A friend recently told a familiar sad story of paying a debt relief company to “fix” his bad credit. The company promised that if he would trust their “proven” method of flooding his creditors with appeals, the creditors would eventually fail to respond in the 30-day interval and the negative mark would be removed. He did as they instructed and paid a large sum up front for the company to begin sending out appeals. Unfortunately, they sent nothing.
The company then promised that for a small fee they would negotiate his debt down. First, he must trust their system and make monthly lump-sum payments to them and they would pay his creditors. Imagine his surprise when he learned they paid nothing and all of his accounts are in collections.
This story is similar to many experienced by those who are in a difficult financial condition and see this seeming lifeline is very attractive. The only problem is the lifeline is too often an illusion. Granted, legitimate debt relief and debt management companies exist to serve those in need of assistance. Certain realities concerning debt need to be acknowledged by struggling consumers. The most important of the realities is that no quick fix exists for credit repair.
Credit or FICO scores are calculated through a complex combination of factors such as credit history, debt load, and the percentage of the balance on accounts to available credit. Scores lower than 650 are considered risky and scores are 800 are considered strong. Each of the three credit reporting agencies, Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax, use different formulas for calculating FICO scores. Scores can move a few points from week to week. Major increases require months.
What Hurts FICO Scores?
A number of factors such as increasing debt balances and being late making payments can hurt FICO scores. Closing accounts can hurt FICO scores because it reduces the amount of possible credit available and increases the debt to credit ratio. Applications for new credit can reduce FICO scores.
The Only Quick Fix
What will provide a “quick fix” to credit scores? Only the correction of errors on the credit report will increase the score. Corrections include erroneous information and outdated information. The challenge process begins with a letter to the credit reporting agencies that questions the validity of an item reported by a creditor. The creditor has 30 days to respond with evidence supporting the negative mark. If the creditor does not respond within 30 days then the item will be removed.
Outdated information exceeds seven years. Bankruptcies appear on credit scores for ten years. Outdated information can be removed through the normal challenge process.
There are no quick methods for credit repair other than finding and reporting errors on a credit report. The best way to increase FICO scores is to implement a debt management plan that systematically reduces debt through prompt payments.