterwards.

How Long Does a Charge Off Stay on Your Credit Report? 

Credit reporting isn’t required. No law forces a company to report information about you to the credit reporting agencies. Nonetheless, many creditors do proactively opt to share customer data with Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax. 

When a debt collector shares your information or includes it on a credit report, there are rules they have to follow. The FCRA limits how long negative information, like charged off accounts, can stay on your credit report. Charge offs in particular can only remain on a consumer credit report for seven years. 

Is a Charge Off Worse Than a Collection? 

Charge offs and collections represent two types of derogatory accounts that can appear on a credit report. According to FICO, both charge offs and collections are likely to have a serious negative affect on your fico scores. 

But is a charge off worse than being referred to a collections agency from a credit scoring standpoint, or vice versa? The answer depends on several factors. 

1. The Age of the Account

Credit scoring models, like FICO and VantageScore, consider many details when evaluating your history. The age, or rather the recency, of derogatory information on your report is one such detail. Negative information on your credit report that occurred a long time ago won’t affect your FICO scores as much as recent negative items from failing to pay back the debt. 

So, if you have a debt collection account on your credit report that’s one month old and a charge off that happened three years ago, the debt collection account will most likely hurt your credit score more. If a charge off on your credit report is more recent than a debt collection account, then the charge off will probably have a bigger impact. 

2. The Balance of the Account

The information on a credit report is broken up into different sections. When you review your credit report, you’ll usually find charged off accounts (if you have any) in the “credit accounts” section. This section may go by a different name, but it will contain details about your current and closed accounts. 

Because of the way a charged off account appears on credit history, it might show that you owe a past-due balance to a credit card company. Past due balances are negative factors in terms of credit scoring. 

A debt collection agency, by comparison, does not list past-due balances. And the balance of the collection account itself is not considered by many scoring models. The fact that your account was turned over to a debt collector is what hurts your score. 

The balance on a collection tends to be largely irrelevant. So, if you have a charge-off with a past-due balance on your credit report, it could potentially be worse for your score than a collection (assuming both accounts are the same age). 

How Many Points Does a Charge Off Drop Your Credit Score? 

It’s difficult to predict how much any specific action will affect your credit file. Credit scoring models don’t consider one item at a time when calculating your score. Rather, scoring models look at all of the information on your credit report together and predict your level of risk based on the overall picture. 

A new late payment to a debt collector, for example, won’t drop your score by 20 points. Likewise, the appearance of a new charge off on your report isn’t worth a specific number of points either.

The impact a charge off has on your credit history is influenced by factors like the recency of the event and whether the credit card account has a past-due balance. The other items on your credit report are also relevant. And, of course, the type of scoring model that is used to calculate your FICO score makes a big difference in the outcome as well.  

Will a Charge Off Affect Buying a House? 

Mortgage lenders check your credit reports from all three credit reporting agencies when you apply for a home loan. If any of your reports contain negative information, like charged off accounts, it might cause some problems. For this reason, it might make sense to contact a credit repair company to see if they can help.

  • A charge off could affect your credit scores. Most mortgage lenders have a minimum credit score requirement that you need to satisfy before they will approve your loan application. Charge offs are negative. So, they might cause your credit score to drop to a point where you won’t qualify for a mortgage. 
  • An outstanding balance could hurt you. Some lenders may ask you to pay the balance on any charged off accounts (or at least settle them in full) before they’ll approve you for a mortgage. 

How Long Does It Take for a Charge Off to Be Removed? 

The credit reporting agencies must remove the charge off from your credit report after seven years from the date. It might be possible, using one of the methods above, to remove the charge off early. But there are no guarantees when it comes to getting items removed from your credit file. 

Trying to remove a charge off from your credit report can be a tedious process, especially if you’re not familiar with the FCRA and other consumer protection laws. But you don’t have to dispute charged off accounts alone. Credit Saint specializes in disputing errors that may be hurting your credit scores and showing you how to add positive information to your credit reports as well. 

 

How to Remove a Charge Off From Your Credit Report

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Reader Advisory: The National Trade Association we belong to has purchased the below classifieds. Determining the value of their service or product is advised by this publication. In order to avoid misunderstandings, some advertisers do not offer employment but rather supply the readers with manuals, directories and other materials designed to help their clients establish mail order selling and other businesses at home. Under NO circumstance should you send any money in advance or give the client your checking, license ID, or credit card numbers. Also beware of ads that claim to guarantee loans regardless of credit and note that if a credit repair company does business only over the phone it is illegal to request any money before delivering its service. All funds are based in US dollars. Toll free numbers may or may not reach Canada.

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Credit Repair Companies

Tips to avoid being defrauded by credit repair companies – Latest News, Breaking News, Top News Headlines

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In relation to the economic crises that have occurred in recent years, it is possible that your credit debts are increasing day by day, due to the use of credit cards, delays in paying mortgages, job losses, business closings , reduction of salaries among others. Reason why you could make the decision to go to a credit repair company thinking that they could support you with your credits. But before you could choose to request the advice of this type of companies, here are some tips to avoid being defrauded, according to what has been published by the National Commission for the Protection and Defense of Users of Financial Services (Condusef).

Tips to avoid being defrauded by credit repair companies

Although you could be anxious to pay your debts, you should be careful, because just as there are credit repairers that are known, there are others that only engage in fraud.

1.- Stay alert

There are no credit repairers that request cash or that you transfer it by deposit to a personal bank account. If you are presented with this type of situation, it is likely that they will try to carry out a fraud, so it is convenient that you could look for other options.

Tips to avoid being defrauded by credit repair companies. Photo: My Pocket.

2.- Do not sign any type of document without having read

If you have in mind to sign a contract with the credit repair company, first read this document in detail and verify what the conditions and deadlines are, and check what penalties are applied in case of delay or abandonment of the program. If you are not 100% convinced, do not sign it.

3.- Repair companies do not clean your credit history

In the event that the credit repair company you go to tells you that it could clean up your credit history, it is probably not true, so your credit history will be negative and in the future it could be difficult for you to obtain a new credit. It is also important to mention that no repair company could erase you from the credit bureau, even if they ask for money, since no person or institution can carry out this procedure.

4.- Look for valid options to negotiate your credit

There are other organizations that you could go to to negotiate or settle your debts, such as your financial institution, where you could agree on a fixed payment plan or, failing that, restructure the credit and also you could not be presented with fraudulent situations, which could lead to affect your personal finances.

It should be mentioned that credit repairers are companies that perform the function of intermediaries between the debtor and the financial institution to which it could be owed and their purpose is to offer the person who has the debt, a kind of negotiation with the banking institution through options for credit settlement. It also tries to reduce the amount through discounts and modify the credit history in the credit bureau.

According to information published by the Condusef, there is currently no legal framework that regulates the operations of credit repair companies, which means that these companies operate independently and independently, for this reason some people may go with repair companies who are not accredited, existing the probability that they are victims of fraud, and in the event that this happens, the Condusef does not have the faculties to offer them support.

More content about loans and personal finances, in our Credits section.



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