Are Credit Repair Companies Legitimate?
If you have a low credit score, you might be able to raise it by cleaning up your credit report or hiring a credit repair company to do it for you. There are several legitimate credit repair companies out there, but there are also plenty of scammers so it's important to choose a reputable company.
What Is Credit Repair?
Credit repair is the process of disputing mistakes or negative items on your credit report with the goal of boosting your credit score. The higher your score, the easier it is to navigate the world of personal finance.
Good credit is important, yet about 4 out of 10 Americans don't know their credit score. This is a bad thing, as a study from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reveals that about 20 percent of consumers have an error on their credit report that could be unfairly lowering their score.
This is where credit repair can help. By reviewing your credit report and disputing any inaccuracies or negative entries, you could raise your score — opening the door to better interest rates, higher odds of approval on loans, and even more favorable terms on your next mobile phone contract.
Credit repair can address a number of errors and negative items, including:
Accounts that belong to someone else (like someone with a similar name or an account that belongs to an ex-spouse)
Hard inquiries that shouldn't be there
Incorrect dates for accounts
Outdated items that should have dropped off
Inaccuracies that could signal identity theft
Missing items that might actually raise your score
Open accounts that should be closed or closed accounts that should be open
Public records, such as liens or judgments, that shouldn't be listed
In other words, there are a lot of ways information on your credit report can be wrong. Credit repair can help fix these errors, so your report is an accurate reflection of your finances.
What Is a Credit Repair Company?
A credit repair company is a service provider that handles the credit repair process for you. While credit repair companies can't do anything for you that you can't accomplish on your own, they're often faster and more efficient at getting negative or inaccurate items removed from your report.
This is because credit repair companies do credit repair all the time. As an individual trying to clean up your personal finances, you might be tackling credit repair for the first time.
Legitimate credit repair companies bring resources and expertise to the table. Among other things, they typically offer:
A streamlined process for filing disputes
Experience with the credit repair industry
Personalized service, such as an assigned account manager
In-depth understanding of federal consumer rights statutes and regulations
Ongoing credit monitoring
Basically, credit repair companies take the burden of credit repair off your shoulders. While they can't work any magic to automatically boost your score, they can usually speed up the credit repair process by disputing a bunch of negative items at once.
How Do Credit Repair Companies Work?
Each credit repair company has its own system, but their methods typically follow the same general pattern. This is the same pattern you would use if you decided to repair your credit on your own.
1. Review your credit report
The credit repair company will get your credit reports from all three major credit bureaus and review them, often with you on the phone or via email. Some credit repair companies will even offer a complimentary review as part of a free consultation before you sign up.
In this step, credit repair companies are looking for negative items or inaccuracies they can dispute on your behalf. The more items they think they can get removed for you, the higher the chances of your score improving.
A reputable credit repair company will also let you know if it can't help you. For example, if your credit score dropped due to a recent bankruptcy, a credit repair company probably can't offer any assistance, and you're better off using credit-building strategies to raise your score over time.
2. Dispute negative items
Once the credit repair company has flagged items to dispute, it will start the dispute process. They might ask you for documentation about the item to boost your chances of getting it removed from your credit report.
Credit repair companies dispute a number of items. They will look for things like duplicate accounts, late payments, misspellings, incorrect dates, and items that should have dropped off your report.
3. Repeat for each credit report
A legitimate credit repair company will repeat the review and dispute process for each credit report, as items that appear on one report might not show up on the others. This cna entail a lot of work, which is why some people choose to hire a credit repair company to handle the job for them.
Can a Credit Repair Company Really Help?
Credit repair companies can't do anything you can't do on your own, and the best ones will tell you that up front. However, they have resources and expertise on their side, which means they're frequently more effective than an individual navigating the credit repair process for the first time.
Are There Any Legit Credit Repair Companies?
There are plenty of legitimate credit repair companies, but there are also scams that take advantage of people's desperation to fix their credit. If you're considering using a credit repair company, it's important to make sure you're working with a reputable one.
Examples of Legit Credit Repair Companies
The following are examples of credit repair companies with good online reputations and reviews from satisfied customers.
Credit Saint - Credit Saint, which has an A+ Better Business Bureau (BBB) rating, offers three levels of service ranging from $79.99 to $119.99 per month. Each service level comes with a 90-day money back guarantee.
Sky Blue Credit - Sky Blue Credit has been in business since 1989. In exchange for a flat fee of $79 per month, it will dispute 15 negative items every 35 days.
The Credit People - The Credit People was founded in 2001 and offers two levels of service. Its monthly package costs $19 to sign up and $79 monthly thereafter, and its flat-fee plan is $419 for six months.
Lexington Law - Lexington Law is an actual law firm that employs lawyers and paralegals. It has three tiers of credit repair services starting at $89.95 a month and topping out at $129.95 a month.The firm is the subject of a lawsuit brought by the Consumer Financial Protection Financial Bureau (CFPB) in 2019. You can read more about the lawsuit on the CFPB website.
Ovation Credit Repair Services - Ovation Credit Repair Services is part of LendingTree. It offers two credit repair packages priced at $79 per month and $109 per month respectively.
4 Qualities in Legitimate Credit Repair Companies
Before you sign up with a credit repair company, it's important to do your homework and find one that's trustworthy and ethical. Here are four qualities that indicate a credit repair company is legitimate.
1. The credit repair company offers a review or consultation before taking your case
Not everyone is a good fit for credit repair. A legitimate company will review your credit situation before charging you to determine if you might benefit from its services.
2. The credit repair company is honest about what it does
Good credit repair companies will make sure you understand your rights under federal consumer protection laws, and that you have a right to dispute negative items on your report without hiring anyone.
3. The credit repair company doesn't make guarantees
Under federal law, credit repair companies are prohibited from making any promises about raising your score by a certain number of points. Legitimate credit repair companies are quick to state that they can't guarantee specific results.
4. The credit repair company puts your contract in writing
Reputable credit repair companies put all the terms and conditions of their services in writing so you know exactly what you're getting for your money.
5 Red Flags in Credit Repair Company Scams
Unfortunately, the credit repair industry has its share of predatory companies that make unrealistic promises or claim they can deliver guaranteed results. As you shop around for a credit repair company, it's important to steer clear of scams, including companies that:
Ask for a fee up front - Federal law prohibits credit repair companies from collecting payment before any work has been performed.
Guarantee your score will increase a certain amount - No company can guarantee it will achieve specific results. In fact, legitimate credit repair companies will tell you very clearly that they can't.
Encourage you to lie - Stay away from any credit repair company that advises you it's okay to lie to the credit bureaus or your creditors in an effort to get negative items removed from your report.
Push you to open new credit accounts - Some credit repair companies don't try to repair your credit at all. Instead, they urge you to open new accounts so you can shift your debt around.
Tell you it's okay to start over with a new social security number - A reputable credit repair company will never tell you to get a new social security number as a way of getting a clean slate. This is a form of fraud that can have serious consequences.
Ultimately, it's important to remember that credit repair companies use all the same strategies available to regular consumers. If a company claims it can achieve results above and beyond what you can do on your own, it's probably best to look elsewhere.
How Much Does It Cost to Repair Your Credit?
The cost of credit repair varies from $0 to several hundred dollars or more. If you choose the DIY credit repair route, you can repair your credit without spending anything.
If you use a credit repair service, your costs will vary depending on which company you pick. However, the average seems to be around $100 per month.
How Long Does Credit Repair Take?
The time required to repair your credit will depend on how many negative items you have on your report and what result you're trying to achieve. If you have one or two things you would like removed, you might be able to repair your credit in a couple of months.
However, someone with a long list of mistakes or negative entries might need more time to see their score improve. Many credit repair companies state an average of six months to get the best results.
There are many legitimate and ethical credit repair companies out there, but the industry is also plagued by scammers. If you prefer to use a credit repair company to help clean up your credit, it's important to do your research and avoid any service that claims it can guarantee specific results.
About the Author
Mike is a recognized credit expert and founder of Credit Takeoff. His credit advice has been featured in CNBC, Investopedia, CreditCards.com, Bankrate, Huffpost, The Simple Dollar, Reader's Digest, LendingTree, and Quickbooks. Read more.