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Tips for Spotting a Credit Repair Scam

Written by Equifax Experts on September 24, 2013 in Credit  |   3 comments

When you’re in debt, it can be tempting to enlist the help of a credit repair company that promises an end to all of your troubles. Unfortunately, some are scammers trying to take advantage of you. Here’s what to look for.

pay off debt, get out of debt, creditThe process of getting out of debt can leave a person scrambling. Paying off debt over time might seem too slow for some people, and so they may reach out to credit repair companies for help.

Unfortunately, some of the outstretched hands offering help with credit repair may actually belong to operators of scam companies.

Here are a few red flags that can indicate you’ve come across a credit repair scam:

  • A company asks you for money before doing any work.
  • A company tells you not to directly contact credit reporting agencies or your creditors.
  • A company tells you to dispute information in your credit report that you know is accurate or encourages you to give false information on loan or credit applications.

Fees for illegal services

Companies running credit repair scams sometimes require monthly service fees or charge exorbitant amounts, occasionally telling you to pay them directly instead of making payments to your creditors. Others offer the idea of a “new credit identity” that, for a fee, supposedly hides your bad credit history or bankruptcy.

If you pay that fee, the fraudulent credit repair company may provide you with a nine-digit number that looks like a Social Security number and that is often referred to as a CPN (which stands for “credit profile number” or “credit privacy number”). But the CPN may actually be a Social Security number the company has stolen from someone else.

In other cases, the fraudulent company will suggest that you apply for an Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the IRS. This is a legitimate number used by businesses to report to the IRS, but it is not a substitute for a Social Security number.

The phony credit repair company may then ask that you apply for credit using one of these numbers. Unfortunately, if you use either the CPN or EIN, the fraudsters may have involved you in identity theft, which could leave you facing fines or even time in prison according to the FTC.

What to do if you’ve been scammed

Legitimate credit repair organizations operate under the watchful eye of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which requires that these organizations explain your legal rights to you in a written contract. This contract details the services they’ll perform, how long it will take to get results, the costs involved, and any guarantees.

If you believe that you’ve been scammed by a credit repair scheme, there are a few things you can do. Many states have laws regulating credit repair companies that accompany the federal laws. Report your experience to your local consumer affairs office or the state attorney general, and file a report with your local police department.

You can also file a complaint with the FTC by submitting your police report along with a completed FTC Identity Theft Affidavit. These two items make up your Identity Theft Report. The FTC can’t help individuals resolve their credit issues, but it can take action against a company that has a history of violating the law.

If you believe you’ve been scammed, consider purchasing an identity monitoring product. These products will alert you to any changes made to your credit file so you have a chance to mitigate the impact of an identity theft before it spreads.

3 comments

  1. JHH says:

    People do unfortunately run to these Repair companies for help as a last resort. when you file to investigate an item with the Actual Credit Reporting Agency i.e. Equifax, Experian or Trans Union, you do not receive a fair investigation or most likely, no investigation period. They may pick up the phone an call a collection company an just ask if you owe this item. What is the collection company answer going to be; NO? I have four items on my report that are not mine and have tried to get help from the Reporting Agencies for a couple of years now even by joining and paying THEM monthly fees. Becoming a subscriber Does NOT help. You still can’t get an investigation. Use a Repair Company however; look for one that has been in business for a long time, has an actual physical address and membership in agencies like BBB etc. Most of them will be honest with you and let you know if something is able or unable to be changed. Good Luck

  2. S. Jones says:

    This is an excellent article exposing companies willing to prey on unwitting people trying to improve their situation Thank you!


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