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What you need to know about the IRS and collection agencies

Will being turned down for a store credit card hurt my credit?

Beware of credit repair

Debt Management versus Debt Settlement

How to get ahead of late fees

Is There a Service That Helps You Not Pay Bills

Is a Debt Owed

Patience is the key to furnishing a new home

How to split expenses with your partner

Will my boyfriend's bad credit affect me?

Tax filing options to consider

What to do if your account is turned over to collections

Celebrating Valentine's Day on a budget

Personal Credit and Starting a Business

Finding Money to Reduce Your Debt and Improve Your Credit

Simple Keys to Personal Finance

Be vigilant to avoid telephone and internet scams

Debt Settlement

Understanding credit utilization

Setting New Year's goals that you can keep

The pros and cons of skipping a payment

Strategies for Financially Surviving the Holidays

Creating a fun and memorable holiday on a budget

Keep an open line of communication with parents about their finances.

Make a Choice to Get Ahead Financially

What to do when a relative asks you for money

Should You Buy a Home Now or Wait?

The difference between debt settlement and debt management

Tax Refund Delays for some in 2017

The negative impact of paying a payment 30 days late

Stressed by Finances

How to navigate two significant financial decisions: starting a family and buying a home

How to advise someone close to you who is coming into a significant amount of money

Make a Conscious Decision on How to Spend Your Money

Tips for Back-to-School Shopping

How do you know if you have a good credit score?

Americans spend more money eating out than on groceries

Having Good Credit Saves You Money

Developing good money habits with your first job

How to save for a home

How to Know if you are Ready for Home Ownership

When is the right time to buy a home?

You can improve your credit to buy a home

Plan a Memorable Vacation Without Incurring Debt

The Hidden Costs of Payday Loans

Be Wary of Credit Repair Services

Use Caution when playing the credit card game

What does it mean to say bankruptcy gives you a clean slate?

How your credit is affected by various debt options

Be wary of predatory small business loans

What to do if you fall behind on mortgage payments

Financing a College Education

Money, Credit and Relationships

Should you be concerned with your date's credit scores?

Best options for a small, short-term loan

How to help a relative who is always borrowing money from you

Setting New Year's goals that you can keep

Making the holidays memorable for families on a tight budget.

Skipping a Payment over the Holidays

What to do if you are overwhelmed by medical bills

Make your financial intention a financial goal you can achieve

Should Consumers Use the New EMV Cards?

What to do when a collector calls you

The difference between paying bills and managing your money

My wife and I have gone through some tough financial times, which eventually led us to file for bankruptcy.  Following this experience, I don’t ever want to use credit again, but my wife

What do I need to know to pay ahead on my mortgage?

What to do if you get an unsolicited credit card in the mail

What to do when moving in to share expenses doesn't work out

Beware of credit repair

Q. We’re living in an apartment right now, but we want to buy a home.  After visiting with a Realtor, we learned that our credit isn’t good enough to qualify for a home right now. In the meantime, he suggested that we contact a credit improvement company. The company wants a lot of money to fix our credit, but we’re anxious to move forward with the home-buying process.  What should we do?

A. I’m disappointed to hear that you’ve been advised to work with a credit improvement company. If you were to choose this route, I firmly believe this would only compound your financial problems. Credit improvement companies, alternately known as credit repair companies, prey upon consumers looking for a quick fix.

Buying a home is a significant financial step, one you want to be certain that you are ready for. If your credit is an issue, it will take time for you to get things back on track.

Regardless of what you’ve heard, no one can remove accurate information from your credit reports. Assuming the information they contain is correct, negative information will typically remain on your credit reports for seven years.  No amount of money, wishful thinking, or exaggerated promises can change this.

So, what can you do?  Start by requesting a free copy of each of your credit reports by visiting www.annualcreditreport.com. Next, review your credit reports for accuracy. If you find any mistakes, you can dispute this information by following the process noted on the each credit reporting agency’s website. The dispute process may take some time, but it does not cost you anything.

After you get a handle on what is on your credit reports, I suggest that you enroll in a credit education program offered through a non-profit accredited credit counseling agency. In many cases, these programs are free, but if there were a fee, it would be far less what you would pay a credit repair company.  With the help of one of these programs, you can learn practical steps for improving your credit on your own, without paying someone else hundreds of dollars.

You could also make an appointment with a HUD-approved housing counseling agency for pre-purchase counseling. You don’t have to be ready to purchase a home in order to get pre-purchasing counseling, though you can still learn about the home-buying process and what it will take to legitimately improve your credit.

You’ll have to be patient and willing to take the necessary steps to improve your credit, but you can realize your dream of homeownership. In the meantime, hold onto your money and avoid using the services of any company that claims it can repair your credit.

Bonnie Spain is the executive director of the American Center for Credit Education and Consumer Credit Counseling Service of the Black Hills. For more information, email acce@acce-online.com.

The material in this transmission is provided for personal, non-commercial, educational, and informational purposes only. ACCE makes no representations or warranties with respect to the accuracy or completeness of the contents of this transmission and assumes no responsibility for errors, inaccuracies, omissions, or any inconsistency herein. You should consult a professional where appropriate.