Fraud & Credit Repair

So your credit was trashed when your file was “blended” with another person’s of a similar name or Social Security number, and then a scammy credit repair service charged you an exorbitant upfront fee and did nothing.  While mistakes do happen, fraud and credit repair also occur.  You may be able to take action on your own in the case of a credit report inaccuracy and avoid being a victim twice from the same incident. No credit repair service can erase bankruptcies, judgments, liens, or band loans, nor can they create a new credit identity legally.  Only time heals accurate negative information in your credit report; however, the bankruptcy you did NOT file…that is an error you can report. Tell the credit reporting company about the inaccuracy.  The Federal Trade Commission offers the following sample letter to help you communicate your dispute.   [Your Name] [Your Address] [Your City, State, Zip Code] [Date] Complaint Department [Company Name] [Street Address] [City, State, Zip Code] Dear Sir or Madam: I am writing to dispute the following information in my file. I have circled the items I dispute on the attached copy of the report I received. This item [identify item(s) disputed by […] Read More

Bad Credit Stains

No one can legally remove current, accurate negative information from your credit report, not OxiClean, not Kaboom, not even a credit repair service.  Credit repair services cannot erase bankruptcies, judgments, liens, or bad loans, nor can they create a new identity legally.  So what are you going to do to improve your credit? If you can talk, text, and chew gum, you can fix your credit score on your own.  The basics include: Pay your bills on time every time No new credit – do not open new credit accounts or take out new loans Pay down large balances Make a budget and stick to it – you can use the free online budget provided by the Federal Trade Commission at http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/pdf-1020-make-budget-worksheet.pdf Alternatively, there are local credit counseling programs that will review the problems on your credit report and will help you make a plan to fix those issues.  Visit the St. Johns County Housing and Community Services website at http://www.sjcfl.us (click on “Housing & Community Services”) and the St. Johns Housing Partnership website at http://sjhp.org for more information.     Read More

Retail Therapy & Your Credit Score

When living better through chemistry does not work, sometimes you need retail therapy. Last week I had a really rough day.  I turned into a crazy person.  I called my wife and she was at the Apple store.  Now I have an iPhone 6 and I am much better.  I understand the need for retail therapy and its benefits; furthermore, the more credit you have, the more therapeutic your retail purchases can be. Credit increases your purchasing power.  Good credit begets credit—the higher the credit limit or the more you can borrow.  Good credit also begets better cost to borrow—the better your credit, the smaller the interest rate on your loan to pay back the money.  It is good to have good credit because then you can have more things at lower costs to borrow to buy those things.  What if you have bad credit?  :0 Bad credit does not have to be terminal.  If you can talk, text, and chew gum, you can fix your credit score on your own.  Here are some starting blocks to build your credit: Pay your bills on time every time No new credit – do not open new credit accounts or take out […] Read More

New Year’s Resolution for Better Credit

It is 2015, how is your credit?  Building better credit takes time and effort, but if you can talk, text, and chew gum, you can fix your credit score on your own. Credit is important.  Your credit determines your purchasing power to buy items like a house, a car, a student loan. Creditors look at your bill-paying history, whether you pay your bills on time, collections actions against you, your outstanding debt, how many accounts you have and what kind they are, and if you have applied for new credit lately.  They use this information to determine if you would be a good risk for repayment, or if you are a deadbeat, and also how much they should charge you for the loan.  Creditors want their money back, and they want to make interest on the loan. Bad credit is a problem, but it is one that you can fix with these New Year’s resolutions: Pay your bills on time every time No new credit – do not open new credit accounts or take out new loans Pay down large balances Make a budget and stick to it – you can use the free online budget provided by the Federal […] Read More

Bankruptcy Trigger

Carefully examine your financial targets before you pull the bankruptcy trigger.  While bankruptcy often takes care of immediate debts (and usually stops foreclosure), it has long-term consequences.  It may fix present problems, but create problems for your future in terms of your credit score.  Bankruptcy tends to limit more severely your ability to get a loan for a house, a car, or an education. Bankruptcy carries long-term consequences you need to know and understand before you file.  While it is a drastic measure, bankruptcy could be the deep beginning to financial recovery. To learn more about the basics of bankruptcy, the US Courts has a collection of short films online for free to give you general information at http://www.uscourts.gov/multimedia/videos.aspx.  Talk to your attorney about the specifics of your situation to help you decide if bankruptcy is right for you. Read More

Credit-Building New Year’s Resolutions

The spin cycle of revolving credit goes something like this:  you spend what you do not have on items you cannot afford, so you charge purchases on a credit card where your debt racks up large interest fees.  You can break the cycle and build better credit with these simple New Year’s resolutions: Pay your bills on time every time No new credit – do not open new credit accounts or take out new loans Pay down large balances Make a budget and stick to it – you can use the free online budget provided by the Federal Trade Commission at http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/pdf-1020-make-budget-worksheet.pdf May you have a prosperous new year! Read More

Steps to Better Credit

Are you receiving calls from creditors and collection agencies?  Working overtime to try to keep up with your bills?  Using your savings to cover daily expenses?  These can be signs of bad credit.  While bad credit is a problem—it makes getting a new loan more expensive or impossible—there are steps you can take to improve your credit score. The basics are basics include pay your bills on time, pay down outstanding balances, and stay away from new debt.  Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi offers these further tips to personally manage your debt: Set up a household budget to guide your spending patterns. The budget should detail your monthly income, as well as your monthly expenses. Your budget should outline a spending plan which insures that your income will exceed your expenses each month. Don’t go any deeper in debt! Put your credit cards away and make a concerted effort to refrain from accumulating any more debt in the coming months. Pay cash or use a debit card. If you must charge something in an emergency, use the card with the lowest interest rate. Use daily money-saving strategies to free up more money. Cut out needless expenses and save money where […] Read More

Credit Repair Scams – Warning Signs

What is scarier than debt itself?  Credit repair scams. If you are in debt, you are in a lot of company.  About 40% of Floridians have debt in collections as of this summer’s reports, and that debt drives the credit repair business.  Unfortunately, that demand also drives credit repair scams.  The following is a list of common warning signs of a credit repair scam, as given by the Florida Attorney General’s website: A company that guarantees it can remove your unsecured debt or promises that unsecured debts can be paid off with pennies on the dollar A company that claims using its system will let you avoid bankruptcy A company that requires upfront fees in excess of $50 A company that requires you to pay monthly fees in excess of $40 per month A company that tells you to stop communicating with your creditors A debt management company that does not provide you with a monthly accounting showing payments made to your creditors A company that tells you creditors never sue consumers for non-payment of unsecured debt A company that promises using its system will have no negative impact on your credit report or that it can remove accurate negative […] Read More

Your Credit and You

There are a lot of credit repair services “as seen on TV,” but if you can talk, text, and chew gum, you can fix your credit score on your own.  Some of the basics include pay your bills on time, pay down outstanding balances, stay away from new debt, and avoid credit repair scams. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently reported that consumers were scammed for hundreds of dollars each by a company called Southeast Trust, LLC.  Southeast used illegal robocallers to claim they were a non-profit group that could offer credit card interest rates as low as zero percent.  It was too good to be charity, and Southeast Trust was anything but “trustworthy.” Here are some of the red flags of credit repair scams noted by the FTC and others: Charges fees before your debts are settled Guarantees to make your unsecured debt go away Claims to be able to stop all debt collection calls and lawsuits Refuses to send you free information about its services unless you provide personal and financial information, like your credit card and bank account numbers Advises you to stop communicating with your creditors Claims to be a deity with the authority to forgive […] Read More

Saints & Sinners in the Credit Department

Not everybody can have a perfect credit score.  Job loss, medical hardship, divorce, or having to care for someone else can put a strain on your purchasing power.  That does not necessarily mean you should plow your money into the first credit repair service you see on TV.  If you can talk, text, and chew gum, you can fix your credit score by doing things like pay your bills on time, pay down outstanding balances, and stay away from new debt. Creditors look at your bill-paying history, whether you pay your bills on time, collections actions against you, your outstanding debt, how many accounts you have and what kind they are, and if you have applied for new credit lately.  They use this information to determine if you would be a good risk for repayment, or if you are a deadbeat.  Creditors want their money back, and they want to make interest on the loan. A credit problem is a problem.  And it is your problem to fix.  Despite what a credit repair service claims it can do, no one can legally remove current, accurate negative information from your credit report. For general tips on do-it-yourself credit repair (for free), […] Read More