Writer: D'Lyn Ford
LAS CRUCES -- Credit repair companies promise amazing results for a fee. But most consumers can take care of on their own credit problems easier with little or no cost.
"Credit repair companies may promise to remove information from your credit report, but there are some problems with such a promise," said Susan Wright, consumer education specialist with New Mexico State University's Cooperative Extension Service. "Accurate and timely information cannot be removed from your credit report."
Even when people pay off outstanding debts, the information remains in their files along with a note acknowledging it has been paid, she said. The information stays in the file for up to seven years. No credit repair company can remove it before then and, at that time, people can do it themselves without paying a fee.
"Credit repair clinics, which may require a large fee, help you do what you can do by yourself," Wright said. "They cannot clean your file up any better than you can, and you can do it for free."
By law, consumers can request an investigation or a reinvestigation of facts and information in their file that they think are inaccurate or incomplete, she said. There is no charge for this service. If a problem is found, the credit bureau will correct it.
Consumers should never pay companies in advance for credit repair services, Wright said. It is illegal for telemarketers who offer credit repair services to request payment until six months after they have delivered the services.
"If you pay up front, they may do nothing to help your credit problems and simply vanish with your money," Wright warned.
Consumers can do their own credit file check with help from local credit bureaus. Credit bureaus provide a free credit check for people who have recently been denied credit. In other cases, a fee is charged.
"Ultimately, the best way to erase a bad credit record is to develop a good current bill- paying record," Wright said. "If you make a habit of paying bills on time, eventually, the good will take the place of the bad."
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