The Credit Repair Organizations Act

The Credit Repair Organization Act (CROA) makes it illegal for credit repair companies to lie about what they can do for you, and to charge you before they’ve performed their services.  The CROA is enforced by the Federal Trade Commission and requires credit repair companies to explain:

  • your legal rights in a written contract that also details the services they’ll perform,
  • your three day right to cancel without with any charge,
  • how long will it take to get results,
  • the total cost you will pay, and
  • any guarantees.

What if a credit repair company you hired doesn’t live up to its promises?  You have some options.  You can:

  • sue them in federal court for your actual losses or for what you paid them, whichever is more,
  • seek punitive damages—money to punish the company for violating the law,
  • join other people in a class action lawsuit against the company, and if you win, the company has to pay your attorney’s fees.

For more information, click here.

Teaching Suggestions

  • Ask students to make a list of major provisions of the Credit Repair Organization Act.
  • Ask students if there is a time limit on reporting negative information about criminal convictions.

Discussion Questions

  1. Where and how can you report credit repair frauds?
  2. Can the FTC resolve individual credit disputes? If not, why should you file the complaint with the FTC?

Review a Copy of Your Free Credit Report

Credit reports, produced by credit bureaus, detail your financial history, and are used to develop credit scores.  Under federal law, you can get at least one free report from each of the nationwide credit bureaus every 12 months.  If you find an error, contact the credit bureau directly and correct the record.

If you cannot qualify for a regular credit card, consider a no-fee or low-fee secured credit card.  This is a credit card for which you would keep money (as collateral) in a deposit account at the financial institution issuing the card.  For example, if you want a card with $1,000 limit, you might deposit that amount into a savings account at the bank offering you the card.  The lender would report how you manage the card to one or more of the credit bureaus, and often it will provide you the opportunity to obtain an unsecured credit card after a certain period of on-time payments.  Secured cards may have fees attached to them and may have a higher interest rate, so be sure to do your homework before signing up.

To order your free annual report from the three major credit bureaus—Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion visit www.AnnualCreditReport.com or call toll free 1-877-322-8228.

You have the right to see and correct reports from “specialty” credit bureaus that, for example, track a person’s history of handling a checking account.

For more information, go to:

Building a better credit report

Specialty consumer reports

Teaching Suggestions

  • Ask students to visit several websites that may provide current information about credit files.
  • Bring to class examples of credit related problems of individuals or families. Suggest ways in which these problems may be solved.
  • Ask students to talk to a person who has discovered an error on his or her credit report. What was their experience to get it corrected?

Discussion Questions

  1. What steps can you take to improve your credit score?
  2. Which federal laws protect your rights if your credit application is denied?

 

Establishing or Rebuilding Credit Scores

Your credit scores are prepared by FICO and other companies and are mainly based on your history of managing debts, such as whether you tend to make payments on time.  Your scores play a significant role in your everyday life because the next time you apply for a loan or credit card—or perhaps a new apartment or insurance—your scores could affect the final decision, including your costs.

For many consumers with damaged credit scores and those with no credit record, here are some ways to improve your credit scores.

  1. Consider consulting with a reputable credit counseling service.
  2. Understand what information is most likely to influence your credit scores.
  3. Obtain and review a copy of your free credit report.

For more information, click here.

Teaching Suggestions

  • Ask students if they know how to obtain their free credit reports from credit bureaus. If they already have received their credit report(s), did they find any errors?
  • What can you do if your credit report contains erroneous data or records of someone with a name similar to yours?

Discussion Questions

  1. Why it is important to review your credit files every year even if you are not planning to apply for a big loan?
  2. What are your legal remedies if a credit reporting agency engages in unfair reporting practices?

A Boost To Your Credit Score?

Your credit score, which is mainly based on your history of repaying loans, can determine your ability to borrow money and how much you will pay for it.  Here is good news for some consumers: Your score may improve as a result of changes in how credit reports and scores are compiled.

FICO, a company that provides software used to produce many consumer credit scores, announced that unpaid medical debt will not have as big an impact on the new version of its most popular credit score.  And the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) announced that it will require the major consumer reporting agencies to provide regular accuracy reports to the Bureau on how disputes from consumers are being handled.  The CFPB said medical debt in particular is a source of numerous complaints because billing process can be complicated and confusing to consumers.  The CFPB noted that the accuracy reports will help it hold credit reporting companies accountable for ensuring that erroneous information does not damage your credit score.

These changes may help raise some consumers’ credit scores and reduce their borrowing costs.  In general, though, to build or maintain a good credit score, consumers need to manage their money carefully, and that includes using caution when taking on additional debt.

For more information, click here.

Teaching Suggestions

  • Ask students if they have requested copies of their credit reports and if the information was correct?
  • Have you applied for new credit recently, and it so, what was the outcome?

Discussion Questions

  1. What is the best strategy to maintain or improve your credit score?
  2. What are the legal steps to take to improve your credit report?
  3. If you apply for too many new credit cards, how it might affect your credit score?

Credit Rights of Women

“A good credit history—a record of your payments—often is necessary to get credit.  This can hurt many married, separated, divorced, and widowed women.  Typically, there are two reasons women don’t have credit histories in their own names: either they have lost their credit histories when they married and changed their names, or creditors reported accounts shared by married couples in the husband’s name only.

If you’re married, separated, divorced, or widowed, contact your local credit reporting companies to make sure all relevant bill payment information is in a file under your own name.  You credit report includes information on where you live, how you pay your bills, and whether you’ve been sued, arrested or filed bankruptcy.  National credit reporting companies sell the information in your report to creditors, insurers, employers, and other businesses that in turn, use it to evaluate your applications for credit, insurance, employment, or renting a home.

The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) requires each of the three nationwide credit reporting companies—Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion—to give you a free copy of your credit report at your request, once every 12 months.  To order your report, visit annualcreditreport.com or call 1-977-322-8228.”

For additional information, click here.

Teaching Suggestions

  • Ask students to contact the three nationwide credit reporting agencies to obtain free copy of their credit report.
  • Prepare a list of protections provided under the Equal Credit Opportunity Act.

Discussion Questions

  1. What other rights do women have when they apply for credit?
  2. Where can women complain if their credit application is rejected because of sex or marital status?

Credit Report Accuracy

Credit Report Accuracy

In late January 2015, The Federal Trade Commission issued a follow-up study of credit report accuracy and found that most consumers who previously reported an unresolved error on one of their three major credit reports believe that at least one piece of disputed information on their report is still inaccurate.

The study found that one if five consumers had an error that was corrected by a credit reporting agency after it was disputed on at least one of their three credit reports.  The study also found that about 20 percent of consumers who identified errors on one of their three major credit reports experienced an increase in their credit score that resulted in a decrease in their risk tier, making them more likely to be offered a lower auto loan interest rate.

For more information, Click Here.

Teaching Suggestions

  • Ask students what are their legal remedies if a credit reporting agency engages in unfair reporting practices.
  • Bring to class examples of credit-related problems of individuals and families. Suggest ways in which these problems might be solved.

Discussion Questions

  1. Why is it important for consumers to check their credit reports at least once a year?
  2. What can consumers do to ensure that their credit reports are free from errors?

Free Credit Scores

“Free credit scores” sounds good, right?  But what if you signed up for “free credit scores,” then found out you were enrolled in a credit monitoring program that costs $29.95 per month?  Not so good.  That’s what the FTC says happened with a company called One Technologies, Inc.  Now the company has agreed to settle the FTC’s charges that it misled consumers by advertising “free credit scores” but failing to tell them that they would be enrolled in a credit monitoring program for a monthly fee.

One Technologies, Inc. offered people “free” online access to their credit scores through at least fifty websites, including freescore360.com, freescoreonline.com , and scorescense.com.  But according to the FTC, the company didn’t clearly inform people that once they got their score, they would pay $29.95 per month for a credit monitoring program.  You could only get out of that monthly fee by calling to cancel.  Some people had to call multiple times.  Others were denied refunds.  One Technologies, Inc. will pay $22 million to compensate its customers and must get their consent before billing them.  Also, it must provide the customers with an easy way to cancel.

For additional information, click here.

Discussion Questions

  1. What can you do if you become victim of a deceptive marketing practice?
  2. Where can you get your free credit report at least once every year?

Teaching Suggestions

  1. Ask students to obtain their credit reports from Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax.
  2. Ask students to search the Internet for “free credit scores” and summarize their findings.

Prescreened Credit and Insurance Offers

Many companies that solicit new credit card accounts and insurance policies use prescreening to identify potential customers for the products they offer.  Prescreened offers–sometimes called “preapproved” offers–are based on information in your credit report that indicates you meet criteria set by the company.  Usually, you receive prescreened solicitations via mail, but you may also get them in a phone call or in an email.

For additional information, go to

http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0148-prescreened-credit-and-insurance-offers

Teaching Suggestions

You may want to use the information in this article to discuss

  • Why some people prefer not to receive prescreened offers in the mail, especially if they are not in the market for a new credit card or insurance policy?
  • What might be some advantages of receiving prescreened offers?
  • Ask how many students have received prescreened offers and what did they do with them.

Discussion Questions

  1. Can prescreening hurt your credit report or credit score?
  2. How can you reduce the number of unsolicited credit and insurance offers you receive?

The Credit Card Mistake That’s Costing Millenials

“A new survey from BMO Harris Bank shows consumers are confused on how credit card balances affect credit scores. . .”

While using a credit card is one of the easiest ways to build credit, there are plenty of misconceptions about how best to do that.  According to this survey

  • 39 percent of Millennials—people between ages 18 to 34—believe carrying a balance increases their credit scores. In fact, carrying a balance does not improve credit scores and can actually hurt scores.
  • 23 percent of those surveyed indicated that a person’s educational level affects his or her credit score. In fact, a credit score is based only on the information in your credit report, and educational level is not included in your credit report.
  • 27 percent of those surveyed thought checking their credit scores would lower their credit score. In fact, the opposite is true:  If you regularly check your credit scores, it’s likely you’ll make financial decisions that will improve your credit score.

For more information go to http://finance.yahoo.com/news/credit-card-mistake-thats-costing-103040745.html

Teaching Suggestions

You may want to use the information in this blog post and the original article to

  • Discuss why a credit score is important.
  • Stress the importance of “managing” credit card debt.

Discussion Questions

  1. What affect will your credit score have on the finance charges you pay for credit purchases?
  2. How can your credit score affect your ability to purchase a home or an automobile?
  3. Assume you have a low credit score and have been turned down for a home mortgage. What steps can you take to increase your credit score?

Protect Your Personal Information and Money

Recent reports about thieves gaining access to sensitive personal information that can be used to commit fraud or steal money, sometimes involving major security breaches at large retailers such as Target stores.  While federal laws and industry practices generally limit losses for unauthorized transactions involving bank accounts, debit and credit cards, it pays to be proactive.

Be careful when you use social networking sites.  Scammers use social networking sites to gather details about individuals, such as their place or date of birth, a pet’s name, their mother’s maiden name, and other information that can help them figure out passwords–or how to reset them.  Even small amount of information can help them steal your identity, such as by answering security questions that control access to accounts.  According to Michael Benardo, Chief of the FDIC’s Cyber Fraud and Financial Crimes Section, “Don’t share your ‘page’ or access with anyone you don’t know and trust.  Criminals may pretend to be your ‘friend’  or relative to convince you to send money or divulge personal information.”

For additional information and tips on avoiding fraud at social media sites, go to the Internet Crime Complaint Center at

http://www.ic3.gov/media/2009/091001.aspx and http://www.fdic.gov/consumers/consumer/news/cnfall13/socialmedia.html

Discussion Questions

1.  What can you do to guard against scams involving fraudulent requests to wire money or send a prepaid card?

2.  Why should you be suspicious about unsolicited emails or text messages asking you to click on a link or open an attachment?

Teaching Suggestions

You may want to use the information in this blog and the websites to

*  Discuss the importance of regularly reviewing your transactions in your credit card and bank statements.

*  Carefully choose user IDs and passwords for your computers, mobile devices, and online accounts.

*  Periodically review your credit reports to make sure someone else has not obtained a credit card or a loan in your name.