The Internet is rife with "credit counselors" promising to fix your bad credit quickly. And, some scammers pledge that -- for a small fee -- they can raise your credit score fast by erasing negative information. It's all very tempting, and you may toy with using these quick-fix schemes to boost your score. And why wouldn't you? Bad credit can negatively impact your ability to rent an apartment, buy a home, or even get a job.However, don't allow yourself to be lured in. There are no quick fixes. No one can remove negative information from your credit report ? it's illegal. Unscrupulous counselors may recommend that you not speak to the credit bureaus directly, create a new credit identity, or require payment upfront before they provide a service that will never take place. Don't follow this advice. In fact, if you attempt to craft a new identity you could be on the hook for fraud."There is no silver bullet to improving your credit score," warned Gail Cunningham, vice president of Public Relations for the National Foundation for Credit Counseling.Unfortunately, many consumers were casualties of this rip-off. At least 2.1 million consumers fell victim to credit repair scams, according a Federal Trade Commission (FTC) statistical fraud survey.A reputable credit repair organization gives you a copy of the "Consumer Credit File Rights Under State and Federal Law" before you sign a contract. You should also receive a written contract that spells out your rights and obligations. The FTC recommends that you read these documents before you sign anything. Additionally, before signing, know that a credit repair company can't do the following:
- Make false claims about their services.
- Charge you until they have completed the promised services.
- Perform any services until they have your signature on a written contract and have completed a three-day waiting period. During this time, you can cancel the contract without paying any fees.
Before you sign a contract, be sure it specifies:
- The payment terms for services, including the total cost.
- A detailed description of the services the company will perform.
- How long it will take to achieve the result.
- Any guarantees the company offer.
- The company's name and business address.
If you suspect that you've been duped by fake credit counseling the FTC recommends you contact your state law enforcement officials. Contact your local consumer affairs office or your state attorney general (AG). Many AGs have toll-free consumer hotlines -- visit www.naag.org for a list of state attorneys general.What's more, you must begin the process of repairing your credit immediately. If you haven't done so already, obtain a copy of your current credit report. If you see that there is inaccurate information on your repot, dispute it in writing. If there is accurate negative information on your credit report, there?s nothing you can do but wait for it to not appear on your report. A consumer reporting company can report most accurate negative information for seven years and bankruptcy information for 10 years, according to the FTC. Then, begin paying your off your credit card with the highest interest rate on time. Try to establish a budget and try to make punctual payments. This won't raise your credit score over night, but it will increase it over time.?Beginning a history of on-time payments will demonstrate financial responsibility, and improve your credit report and score"responsible financial behavior over time will indeed make a difference," said Cunningham. Credit scores are an important part of your financial life and it's not impossible to fix a poor rating. However, it won't be done over night. Don't fall for scam artists' false promises of fixing bad credit fast. Repairing credit takes financial discipline and patience.If you need more assistance cleaning up your credit, consult your on-base financial counselor. And, for more financial tips and advice, visit Military.com's Credit and Debt Channel.
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