Is it possible for a person with bad credit to inflate his/her own credit score and get the money-saving benefits of better credit by “piggybacking” on the credit of a stranger? That’s how a Denver-based business pitched its services to cash-strapped consumers. But the Federal Trade Commission says the defendants couldn’t back up their score improvement claims and engaged in several illegal practices that violated the FTC Act, the Credit Repair Organizations Act (CROA), and the Telemarketing Sales Rule.
BoostMyScore and CEO William O. Airy claimed to offer consumers “the amazing benefit” of having another person’s credit “‘copied and pasted’ on to your credit report,” giving the buyer “the biggest possible FICO® score boost in less than 60 days; and it’s guaranteed!” Here’s how the defendants described their services, for which they charged consumers between $325 to $4,000 – or even more:
Online and in radio ads, the defendants promised consumers concrete benefits – for example, qualifying for a mortgage. According to one promotional piece, “ . . . many of our customers realize a jump of about 120 points in as little as two weeks. What would a credit score increase of that size mean for you? If you are like most people, that could be the difference between having your mortgage application approved or not.”
The settlement prohibits the defendants from marketing credit repair services that attempt to add an authorized user to anyone’s credit unless that person has actual access. In addition to other provisions to protect consumers in the future, the proposed order prohibits misrepresentations about the legality of credit piggybacking. Most of the proposed $6.6 million judgment would be suspended due to the defendants’ financial condition.
For More Information click here.
- Ask students if it is possible to boost their own credit scores by someone else’s good credit.
- Ask students if they know what information creditors use in determining whether a loan will be approved or denied.
- What can be done to prevent companies such as Boost My Score, to stop deceiving already financially-strapped consumers?
- How effective are the cease-and-desist orders and fines by the Federal Trade Commission, if the defendants don’t have to pay due to their financial condition?
- What are the true and tried methods of improving your credit scores?
Your credit report contains information about where you live, how you pay your bills, and whether you’ve been sued or arrested, or have filed for bankruptcy. Credit reporting companies sell the information in your report to creditors, insurers, employers, and other businesses that use it to evaluate your applications for credit, insurance, employment, or renting a home. The federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) promotes the accuracy and privacy of information in the files of the nation’s credit reporting companies.
Some financial advisors and consumer advocates suggest that you review your credit report periodically. Why?
- Because the information it contains affects whether you can get a loan — and how much you will have to pay to borrow money.
- To make sure the information is accurate, complete, and up-to-date before you apply for a loan for a major purchase like a house or car, buy insurance, or apply for a job.
- To help guard against identity theft. That’s when someone uses your personal information — like your name, your Social Security number, or your credit card number — to commit fraud. Identity thieves may use your information to open a new credit card account in your name. Then, when they don’t pay the bills, the delinquent account is reported on your credit report. Inaccurate information like that could affect your ability to get credit, insurance, or even a job.
For more information, click here.
- Ask students to summarize major provisions of the Fair Credit Reporting Act. How does the law protect consumers?
- What is the importance of reviewing your credit report periodically?
- Why only authorized persons are allowed to obtain credit reports?
- What must a credit bureau do when you notify the credit bureau that you dispute the accuracy of its information?
- What should you do if you are denied credit, insurance, employment, or rental housing based on the information in the report?
Many recent college graduates choose to rent expensive, upscale apartments rather than putting money into savings. Their “fear of missing out” (FOMO) on being “close to the action” or luxury-living amenities comes at a cost, with high demand for these units resulting in spiraling monthly rents. To cover these higher costs, “apartment loans” are now available in several urban areas.
Similar to the high-risk mortgages that triggered the financial crisis in 2008, apartment loans may be viewed as predatory lending. Renters may borrow up to $15,000 with no interest for the first six months, but then encounter an annual interest rate of 15-17 percent. Some justify these loans in that the costs are lower than payday lending.
If you have to take out a loan to pay the rent for an apartment…you CAN’T afford to live there. Your ability to build wealth and long-term financial security will depend on living within your income.
For additional information on apartment loans, click here.
- Have students conduct a survey of renters to determine actions they took to determine the location and cost of obtaining an apartment.
- Have students create a visual presentation with the dangers of apartment loans.
- What actions might be considered to avoid apartment loans?
- Describe financial and personal concerns associated with apartment loans.
In June 2019, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) charged that two defendants, Douglas Filter and Marcio G. Andrade, using such trade names as Deletion Experts, Inquiry Busters, and Top Tradelines, used deceptive websites, unsolicited emails, and text messages to target consumers with false promises of substantially improving consumers’ credit scores by claiming to remove all negative items and hard inquiries from consumers’ credit reports.
The defendants also falsely claimed to substantially improve consumers’ credit scores by promising to add consumers as “authorized users” to other individuals’ credit accounts. In most instances, however, the defendants were not able to substantially improve consumers’ credit scores. The complaint also alleges that the defendants charged illegal upfront fees and failed to provide consumers with required disclosures about their credit repair services.
The defendants often used illegal remotely created checks to pay for the credit repair services they offered through telemarketing, according the FTC’s complaint.
For more information, click here.
- Ask students to prepare a list of federal laws that protect consumers from operators of fake credit repair schemes.
- What is the best advice before you sign with such companies as, Grand Teton Professionals, LLC; to repair your poor credit?
- What is a household to do if it is experiencing problems in paying bills, thus resulting in poor credit scores?
- What are your options, if you are having problems paying your bills and need help?
- Discuss the statement, “Only time and a conscientious effort to pay your debt in a timely manner will lead to the success of improving your credit report.”
Security freezes, also known as credit freezes, restrict access to your credit file, making it harder for identity thieves to open new accounts in your name. Starting September 21, 2018, you can freeze and unfreeze your credit file for free. You also can get a free freeze for your children who are under 16. And if you are someone’s guardian, conservator or have a valid power of attorney, you can get a free freeze for that person, too.
How will these freezes work? Contact all three of the nationwide credit reporting agencies – Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. If you request a freeze online or by phone, the agency must place the freeze within one business day. If you request a lift of the freeze, the agency must lift it within one hour. If you make your request by mail, the agency must place or lift the freeze within three business days after it gets your request. You also can lift the freeze temporarily without a fee.
Don’t confuse freezes with locks. They work in a similar way, but locks may have monthly fees. If you want a free freeze guaranteed by federal law, then opt for a freeze, not a lock.
For more information, click here.
- Ask students if anyone has already placed a credit freeze or a fraud alert. If so, what has been their experience?
- Encourage students to place a credit freeze since it is now free to freeze or unfreeze their credit file.
- What might be the advantages or disadvantages of placing a credit freeze?
- What can you do if a credit reporting agency is not placing a credit freeze or fraud alert properly?
What are common credit report errors that you should look for on your credit report? When reviewing your credit report, check that it contains items about you. Be sure to look for information that is inaccurate or incomplete.
Some common errors in credit reports are:
- Errors made to your identity information (wrong name, phone number, address)
- Accounts belonging to another person with the same name or similar name as yours (this mixing of two consumer’s information in a single file is called mixed file)
- Incorrect accounts resulting from Identity theft
Incorrect reporting of account status
- Closed accounts reported as open
- You are reported as the owner of the account, when you are actually just an authorized user
- Accounts that are incorrectly reported as late or delinquent
- Incorrect date of last payment, date opened, or date of first delinquency
- Same debt listed more than once (possibly with different names)
Data management errors
- Reinsertion of incorrect information after it was corrected
- Accounts that appear multiple times with different creditors listed (especially in the case of delinquent accounts or accounts in collection)
- Accounts with an incorrect current balance
- Accounts with an incorrect credit limit
For more information, click here.
- Why is important to check your credit reports every year?
- Credit bureaus are required to follow reasonable procedures to ensure that your credit report is accurate, then why mistakes may occur?
- Ask students if they have ever been contacted a credit bureau to dispute the accuracy of its information. What was the outcome?
- When you notify the credit bureau that you dispute the accuracy of its information, what must the credit bureau do to rectify mistakes?
- What are your legal remedies if a consumer reporting agency fails to comply with the provisions of the Fair Credit Reporting Act?
Ring, ring. “This is Equifax calling to verify your account information.” Stop. Don’t tell them anything. They’re not from Equifax. It’s a scam. Equifax will not call you out of the blue.
That’s just one scam you might see after Equifax’s recent data breach. Other calls might try to trick you into giving your personal information. Here are some tips for recognizing and preventing phone scams and imposter scams:
- Don’t give personal information. Don’t provide any personal or financial information unless you’ve initiated the call and it’s to a phone number you know is correct.
- Don’t trust caller ID. Scammers can spoof their numbers so it looks like they are calling from a particular company, even when they’re not.
- If you get a robocall, hang up. Don’t press 1 to speak to a live operator or any other key to take your number off the list. If you respond by pressing any number, it will probably just lead to more robocalls.
For more information about the Equifax breach, go to Equifax’s website.
- Ask students if they know someone who has received such a call. If so, how the victim responded to the imposter?
- What advice can you provide to a victim of a scam?
- What should you do, if you have already received a call that you think is fake?
- What must you do if you gave personal information to an imposter?
- What can you do to protect yourself from such scams?
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.
- 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.
- Where and how can you report credit repair frauds?
- Can the FTC resolve individual credit disputes? If not, why should you file the complaint with the FTC?
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
- 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?
- What steps can you take to improve your credit score?
- Which federal laws protect your rights if your credit application is denied?
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.
- Consider consulting with a reputable credit counseling service.
- Understand what information is most likely to influence your credit scores.
- Obtain and review a copy of your free credit report.
For more information, click here.
- 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?
- Why it is important to review your credit files every year even if you are not planning to apply for a big loan?
- What are your legal remedies if a credit reporting agency engages in unfair reporting practices?