Action Line: Credit repair companies take advantage of consumers | Birmingham, AL

Dear Action Line: I must have missed it but are these “credit repair” outfits now considered legitimate? I still see ads for them on late-night cable, saying their programs can remove negative information from credit reports. Can they really? — W.K., Tulsa

“There is really no quick fix for a bad credit score,” said Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel in a consumer warning sent to Arkansans. Scams usually hit Arkansas before they roll into Oklahoma. “Con artists nevertheless take advantage of consumers by promising to restore their credit. They prey on their need for a good credit history and guarantee results, if only the consumer forks over hundreds of dollars in advance.”

Rip-off repair: “So-called credit-repair companies are unable to do anything legally that consumers can’t do for themselves at little or no cost,” he said. “These businesses are great at taking consumers’ money but not at solving credit problems.”

Credit-repair companies commonly advertise that they can “erase bad credit” and offer a “fast and easy way” to get rid of bad credit histories. Their ads are appealing to many consumers with poor credit histories, as bad credit reports can raise interest rates on loans, insurance premiums and sour suitability for good jobs.

Federal law: McDaniel said there are no easy or quick ways to repair any accurate, negative credit history. Further, the Federal Credit Repair Organizations Act prevents a for-profit organization from accepting up-front fees for “credit repair.” The Federal Trade Commission enforces this but at this writing, attempting to visit the FTC website produced only the statement, “Unfortunately, the Federal Trade Commission is closed due to the government shutdown.”

Hopefully that situation will be resolved within a week. Until then, see the act at bit.ly/OFVZOy

Federal law prohibits credit-repair organizations from making false claims or promises about their services. In addition to the prohibition against charging advance fees, credit-repair companies must provide consumers with a written contract. Consumers have three days to cancel the contract without paying any fees, McDaniel said.

Tulsa credit repairers: The Tulsa Better Business Bureau website listed seven credit repair companies in Tulsa, Broken Arrow and Owasso and each has an “F” rating.

The first one listed, Expedited Credit in downtown Tulsa, also has an F rating, due to “BBB concerns with the industry in which this business operates.” A consumer alert on it issued by the Tulsa BBB states, “This company first came to our attention July 8, 2011. Callers nationally informed us they found an ad on Craig’s List offering ‘permanent trade lines,’ CPNs and guaranteed $1 million in funding. Callers further explained, after speaking with Expedited Credit representatives, they could have a credit sweep done for $1,000. If they wanted trade lines that would cost $600 each.

“The Tulsa Better Business Bureau investigated the company and found the address listed on its website belongs to an executive suite for a Tulsa law firm. The firm’s office manager informed us she has never heard of Expedited Credit and it is not located at or in the law firm suite address. BBB warns consumers contemplating using credit repair services that their services are illegal,” the alert states.

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