Tag Archives: Chapter 13 Bankruptcy

Rebuild your credit score after bankruptcy

The Wall Street Journal’s “Smart Money” feature states it clearly: bankruptcy can help improve your credit score over the long term, even if your score hasn’t declined very much.

Just being cautious with your credit after bankruptcy is of number one importance, according to “Smart Money”. There are many consumers who may see quick gains in credit score recovery from a bankruptcy, and other consumers for whom a bankruptcy filing can arrest an otherwise inevitable long term credit score slide.

Consumers who fail to significantly reduce the amounts owed on high balance credit accounts my eventually see a decline in their credit score. Carrying high balances on credit over time can eventually be as harmful to your credit score as late mortgage payments, repossessions, or delinquent accounts placed with bill collection companies.

Some consumers may already have made payments late, missed payments altogether, or have had accounts turned over to debt collectors. These consumers are probably already out of the “good credit” 700+ credit score range. A credit score of 850 is considered “perfect”.

John Ulzheimer, president of Credit.com Educational Services, a consumer credit education group, is quoted in an article entitled “Declaring Bankruptcy Can Improve Your Credit Score” in ”Smart Money” by Aleksandra Todorova. Mr. Ulzheimer asserts that after filing for bankruptcy, consumers who fall into either the high balance or struggling to make payments categories may see their credit scores increase, depending upon the point where they have fallen on the credit decline trajectory. Why? To start with, credit reports are largely wiped clean with a bankruptcy filing.

According to Ulzheimer, many consumers see a fairly quick improvement in credit scores after bankruptcy. Here’s why: When calculating scores, the formulas developed by Fair Isaac (the company that calculates the most widely used credit score, known as the FICO score) are set up to grade someone’s credit standing as compared with that of consumers in a similar financial position. To do that, Fair Isaac divides consumers into 10 groups, using what it calls “score cards”. It then ranks the consumers in each group based on the others in the group. One of these score cards is bankruptcy filers.

With a bankruptcy filing, the FICO score is then determined based on how one does after bankruptcy compared with other bankruptcy filers, explains Fair Isaac spokesperson Craig Watts. The reason? Fair Isaac has found this to predict credit risk better. ”It’s a much fairer comparison,” says Mr. Watts. ”You’re not compared with people with rosy, perfect reports.” Thus with good after bankruptcy credit management, a good score in the 700s isn’t impossible, and when the bankruptcy drops off of your credit record in 7-10 years, you might even then hit that perfect 850.

The “V” Shaped Curve Leads to Inevitable Credit Recovery

In her article on About.com entitled, “How Much Will Bankruptcy Hurt Your Credit Score”, LaToya Irby, Credit / Debt Management Guide, takes us through the decline and recovery of a consumer credit score in various scenarios. The “worst case” scenario for a bankruptcy filing might be a temporary credit score drop of a mere 150 points for someone with an already mediocre credit score of 680-690, and even less than 150 points if a credit score is already in the troubled 500-650 range. If one’s credit score is already coasting down to 680-690, then bigger problems are probably already on the way. The good news is that a bankruptcy filing can 1) end the days of that forever lingering sub-700 mediocre to poor credit score or 2) halt and then reverse a downward-moving credit score trend. The reason is that with a long term credit score of 680-690, you will not receive many low-rate credit offers anyway, so a bankruptcy filing could easily be a step in the right direction to better credit offers in the near future. So consider taking the bankruptcy hit now to strip away the credit disaster, and then begin to rebuild a better financial future.

Ms. Irby does relate that if a consumer’s credit score is really high—a score of 780, for example—a bankruptcy filing could lower the score by 240 points to a poor score of 540. However, starting from that low point, a credit score can recover with amazing speed to the point of qualifying for a home mortgage in as few as two years after bankruptcy. Better yet, the consumer might even be able to comfortably afford the mortgage without the crushing debt burden eliminated after bankruptcy.

Is Chapter 13 better than Chapter 7?

Generally, bankruptcy in Chapter 13 where the debtor makes full or partial repayment of debts according to a reorganization plan is not better for rebuilding credit. A Chapter 7 “straight bankruptcy” filing offers the best financial recovery strategy for most consumers. In Chapter 7, all or nearly all debts are wiped out in a quick and short proceeding without any repayment required. Many people misunderstand Chapter 7, and mistakenly believe that they will lose their house in a Chapter 7 and that their car or 401k savings plan will be taken away. This is not correct. Rarely, if ever, is any property or item taken away in Chapter 7, and consumers can keep a house and car in Chapter 7 if they wish, so long as any mortgage or car loan payments are kept up. Ms. Irby of About.com Guides researched the question of whether 7 or 13 was better for quick credit recovery, and decided that Chapter 7 is better for a quick credit score recovery, relying upon information released by FICO.

In 2010, the Fair Isaac Company, the provider of the popular FICO credit scoring model in which a score of 850 is considered a “perfect” credit score, published information about how bankruptcy can affect a credit score by proving some mock scenarios with different credit profiles. The FICO mock examples did not differentiate between the effect of Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcies, so the proprietary and secret FICO formulas do not seem to prefer or favor a debtor who makes full or partial repayment through a Chapter 13 bankruptcy plan. This argument seems to suggest that most consumers might as well file for Chapter 7 when it comes to FICO credit scores, because a Chapter 7 filing is over so much more quickly than a three to five year Chapter 13 full or partial debt repayment plan. LaToya Irby authored an interesting article entitled “What Your Credit Score Is Made Of” that describes the components that make up consumer credit scores in more detail.

Credit Restoration 101

Restoring credit after bankruptcy is not nearly so hard as people might think, and there is an easy rule of thumb to begin the speedy recovery of a FICO credit score. That is, simply maintain a good credit record with any accounts which survive the bankruptcy, including child support payments, utilities, mortgages, and car loans that are kept after bankruptcy.

Ask.com Guide’s Ms. LaToya Irby sums it up: ”You might be surprised to see how soon after bankruptcy you begin receiving credit card offers again. If you file for bankruptcy, know that your credit isn’t lost forever.”

Aleksandra Todorova of the Wall Street Journal “Smart Money”‘s agrees: “[H]ere’s some surprising news: In many cases, the damage done (by bankruptcy) to one’s credit score isn’t nearly as bad as expected. Over the long run, obtaining a score high enough to make you eligible for very competitive rates isn’t out of the question.”

Advanced Credit Recovery

Consumers can turbocharge their after bankruptcy FICO credit score recovery with a little further reading and follow-up action. There are a number of online guides and some great books available to help you learn how to speed up your FICO credit score recovery after bankruptcy. Consumer debt expert Gerri Detweiler, www.gerriderweiler.com, is the author of “The Ultimate Credit Handbook: How to Cut Your Debt and Have a Lifetime of Great Credit, Third Edition,” for example. For starters, the first four credit recovery steps recommended in the aforementioned WSJ’s “Smart Money” column are really easy steps to get a credit score back into the desirable 700s – maybe even within two years. Here’s a summary:

(1) Damage Control. Make sure that all the accounts listed in your bankruptcy are listed in your credit report as $0 balances and/or “discharged in bankruptcy” because if the creditor keeps erroneously reporting it as having a collectible balance, it will slow down or stop your credit recovery progress. You may get your credit report at www.annualcreditreport.com to check for erroneous reporting, and then learn how to dispute erroneous information on your credit report.

(2) Get a New Credit Card. If you can’t get a credit card with a small credit limit, then search for a lender who will issue you a “secured” card. A secured card is one that is backed by a modest cash deposit. Look for a lender who promises to let you “graduate” to a regular unsecured credit card following 18 months or so of on-time payments.

(3) Piggyback. If you have a very trusted friend or relative with good credit repayment habits, ask that person to allow you to become an “authorized user” on one of their credit cards. This may eventually “bootstrap” your friend’s good payment history into your credit report history.

(4) Bigger Loans. I have seen some people get a car loan while they are still in the 4 month Chapter 7 process. For others, a car loan within a few months after bankruptcy is often a possibility. Of course, only finance a car loan if in fact you really need a car. Should the need arise, start shopping for a lender and auto dealer who will work with you. It is important to be choosey about the terms of any car loan. If you are shopping when the auto dealership is under a crunch to make a sales quota, you might find that the auto dealership needs you more than you need them. Do not accept a ridiculous loan interest rate! If the car lot finance manager cannot get you a reasonable after bankruptcy interest rate of 8-14%, then move on immediately. Find a more flexible lender. I have heard tales of some people even getting a 5.0% interest rate car loan—or less—after bankruptcy on a car loan. Be tough, be polite and be fair during your negotiations, and you may be surprised at the favorable outcome.

Gerri Detweiler says that sometimes consumers have to face the music and file bankruptcy. Rebuilding a credit score into the FICO 700s range after bankruptcy isn’t necessarily that difficult, especially by starting with the four good credit restoration fundamentals reviewed above.

Ideas for Action

Saving a credit score in the short term shouldn’t be seen as a good reason to avoid or postpone filing for bankruptcy, particularly if you have either high debt balances or are struggling to make payments on time. If you find after a sober examination of your finances that you are unable to completely clear consumer debts to zero within a couple of years, bankruptcy may be the prudent choice. Even if your credit score isn’t below 700 currently, it is quite likely that it will end up there anyway if your financial resources are stretched too thinly. ”You have to be realistic about your ability to get back on your feet financially by repaying your debts within a reasonable time without an extreme or ridiculously small household budget which is not long-term practical” says Ms. Detweiler.

Articles quoted or referenced in this article:

How Much Will Bankruptcy Hurt Your Credit Score

http://credit.about.com/od/bankruptcy/qt/How-Much-Will-Bankruptcy-Hurt-Your-Credit-Score.htm

Credit expert Gerri Detweiler

http://www.gerridetweiler.com/

Amazon.com: The Ultimate Credit Handbook: How to Cut Your Debt and Have a Lifetime of Great Credit, Third Edition (9780452283923): Gerri Detweiler: Books

http://www.amazon.com/Ultimate-Credit-Handbook-Lifetime-Great/dp/0452283922

AnnualCreditReport

https://www.annualcreditreport.com/cra/index.jsp

How to Dispute Consumer Credit Reporting Errors and Fix Your Credit Report – Money Management

http://www.moneymanagement.org/budgeting-tools/credit-articles/credit/how-to-dispute-consumer-credit-reporting-errors-and-fix-your-credit-report.aspx

Declaring Bankruptcy Can Improve Your Credit Score – SmartMoney.com

http://www.smartmoney.com/borrow/debt-strategies/declaring-bankruptcy-can-improve-your-credit-score-20681/

After your bankruptcy filing, get discovered (and rich!) with Kickstarter.com

David Pogue, personal-tech columnist for The New York Times, states that 2013 is the year of the “smart watch” in his “State of the Art” column entitled “Dick Tracy, Your Watch Is Ready, Almost”, published February 27th.

The apparent market leader in “smart watches” will be the Pebble Watch. The next products to challenge for the lead will have names like the Cookoo, I’m Watch, Meta Watch, Casio G-Shock GB-6900 and Martian.

Come on! What does a discussion of new “smart watches” have to do with a bankruptcy blog? It has lots to do with bankruptcy!

First, every single one of the “smart watch” products have something on common, says Mr. Pogue. The concept behind each prototype was first floated on Kickstarter.com, a website where people with an idea seek donors who would contribute to their prototype.

Second, if you have an idea for something like the smart watch and you file for bankruptcy, what happens to your idea? Can your idea be taken away from you as intellectual property to be sold with the proceeds distributed to your creditors? If you have an idea, when should you post it on Kickstarter.com for funding requests?

The answer is “yes”, you can lose rights to your great ideas in bankruptcy. Your idea can be taken away by the bankruptcy court trustee and sold to the highest bidder. So if you are on to something big like the “smart watch” at the same time you are struggling with debts, you might want to file for bankruptcy before you do any significant marketing or development work on your invention, and you should certainly file for bankruptcy before you ever post your idea or invention on Kickstarter.com.

Could an idea of yours find funding on Kickstarter.com and even lead to post-bankruptcy riches if you are “discovered” by the right people? Very possibly yes, as Kickstarter.com does not limit participation to technology and physical inventions, but welcomes performance artists, musicians, authors, and fashion designers. Kickstarter.com wasn’t established just to help inventors to make money by finding a financial backer to buy your idea. Kickstarter.com may enable you to develop something of benefit to humankind that you otherwise would not have the resources to pursue. It is a platform for sharing ideas and for connecting ideas with crowd sourced funding.

Don’t discount your ideas. Even seemingly weird ideas might find funding on Kickstarter.com. Venture capitalists and Fortune 500 companies now regularly scan Kickstarter.com to find promising ideas and concepts that they might fund and develop. This is how the “smart watch” idea was discovered, says Mr. Pogue.

Check back soon for part two of this blog post that will include actual success stories from Kickstarter.com and more great ideas!

Can you reach the max?

Retirement is coming, if it is not already here for you.  If you have income for which to fund a 401k or to contribute to an IRA, I would like you to think about these three questions I answered in this article, and the list of tips I also present in this article.

If you already have a 401k or IRA for retirement savings, you should read carefully, because a “game plan” concerning how you are going to use your retirement savings- or not use your retirement savings- is a very important foundational building block when it comes to retirement savings.  Decisions about your 401k and decisions about bankruptcy are intertwined for many people.

  • Question 1: Should I file for chapter 7 bankruptcy to wipe out debts? Or in the alternative should I not file for bankruptcy but instead cash out my 401k to pay off debts?
  • Answer:  With only a few exceptions, I strongly recommend a bankruptcy filing over 401k withdrawals.
  • Question 2:  Should I file for Chapter 13 bankruptcy reorganization over cashing out a 401k account with the purpose of staving off a foreclosure or preventing vehicle repossession?
  • Answer:  With few exceptions, I strongly recommend a Chapter 13 bankruptcy reorganization over cashing out a 401k account with the purpose of staving off a foreclosure or preventing vehicle repossession.
  • Question 3: Should I take out a loan or cash out a 401k or IRA in order to pay Federal Income Tax debt?
  • Answer: You can almost always pay back the federal income tax debt interest and penalty free through a Chapter 13 bankruptcy reorganization, or alternatively you often can enter into a very reasonable tax repayment plan with the IRS.  Sometimes, very old Federal Income Tax debt is even erased by bankruptcy.  Thus, for many people tax repayment though chapter 13 plan can make more sense than a 401k loan or IRA cash out.  There is an additional benefit: although most people don’t realize it, if your income is not super-high, you still can often wipe out credit card debts, eliminate second mortgage obligation and write off medical bills without any repayment of these debts by filing a chapter 13 case, so in many regards, a chapter 13 case can wipe out debt much like a chapter 7 case, with the added benefit of an easy cheesy Federal Income Tax repayment plan- and state tax can be repaid easily though chapter 13 too!

These are some more very important tips about how to handle your 401k, IRA, VIP, TSP or other tax deferred retirement savings, courtesy of a great article from Forbes.com which you can find here:

http://www.forbes.com/pictures/lmf45ekmg/can-you-reach-the-max/

Can You Reach The Max Part 2

Should I file for chapter 13 bankruptcy to save my house from foreclosure or my car from repossession or should I cash out my 401k to get the money to pay the mortgage or car payment? People ask me this question all the time.  Here is my answer: With few exceptions, I strongly recommend a chapter 13 bankruptcy reorganization over cashing out a 401k account with the purpose of staving off a foreclosure or preventing a vehicle repossession.

Here are the next five Forbes.com steps to help you boost your 401k:

  • 5.  Taking loans out of you 401k is hard because many times you have to pay the money back.  But hardship withdrawals can be allowed.  If you are behind on payments such as your mortgage that would be a loan you would have to pay back but if your house was foreclosing you could be able to take out a hardship withdrawal.  Not everything is a hardship though so just make sure you know the rules.
  • 4.  Many times if you make a lot of money you can only contribute a certain amount to your 401k as to prevent discrimination.  If your spouse has access to a 401k, they should be saving as much as they can as well.  If you or your spouse have access to saving for a 401k, take advantage of that especially if one of you has limitations on your savings part.
  • 3.  If you have an old 401k account, you should combine the two in most cases.  Add the old account to the new; it is much easier to keep track of one account.
  • 2. When you first sign up for a 401k you pick investments and many times don’t get around to changing, or revising it to make the best choice for your savings.  For example don’t just choose company stock because it’s there, don’t forget to revise your 401k and choose your best options.
  • 1.Don’t cash out your 401k as soon as it is available to you.  Leave it as long as it is still invested in good options.  Just because it reaches the penalty free mark or you retire, doesn’t mean that’s the best time to cash out for you.

I might also add that under most circumstances you should not take a 401k loan or cash out a 401k or IRA to pay off federal income tax debt because you can almost always pay back the federal income tax debt interest and penalty fee though Chapter 13 bankruptcy reorganization, or often enter into a very reasonable tax repayment plan with the IRS.

If you have already taken out a big 401k loan or cashed out an IRA (or taken a large withdrawal or fully or partially cashed out a 401k) you really need to begin to rebuild.

 

Credit Report Nuts and Bolts, Part 5 of 6: Credit repair scams and overreacting to threats about damaging your credit rating

The National Consumer Law Center warns heartily against “credit repair” scams.

The NCLC debunks the “credit repair” claims:

– “We can erase bad credit” – The truth is that no one can erase bad credit information from your report if it is truthful and accurate.

– “Only we can remove old or inaccurate information” – this is untrue because you can correct any old or inaccurate information yourself. There is no reason to pay a huckster to do it for you.

-“We will erase even accurate poor credit history information, even if it is accurate” – Lying to a credit report agency is illegal.

If you have been hoodwinked into a “credit repair” scam, here is a few things you should know.

First, you may have some protections. Federal laws and some state laws require credit repair companies to provide mandatory disclosures before you sign up.

Second, the credit repair company is not allowed to provide any services to you until three days after you sign a written and dated contract.

Third, the credit repair scam is not allowed to charge you in advance under certain laws.

Fourth, you have a right to cancel the credit repair scam contract without giving any reason (do it in writing!) within three days of signing the written contract.

A collection agency pressuring you to pay under threat of making a negative credit report entry is a hollow threat. Under arrangements that the collection agency likely has with the credit reporting agency (or agencies) they are required to make a report every month anyway. So do not give away your last dollar to a threatening collection agency in order to “save” your credit report from “damage”. The negative credit history is likely to be reported to the credit reporting company anyway under the reciprocity requirements between the credit report company and the collection agency.

Credit Report Nuts and Bolts: Part 4 of 6 – Credit Scoring myths and legends.

[categories: Washington Bankruptcy Attorney]

There is not just one credit score for you. Each credit bureau may have its own "credit score" calculated in an alternative manner. Thus, your "credit score" can vary over a considerable range from Equifax, Transunion or Experian. According to Fair Isaac Corporation (calculators of the FICO credit score) here is how Fair Isaac calculates your FICO score:

35% according to your payment history;

30% amounts owed on credit accounts compared to available credit – high balances relative to credit limits may indicate that you are over-extended

15% length of credit history

10% new credit – you supposedly receive a higher score if you have an established credit history and don’t have too many new accounts – opening several accounts in a short period of time can indicate greater risk

10% types of credit – Fair Isaac claims that it more favorably scores a mix of various types of credit

Shopping around for Credit – You may also have heard that a large number of credit inquiries will lower your credit score. This is not always true. Some companies and credit bureaus take inquiries into account and some do not. However, even those companies that do count a large number of inquiries against you claim taht this will have only a small impact on your score. Thus, it would seem that you should not be afraid to shop around for the best credit – if your only concern is lowering your credit score. Of course, moderation would seem to be the best recommendation here.

Getting your score – Under federal law, the credit bureaus are required to provide consumers with their credit scores upon request. The credit score IS NOT FREE, but the charge for the score will be set by the Federal Trade Commission. Mortgage lenders are also required to give you information about your credit score for free. You might check the Federal Trade Commission for the maximum allowable charge for your credit score before contacting the credit bureau(s) so that you go in prepared ahead of time.

NOTE: FACTORS FOR DENIAL OF CREDIT RULE

See Equal Credit Opportunity Act – Regulation B – Supplement I
(Official Staff Interpretations)

Sec. 202.9 Notifications

1. Use of the term adverse action. The regulation does not require that a creditor use the term adverse action in communicating to an applicant that a request for an extension of credit has not been approved. In notifying an applicant of adverse action as defined by § 202.2(c)(1), a creditor may use any words or phrases that describe the action taken on the application.

9(b) Form of ECOA notice and statement of specific reasons.
Paragraph 9(b)(1)
1. Substantially similar notice. The ECOA notice sent with a notification of a credit denial or other adverse action will comply with the regulation if it is “substantially similar” to the notice contained in § 202.9(b)(1). For example, a creditor may add a reference to the fact that the ECOA permits age to be considered in certain credit scoring systems, or add a reference to a similar state statute or regulation and to a state enforcement agency.

Paragraph 9(b)(2)
1. Number of specific reasons. A creditor must disclose the principal reasons for denying an application or taking other adverse action. The regulation does not mandate that a specific number of reasons be disclosed, but disclosure of more than four reasons is not likely to be helpful to the applicant.

2. Source of specific reasons. The specific reasons disclosed under §§ 202.9(a)(2) and (b)(2) must relate to and accurately describe the factors actually considered or scored by a creditor.

3. Description of reasons. A creditor need not describe how or why a factor adversely affected an applicant. For example, the notice may say “length of residence” rather than “too short a period of residence.”

4. Credit scoring system. If a creditor bases the denial or other adverse action on a credit scoring system, the reasons disclosed must relate only to those factors actually scored in the system. Moreover, no factor that was a principal reason for adverse action may be excluded from disclosure. The creditor must disclose the actual reasons for denial (for example, “age of automobile”) even if the relationship of that factor to predicting creditworthiness may not be clear to the applicant.

5. Credit scoring—method for selecting reasons. The regulation does not require that any one method be used for selecting reasons for a credit denial or other adverse action that is based on a credit scoring system. Various methods will meet the requirements of the regulation. One method is to identify the factors for which the applicant’s score fell furthest below the average score for each of those factors achieved by applicants whose total score was at or slightly above the minimum passing score. Another method is to identify the factors for which the applicant’s score fell furthest below the average score for each of those factors achieved by all applicants. These average scores could be calculated during the development or use of the system. Any other method that produces results substantially similar to either of these methods is also acceptable under the regulation.

6. Judgmental system. If a creditor uses a judgmental system, the reasons for the denial or other adverse action must relate to those factors in the applicant’s record actually reviewed by the person making the decision.

7. Combined credit scoring and judgmental system. If a creditor denies an application based on a credit evaluation system that employs both credit scoring and judgmental components, the reasons for the denial must come from the component of the system that the applicant failed. For example, if a creditor initially credit scores an application and denies the credit request as a result of that scoring, the reasons disclosed to the applicant must relate to the factors scored in the system. If the application passes the credit scoring stage but the creditor then denies the credit request based on a judgmental assessment of the applicant’s record, the reasons disclosed must relate to the factors reviewed judgmentally, even if the factors were also considered in the credit scoring component. If the application is not approved or denied as a result of the credit scoring, but falls into a gray band, and the creditor performs a judgmental assessment and denies the credit after that assessment, the reasons disclosed must come from both components of the system. The same result applies where a judgmental assessment is the first component of the combined system. As provided in comment 9(b)(2)-1, disclosure of more than a combined total of four reasons is not likely to be helpful to the applicant.

8. Automatic denial. Some credit decision methods contain features that call for automatic denial because of one or more negative factors in the applicant’s record (such as the applicant’s previous bad credit history with that creditor, the applicant’s declaration of bankruptcy, or the fact that the applicant is a minor). When a creditor denies the credit request because of an automatic-denial factor, the creditor must disclose that specific factor.

9. Combined ECOA-FCRA disclosures. The ECOA requires disclosure of the principal reasons for denying or taking other adverse action on an application for an extension of credit. The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) requires a creditor to disclose when it has based its decision in whole or in part on information from a source other than the applicant or its own files. Disclosing that a credit report was obtained and used in the denial of the application, as the FCRA requires, does not satisfy the ECOA requirement to disclose specific reasons. For example, if the applicant’s credit history reveals delinquent credit obligations and the application is denied for that reason, to satisfy § 202.9(b)(2) the creditor must disclose that the application was denied because of the applicant’s delinquent credit obligations. To satisfy the FCRA requirement, the creditor must also disclose that a credit report was obtained and used in the denial of the application. Sample forms C-1 through C-5 of Appendix C of the regulation provide for the two disclosures.

http://www.bankersonline.com/regs/202/s202-9.html – source of Factors For Denial of Credit Rule – along with National Consumer Law Center’s "Guide to Surviving Debt", available for about $20.00 from www.consumerlaw.org.

Credit Report Nuts and Bolts Part 3 of 6 – Help! I already ordered my free credit report fewer than twelve months ago! What to do?

[categories: Washington Bankruptcy Attorney]

As you may know, you an obtain a free credit report every 12 months by contacting www.AnnualCreditReport.com.

This is because of the Fair and Accurate Credit Transaction Act (FACT Act).

Note that these free credit reports (and reports obtained directly for free from most credit bureaus like Equifax, Transunion and Experian will not contain your "credit score" – they try to get you to buy that from them as proprietary information. There is not just one credit score for you – the bureau may or may not use the FICO (Fair & Isaacs Company) organization’s calculation of your "credit score".

If you already obtained your credit report within the past 12 months here are four ways to proceed.

(1) First, you can just contact the three credit bureaus as follows and pay a $10.50 fee for each report from each creditor for the credit report:

Equifax, 800-685-111, www.equifax.com Equifax Information Services LLC
P.O. Box 740241
Atlanta, GA 30374

Experian 888-397-3742, www.experian.com Experian will not provide a written request credit report address. They insist that you call, as far as I can tell.

Trans Union 800-916-8800, www.transunion.com Purchase a TransUnion Credit Report

Online

Phone number: (800) 888-4213

Mail:
TransUnion
2 Baldwin Place
P.O. Box 1000
Chester, PA 19022

Obtain a free, annual TransUnion Credit Report

Online

Phone number: (800) 888-4213

Mail:Download mail order form

Note that you may be able to obtain a 3-in-1credit report from just one of the above – but be careful that you are not signing up for some sort of credit monitoring service or other consumer rip-off of dubious value – I noticed that Equifax was trying to sell you something called "debtwise" or "creditwise" or some other sort of nonsense. Last I checked, Experian had a $39.95 charge for obtaining all three agency credit reports AND your Experian calculated credit score. TransUnion had a similar sort of scam for trying to get you to sign up for an expensive subscription or some other sort of service.

Beware of Experian, though, they had a $1.00 offer for your credit score – but it was a "tricky Nixon" in that it signed you up for a $14.95 monthly subscription if you did not cancel within a very short period of time. Experian apparently has terminated some of its arrangements with FICO, in favor of trying to hawk its own credit scoring programs, as of February 1, 2009.

(2) Note that there are three "situational" exceptions and you can sometimes get two reports in a 12 month period, including:

-You are unemployed and will be aplying for a job within the next sixty days; or

-You are receiving public assistance; or

-You have reason to believe that the file at the credit bureau contains inaccurate inforamation due to fraud.

(3) You can obtain two reports in a two month period if you have made a fraud alert to the credit bureaus, and requested that a fraud alert be posted on your credit file.

(4) Denial of credit/insurance. Sometimes you can be denied credit or insurance — or initially be charged a higher premium — because of information in your credit report. In that case, the FCRA requires the creditor or insurance company to give you the name, address, and phone number of the credit reporting company that supplied the information. Contact the company to find out what your report said. This information is free if you ask for it within 60 days of being turned down for credit or insurance. The credit reporting company can tell you what’s in your report; only the creditor or insurance company can tell you why your application was denied. See the Federal Trade Commission’s website at: http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/credit/cre24.shtm

Credit Reports Nuts & Bolts: Part 2 of 6 – How to avoid credit report “rip-offs”

[categories: Washington Bankruptcy Attorney]

The only true "free" credit reports are linked with www.annualcreditreport.com.

Beware of not-so-free credit reports says the National Consumer Law Center in their publication "Surviving Debt" available at www.consumerlaw.org, for about $20.00 – this is a great book, by the way and you should order it.

Some of these "free" credit report offers are not really free, but rather are introductory teasers that convert to an expensive subscription service. The new Credit CARD Act requires these businesses to now put a warning in their advertisments stating: "This is not the free credit report provided for by Federal law. To get your free report, visit www.AnnualCreditReport.com or call 877-322-8228.

Credit Reports Nuts and Bolts – Part 1 of 6 – Best way to ordering your report for free

[categories: Washington Bankruptcy Attorney]

Ordering your Credit Report – Tip-off: consider doing it in phone or by mail.

If you order by phone or mail, you will receive a paper credit report that is more information and is easier to read than the electronic version. I understand that if you order your credit report on-line, there may be a risk that you might waive your right to take the credit bureaus to court. (I am checking into this waiver – it is new info for me – so check into a later edition of this blog by using our Google Site-Search of our blog on www.washingtonbankruptcy.com to see if I have had a chance to follow up with an explanation).

You can get your free credit reprots from the centralized request service by:
(1) going to www.annualcreditreport.com;
(2) calling 877-322-8228; or
(3) completing the Annual Credit Report Request Form and mailing it to: Annnual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281. You can download the form at www.ftc.gov/credit.

You need to provide your name, address, Social Security number, and date of birth. If you have moved in the last two years, you may have to provide your previous address. To maintain the security of your file, each credit bureau may ask you for some information that only you would know, like the amount of your monthly mortgage payment.

Source: National Consumer Law Center’s "Guide to Surviving Debt" pgs 39-41, Deanne Loonin, 2010 edition, Library of Congress Control #2010920702, ISBN 978-1-60248-065-0. www.consumerlaw.org

Trade imbalance: statistics in part misleadingly inaccurate – a study of the iPod and iPhone.

The Wall Street Journal (Andrew Batson) reported on Thursday, December 16, 2010 ("Marketplace" page B1) that the US does not receive trade credit for its high technology advancements when trade balances/imbalances with other countries are calculated.

Mr. Batson took the example of Apple Inc.’s iphone. The iphone added $1.9 billion to the U.S. trade deficit in 2009 because the traditional ways of measuring global trade fails to reflect the current realities and complexities of global commerce where the design, manufacturing and assembly of products often involve several countries. The current measurement standards result in distortion, according to Mr. Batson.

Of the I-Phone’s $178.96 estimated wholesale cost of the shipped phone which is shipped from China, the entire cost is of the phone is credited to China, even though the value of the work performed by Chinese workers is a mere $6.50 per phone and is limited almost exclusively to assembly only – with other parts of the phone components manufactured elsewhere e.g. 34% from Japan, 17% Germany, 13% South Korea 6% United States, 27% other countries. Only 3.6% should be attributed to China under a "value added" approach, instead of attributing the shipping country, China, with the entire $178.96 wholesale cost.

The Chinese have been quick to pick up and leverage upon this alleged mis-calculation to Chinese detriment. Mr. Batson reports as follows:

"…research also found that Chinese labor accounted for only a few dollars of the iPod’s value, even though trade statistics credited China with producing its full value. In a speech in September in New York, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao cited that research to argue that trade tensions between the US and China are overblown."

Wall Street Journal, Thursday, December 16, 2010.