(RepublicanView) – Good credit has become necessary for so many reasons other than making large purchases through loans. Credit affects whether or not people qualify for apartments, what jobs they obtain and keep, their insurance rates, whether they have to put deposits down for utilities and how much, and even whether they can qualify for a cell phone account. So when companies talk about credit repair and credit sweeps, it’s important to understand what they’re talking about and what they can or can’t legally do.
What Is Credit Repair?
People can hire companies to help repair their credit by making inquiries and disputing inaccurate or negative information from their credit reports. There are various ways to dispute inaccurate information, and credit repair companies will escalate their inquiries to remove inaccurate information, but they need accurate records from the people that hire them. It can be a time-consuming process, but it’s not difficult. While many people do hire credit-repair companies, it’s something individuals can accomplish on their own with relative ease.
In addition to clearing up misinformation on credit reports, some credit repair companies also provide suggestions for debt consolidation, credit management, and credit score optimization to help their clients maximize their financial potential. Once again, these are steps most individuals can pursue on their own with some research and time investment.
What Is a Credit Sweep?
Some credit repair companies offer a credit sweep service that automatically disputes and removes all negative information on a person’s credit report, whether it’s accurate or inaccurate. The unfortunate reality, though, is that the repair companies do this by asking the client to commit fraud and by committing fraud with them.
The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) gives people the right to dispute inaccurate information on their credit reports. When they do, the credit bureaus must investigate to find out whether the information the claimants are disputing is valid or not.
But there’s also a special section under the FCRA that pertains to identity theft, section 605B. It quickly allows people to remove blocks of information that they claim were entered fraudulently due to identity theft.
Typically, negative items on a credit report remain there for seven years. If a person disputes them under the usual process, removing negative items from a credit report might take 30 to 45 days, assuming those items were not valid. But using 605B to sweep all negative entries from the report, regardless of validity, can take as little as four to five days.
How Does a Credit Sweep Work?
The credit repair company asks the client to file a report with the police indicating they were the victim of identity theft for the period during which they want to clear negative entries from the client’s credit report. After the client files the police report, the credit repair company files the credit sweep with the credit bureaus for the time frame the client claimed victimization.
If successful, the credit bureaus remove all negative information during that time frame, likely clearing the credit report significantly. However, clients and the credit repair company will have acted fraudulently and criminally if there was not an actual identity theft during the time frame reported.
If someone legitimately becomes a victim of identity theft, a credit sweep may legitimately be the easiest way to clear the credit damage inflicted by the identity thieves. That was the reason legislators passed the section.
Performing a credit sweep under false pretenses is fraudulent and illegal and can lead to criminal penalties. Every jurisdiction will have different penalties and thresholds for prosecution. Still, making a false report to police and fraudulently claiming identity theft to change credit report information could be criminally prosecuted.
If a credit company doesn’t disclose their intent to perform a credit sweep but promises a significant boost in credit score, and if they are promising “fast” results, be sure to ask about their methods. Many people use credit repair beneficially and legally.
While using a credit sweep could sound tempting, it’s not legal unless the client has actually experienced identity theft during the period in dispute — otherwise, it’s fraud. Clearing inaccurate negative results through dispute letters takes longer, but individuals won’t have to worry about fraud or perjury charges.
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