If you are having trouble getting credit, ads that promise to fix your credit history or clean up your credit report may sound like the answer to your problems. But before you pay a credit repair clinic to "fix" your credit record, learn what the law says and consider saving your money by making some phone calls yourself. Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, you have the right to learn what your credit report says. If you have been denied credit based on a report from a credit bureau, the creditor must provide you with the name and address of the credit bureau it contacted. If you contact that bureau within 30 days to learn what is in your file, there is no charge for this service.
If you simply wish to learn what is in your credit file, check the Yellow Pages under Credit Bureaus or Credit Reporting Agencies. If several are listed, call to find which ones keep your file. Credit bureaus may charge to give you file information. Their fees usually range from $5 to $15.
After you review your credit record, contact your credit bureau if you find inaccurate information in your file. By law, the credit bureau must investigate it and, if it is inaccurate, remove it.
However, if the information is accurate, no one can require the credit bureau to remove it -- unless it is outdated. If you have been late paying your bills during the last seven years, the law permits the credit bureau to tell creditors about your history of late payments. Bankruptcy may be reported for 10 years. That is the law. If anyone tells you that they can remove negative but accurate information from your file, they are making promises that they cannot keep.
If you are having problems paying your bills and need help, you have several options. You can contact the companies you owe money and try to work out an adjusted repayment plan yourself, or you can check your telephone directory for non-profit financial counseling programs to get help. Some universities, local county extension agents, military bases, credit unions, housing authorities, and banks operate such programs and charge little, if anything, for their assistance.
You also may want to contact a Consumer Credit Counseling Service (CCCS), a non-profit organization with more than 850 offices located in 50 states. CCCS counselors will try to arrange a repayment plan that is acceptable to you and your creditors, and they also will help you set up a realistic budget. Check the White Pages of your telephone directory to get the number for the CCCS office nearest you, or call 1-800-388-2227 using a touch-tone phone. If you have other questions, write or call: National Foundation for Consumer Credit, 8611 Second Avenue, Suite 100, Silver Spring, MD 20910, (301) 589-5600. For more information about credit, write: Solving Credit Problems, Public Reference, Federal Trade Commission, Washington, D.C. 20580.
FTC CONSUMER & SMALL BUSINESS ADVISORY - PUBLIC DOCUMENT
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