Who is Responsible for Correcting Mistakes on Your Credit Report?
Your credit score probably seems like some arbitrary number that dictates your financial future, and it’s only more frustrating when your score drops out of nowhere. You may think you’re doing everything right to build your credit, only to discover that you didn’t qualify for that loan you were banking on. What could have happened? Upon closer inspection, your credit’s nosedive is the product of several errors, littering your credit report. You might’ve been the victim of identity theft, fraud, or even an all-too-common clerical error. Whatever the case, someone along the way damaged your credit score. So who’s job is it to fix your credit score?
Well, unfortunately, credit bureaus aren’t going to go out of their way to fix your problem; in fact, they may not even realize an issue exists. The primary burden is on your shoulders, but how can you be expected to combat an erroneous credit report without any previous experience or knowledge? The easiest (and best) way may be to use a credit repair company. If this is your first time working with a professional credit repair company, you might be concerned that you’ll pay a lot for little effect, or that they’re outright scams. However, as long as you do your research and evaluate each company carefully, using a credit repair company is the best option to boost your score.
Why Should You Pay for a Credit Repair Company?
Credit repair companies know the tricks of the trade, industry documentation and communication procedures that would take a lot of your time to catch up on. Just like you could take the time to learn how to repair your own car, you can refute credit errors yourself. However, it takes a long time to learn how to fix every part of a car; it also takes a long time to learn how to best repair credit in every situation, not to mention manually review your own reports and contest each and every line you find to be in error.
Credit repair professionals know what errors to look for in your report; they know how to negotiate with lenders; and they know the laws surrounding credit repair, both on their end and governing the credit bureaus. Your time and money is likely better spent on experts who can focus on your particular case, rather than what you can manage in your spare time after you get home from work. This is ultimately what helps clear up your credit faster than if you tackled it solo. With credit repair professionals, it’s their full-time job to repair your credit, and this process can take months. That’s months where you would otherwise have to consistently check in with the credit bureaus and hope you didn’t miss anything, improperly document a dispute, or reach out to the wrong bureau with the wrong report. Hiring a credit repair company is a way toward a healthy credit score that doesn’t sacrifice your time or sanity.
Furthermore, the Credit Repair Organizations Act mandates that payment can only be given after the company performs the agreed-upon services. You’ll never be charged in advance by a legitimate credit repair company, and that’s an important detail to remember when shopping! So you’ll only have to fork over money after the repair agency shows that they did the work. Additionally, some credit repair professionals like CreditRepair.com charge on a monthly basis and allow you to see where they are at in the process, so you can cancel whenever you want if you’re unsatisfied with the progress.
How Do You Pick?
First, you should look at their reputability. The Better Business Bureau (BBB) rates many credit repair agencies on their transparency and effectiveness, based on customer reviews. This might not be a topic you want to ask your friends for a referral on, so organizations like the BBB are a great resource for this sensitive issue. The Credit Pros have an A+ rating, meaning that their customers are overwhelmingly satisfied with their experiences there. Lexington Law has an A rating with the BBB, however they are actually a law firm that specialize in credit repair, so you can be confident that they know the fine print.
However, just their reputation isn’t enough. You’re understandably worried about cost. This can be more difficult to navigate than you realize. Many credit repair companies will have an initial fee on top of their monthly fees, while others, like CreditRepair.com, have one standard fee. Pay attention to the language in advertisements here! Of course you won’t have to pay until they have done the work, but this is still an important consideration. You don’t want to fix your credit only to be overridden with fees you weren’t previously aware of.
Some companies also offer different packages, depending on your credit repair needs. If you want to monitor your credit repair process, both CreditRepair.com and Lexington Law offer that service. The latter, however, offers some protection against identity theft and fraud in their PremierPlus package. If your credit is suffering specifically because of identity theft, having an expert side of eyes can be hugely advantageous. Sometimes identity theft isn’t an isolated incident, especially if the perpetrator is someone you trusted, so it pays to be on the lookout.
What is Your Outlook?
Assuming that you haven’t hired a credit repair professional yet, the responsibility is still on you to fix any errors in your credit report. The credit bureaus are certainly not going to go out of their way to do it for you. Unless you shift the responsibility to a credit repair professional, it’s all down to you, and unfortunately, most people aren’t equipped with all the experience and knowledge to work with all three credit bureaus for months. Most of us have jobs, families, and hobbies that don’t include calling up every store where our card was used in the past year.
Because you will have less time at your disposal to fix your credit, it will take longer. Credit bureaus have 30 days to respond to your dispute, and if your own research and progress is slow, so will your results be. Although every case is different, The Credit Pros generally estimate any noticeable growth in your credit score will take about 3 months, while Lexington Law sees 24% of their client’s negative items removed within 4 months. This timeframe is when you should evaluate your credit repair company’s performance, and move forward from there.
Repairing your credit is a huge undertaking and a hefty responsibility. You are in this for the long haul, so you might as well make sure you do it right. You wouldn’t try to fix your own car with no experience, and that’s only worth a couple thousand dollars. Your credit score is your key to your financial future. With something that heavy, you’re going to want to share the load.
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Dayton is a chronic Wikipedia addict, which is detrimental to her social life but stellar for her writing. She resides in Boise, ID, surrounded by her own frantic outlines, highlighted encyclopedias, and potatoes. The latter was not by choice.
This post was updated May 4, 2018. It was originally published August 18, 2017.