Poor financial literacy, a shrinking middle class and rampant consumerism have gotten Americans in a lot of trouble (read: debt). And for every problem, there’s always someone with an entrepreneurial spirit willing to offer you a solution for a fee. Allow me to introduce you to the credit repair guy. He can “boost your score, remove negative information and make your student loans disappear“. Internet and social media has made it even easier for him to get customers.
It’s a business model with very low barriers to entry and low customer acquisition costs. So if this sounds like a great deal, that’s because it is: for Mr. Credit Repair Guy. Although the desire for instant gratification means we want that excellent score today, creditworthiness is something that takes time to build/repair, establish and maintain. It is indisputable that credit reports can contain misleading information, consumers can be victims of identity theft and illegal collection practices may give people recourse to fight off aggressive debt collectors, however, no one can LEGALLY remove accurate negative information from your credit report. If you incurred the debt and you are in default, no outlandish promises changes that. Anyone who claims otherwise may be running a scam and could get you caught up in a legal gray area, particularly since you as a customer are certifying that all information that you provide is accurate. Therefore, if they are using questionable tactics to remove TRUE information from your report, you could be held liable as I am certain they would not take the fall should a lawsuit show up from a creditor.
Another common feature of these dubious marketing techniques is the offer to remove items from your reports such as student loans, alimony and child support payments. I recently saw this in a Facebook group, and although my first reaction was to laugh, I was quickly alarmed by the amount of people who were excited to sign on as customers. While it is not impossible to discharge student loans in bankruptcy, it is so notoriously difficult, that it might as well be impossible. The standards used to determine eligibility are high and they are not usually automatically considered during regular bankruptcy proceedings and may require an additional petition. While filing for bankruptcy may allow you to reorganize your loans and have lower monthly payments, the option to completely eliminate the debt is a rarely granted one. These facts remain true in family support payments (child or spousal support ). You may use bankruptcy to manage future payment schedules but you will never be allowed to completely discharge your personal responsibility to your family by making 4 payments of $39.99 to a man running a company out of a dingy strip mall or a woman on Facebook telling you they’ll introduce you to a friend who helped boost her credit by 200 points over the past month.
My other grievance against these companies is their insistence on doing things for you rather than trying to equip you with the knowledge that you can use to empower yourself and your family to keep from ever falling back into the rabbit hole. “Give a man a fish… teach a man to fish…” But I suppose if there were no repeat customers, the business wouldn’t be as lucrative.
If you really want to step into the world of financial empowerment, you are better off investing in your financial education. This can be achieved by partnering with a financial coach who can help you curb your hurtful money habits as well as learn new habits, which will equip you with the tools you need to reverse course and stay on a new improved track. Because your goal shouldn’t be to simply remove things from your credit, but to learn how to keep it from getting to that point in the first place, because a broken arm, while painful, is not cured with Tylenol, but a cast and healing time.