Category: Financial Education

ERA Credit Services
is now a Member of the
Central Pinellas Chamber of Commerce

Since we began representing United Credit Education Services in 2012, we have always strived to be a part of our community and support local businesses. We realize the challenge small business owners face and the huge benefit of referring business to each other. That is why we are proud to announce that ERA Credit Services is now a member of the Central Pinellas Chamber of Commerce.

Central Pinellas Chamber of Commerce

Since relocating to, and now offering credit repair in the Tampa, St. Petersburg, Clearwater, Largo area last year, we have been looking for organizations that truly promote local small businesses. We have found one of those organizations in the Central Pinellas Chamber.

We are very pleased to be a part of the Central Pinellas Chamber of Commerce.

We have already begun to establish meaningful relationships with business owners in the area. We look forward to helping small business owners with challenged credit as well as real estate, mortgage and banking professionals that need credit worthy clients.

The Central Pinellas Chamber of Commerce is one of the most active groups we have joined. In addition to leads groups that meet every two weeks, there are a variety of events that occur throughout the month that are always well attended by members and guests. As well, there are opportunities to host happy hour or other meeting events for more exposure for our business.

For more than 60 years, the Central Pinellas Chamber of Commerce has been empowering business by providing the necessary tools and resources to help them succeed. This includes networking leads groups, government advocacy and economic development initiatives in addition to programs and events focused on professional development.

If you would like further information about Chamber of Commerce activities and the benefits of joining the Chamber call Membership Director, Kathy Pabst Robshaw at 727-584-2321.

Tips on Maintaining a Good Credit Score

10 Tips on Maintaining a Good Credit Score

Maintaining a Good Credit Score

Below is some great information for every consumer on first getting, and then maintaining a good credit score.

Monitor Your Credit Report

First, in order to know if you have a good credit score, enroll for an online credit monitoring system that alerts you if there are changes to your report and/or credit score. We suggest SmartCredit.

Use Credit Cards Like a Debit Card

For building and maintaining a good credit score treat your credit card like it’s a debit card. If you can’t afford to pay off a purchase at the end of every month don’t make that purchase. And, use cards with benefits (travel, points, etc.)

Credit Card Balances

If you have to maintain a balance on your credit cards make sure it is low relative to your limit. A good rule of thumb is under 30% of the limit. The credit reporting agencies all consider debt to limit ratios an impact factor in calculating a good credit score.

Use of Credit Cards

If you have credit cards use them periodically, even just once every few months. A dormant card reduces the impact on a good credit score.

Resist Department Store Cards

If you have major cards you don’t need a store card. They usually come with annual fees and high interest rates.

Resist Co-signing for Others

When you co-sign for another on any type of loan you give up control of credit history to another person. If that individual is late on a payment in can cost up to 60 points and affect your good credit score.

Expand Your Portfolio

Maintaining a good credit score requires more good credit. If you have just a secured credit card, apply for an unsecured card after 6 to 9 months. But don’t have more than 3 credit cards. It’s simply not necessary.

Keep Track of Automatic Payments

Payments that are automatically deducted every month from your checking account by giving a creditor your debit or credit card must be monitored. If your card expires they can quickly turn into late payments. Late payments can have a huge impact on your good credit score.

Note Annual Fees

If you have credit cards and other accounts with annual fees make sure you pay those fees promptly. Sometimes they go unnoticed and therefore, unpaid causing late payments and delinquencies.

Keep Inquiries to a Minimum

Hard inquiries can cost you points on your credit score. Keep inquiries from prospective creditors to a minimum. Be especially careful when purchasing a car. Some dealerships and car lots will have several finance companies run reports on you all on the same day.

If Your Credit Score is Below 640, Get Help

A credit score below 640 will not typically put you in a position to qualify for a mortgage. As well, it will cost you more in interest rates and deposits for credit cards, insurance, cable, cell phone, other utilities and more.

maintaining a good credit score

Debt Collectors Must Provide
Debt Validation Notice

Often consumers get calls from debt collectors or collection agencies stating that they owe a sum for a past due bill such as a credit card, medical bill, or other type of debt. In many cases, because of the strong stance taken over the phone by the debt collector, consumers panic and send them payment without knowing whether this company truly owns the account and legally can collect on it.

Debt Collectors

Think about it. Couldn’t anyone who simply knows about an overdue account call people and collect money if they are not forced to validate and verify information about the account and legally collect on it?

Within five days of their initial communication, debt collectors are generally required to send debt validation notices to alert consumers about their right to request proof that a debt is valid or dispute the debt. In other words, they must first, prove they own the account or otherwise can collect on it. And, they must inform the consumer of their right to dispute the debt.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has found that Syndicated Office Systems, LLC, which does business as Central Financial Control, failed to send debt validation notices to more than 10,000 consumers. During this time, the company continued to collect over $2 million from consumers who did not receive the notices. These notices can be an especially important consumer safeguard with regard to medical debt, where issues like insurance reimbursements and medical billing processes are commonly fraught with complexity, confusion, and delay, and can lead to consumers being unsure of how much to pay or even whom to pay. More than 43 million Americans have medical debt adversely affecting their credit reports, and more than half of all overdue debt on consumer credit reports is from medical debt.

Consumers, when contacted by debt collectors, can request validation of the debt. If they do not receive validation in the mail they should not send any payment.

There are companies that call consumers and try to collect money on debt that they do not have the legal right to collect on. Some consumers have made payment to these fraudulent debt collectors and have not received credit and thus lost their money.

Read the full article http://www.consumerfinance.gov/newsroom/cfpb-takes-action-against-medical-debt-collector/

For further assistance visit www.ERACreditServices.com

Ways That Bad Credit Can Affect Your Life

Bad credit and low credit scores can affect your life in many ways. Bad Credit

Bad Credit can prevent you from getting a decent payment on a car loan, or qualifying for a mortgage, line of credit or credit card. We all know that. But we don’t usually think about the fact that poor credit can hurt relationships, restrict you from being able to move, or even find a job. Here are some things to think about.

Bad Credit Can Affect Relationships

If you can’t borrow money due to bad credit, you may consider asking a friend or family member to help. Being late on a credit card payment will damage your credit rating. But being late in paying back a friend can damage the relationship. Bad credit can also have a terrible impact on marriages. Financial troubles are the leading cause of divorce in America today.

Emergencies

One of the best uses of a credit line or credit card is to have it in the event of an emergency such as a medical issue. However, if you are “maxed out” on a credit line and have a low credit score you risk not being able to handle such an emergency.

Mobility

If an emergency such as a natural disaster, or if an opportunity such as a job offer in another area comes your way, you may not be able to leave. In addition, having bad credit can keep you from getting a travel rewards card allowing you to save money using mileage points to purchase tickets and accommodations.

Car Insurance

Automobile insurers in some states increase auto insurance rates partly based on credit score.

Homeowners Insurance

Although some states don’t allow credit scores to be a factor in determining home owners insurance rates, in the states that do allow it people with bad credit pay at least twice as much as those with good credit.

Renting a Home or Apartment

More and more landlords, including owners of one or two units, are checking credit reports of applicants. Credit score and lack of evictions directly correspond to how responsible someone is.

Employment

You can be denied a job due to a bad credit score. One out of four Americans have had to go through an employer credit check, and one out of 10 a job because of a low credit score.

Higher Costs

Less than perfect credit can cost you $200,000 and up to $1 Million in higher interest payments over your lifetime.

Deposits

You might be required to pay a deposit in order to get service if you have a bad credit score. It could be a significant deposit if you’ve been late on utility payments or defaulted in the past.

Professional Licensing

The Fair Credit Reporting Act allows government agencies that regulate professions to use credit reports. This means that states can require proof of creditworthiness before issuing everything from medical licenses to doctors, to construction licenses to contractors.

Quality of Life

Debt can keep you from getting an education. It can keep you in an unhealthy relationship. It can keep you from getting a better job. Debt can keep you from fulfilling your potential as a person.

What Should You Do?

There are ways to clean up a credit report potentially and even more to increase a credit score. Someone who has poor credit needs a game plan and a coach to educate and guide them. Give us a call and let the healing begin.

Also, visit https://eracreditservices.com/more-than-credit-repair/ to learn about the various services and tools we have available.

FICO Adds to Consumer Credit Scores

In April, the Wall Street Journal reported that soon consumer FICO credit scores will reflect payment history on utilities, cell phone accounts, and cable bills. How often someone moves will also be a factor in their FICO credit score.

FICO credit score

It is unclear at this point how many consumers have already seen a change in their FICO credit score as a result of FICO working with 12 credit card issuers to test the new scoring model in lending decisions. The new scoring model is slated to be used nationwide by the end of 2015 providing a credit history for 53 million more consumers that currently don’t have one.

It is also unclear how this may affect consumer FICO credit scores. It may help those people with little or no credit history to establish one. It may also help those with an established credit history to bolster their score if they have an on time payment history in these areas. Currently, the only time payment history for utilities, cell phones or cable bills is reported is when there is negative information such as delinquent or unpaid amounts.

The new FICO credit score model will also report on how many times a consumer changes addresses. Frequent changes of address may lead to a creditor deciding that someone is unstable financially.

This represents an opportunity for the credit reporting agencies (Experian, Equifax & Transunion) to grow their business. Bringing into the fold 53 million more consumers will mean more data being submitted by creditors, more credit reports being pulled, and more consumer FICO credit score data being purchased by companies for marketing purposes. All of which generate revenue for the 3 agencies. It also means that companies will now have more data on more consumers allowing them to expand marketing efforts to these consumers.

These changes reflect a major change in the existing FICO credit score model. How much it will affect existing consumer credit scores and how many more consumers will now have access to credit remains to be seen.

For more information on applying rental history to your credit report, visit www.ERACreditServices.com or call 619-492-3040.

Good News for Credit Consumers
But Just How Good?

Help for consumer credit may be on the way

The 3 large credit reporting agencies (CRA’s), Experian, Equifax & Transunion have collaborated on and announced the creation of the National Consumer Assistance Plan which they say will change the way unpaid and paid medical debt will be reported on a consumer’s credit report. This self imposed plan will also require the CRA’s to gather more and accurate information from creditors when an item is disputed by the consumer. This should help consumer credit.

Consumer Credit

The CRA’s will now wait 180 days before reporting unpaid medical debt allowing more time for the consumer and their insurance company to arrange for payment. In addition, paid medical debts will be removed from consumer reports, which is a change from the current 7 year reporting policy.

Also the CRA’s will hire and train employees to address and respond to consumer disputes. Currently the practice is automated in that over 85% of the disputes are simply sent to the creditor to address the issue.

This is certainly a step in the right direction.

However, it remains to be seen if Experian, Equifax and Transunion are committed to providing accurate information on consumer credit reports or of this is simply a measure to slow down the scrutiny of the federal and some state governments.

No Change as of June 2017

We originally posted this blog in March of 2015 when the report first came out. However, as of June of 2017 there has been no recognizable change to the way paid or unpaid medical debt is being reported. And, certainly no help for consumer credit scores. Since PR News Wire reported this there has been no follow up. We’ll assume that’s because of the difficulty in getting 3 separate $billion companies on the same page. Or, we’ll chalk this up to an attempt by the CRA’s to get good press back in 2015.

For information and advice on your credit score visit www.ERACreditServices.com

Identity Theft – What to Do
Before and After It Happens

It has become evident over the past couple of years that the largest companies in the largest industries simply cannot unequivocally protect our data and personal information. So, the question isn’t whether we’ll be a victim of identity theft and have our social security number, address, credit card info, etc. in the hands of criminals. It’s when will it happen.

Identity Theft

It’s not for the lack of effort that companies cannot protect our data. Typically they have fire wall after fire wall built into their system. However, hackers spend 24/7 figuring out a way around and through these protections to eventually get their hands on our information.

So, is there anything we can about Identity Theft? The answer is, absolutely yes!

We have to build on our system of protection. It starts with identity theft protection where we will be alerted when someone is trying to sell our data or open up an account in our name. We must go further, however.

We must have the ability to monitor our credit report and credit score 24/7. We have to have the ability to view our credit history to see if there is any fraudulent activity on any of our 3 major credit reporting agency reports or any significant change in our credit score.

And then we must have the ability to fix any damage that may, and as we mentioned above, will occur as a result of a breach of our personal information. In other words, we need the capability of having a professional credit restoration company on call to assist when we need it.

Is all this possible to have affordably? Yes, it is. ERA Credit Services and Financial Education Services have teamed up to offer affordable identity theft protection, credit monitoring and the nation’ s most effective credit restoration service. In addition, we also have services to add positive trade lines to your credit reports, protect your assets and your family, and save you money on every day purchases.

For more information on these and other important services that protect your identity, credit, family, finances and future visit www.eracreditservices.com or call us at 727-222-0120 on the East Coast or 619-492-3040 on the West Coast.

FTC Releases Latest Study on Credit Reporting Agencies

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) on January 21, 2015 released its latest study on the 3 major credit reporting agencies (Experian, Equifax, Transunion). The study contains results about credit report errors. This was a follow up to a study issued in 2012 which discovered that, “that one in five consumers had an error that was corrected by a credit reporting agency (CRA) 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 credit risk tier, making them more likely to be offered a lower auto loan interest rate.”

credit report errors

The follow-up study which surveyed consumers that had disputed one or more items on their credit report found that, “31 percent stated that they now accepted the original disputed information on their reports as correct. However, nearly 70 percent continue to believe that at least some of the disputed information is inaccurate. 45 percent said they plan to continue their dispute, and 50 percent plan to abandon their dispute, while others are undecided.

This latest study “also examined whether consumers from the 2012 study who had their credit reports modified after disputing information on their credit reports had any of the negative information that had been removed subsequently reappear on their reports”.

The study found that in only about 1 percent of the cases did an item such as credit report errors reappear after it had been removed.

The Commission issuing the study, “recommends that CRAs (Credit Reporting Agencies) review and improve the process they use to notify consumers about the results of dispute investigations, and that CRAs continue to explore efforts to educate consumers regarding their rights to review their credit reports and dispute inaccurate information such as credit report errors.

You can view the full study results here.

For information on how you can dispute credit report errors and derogatory items on your credit report contact us at: (619) 492-3040 or (727) 222-0120

Or, visit us at www.eracreditservices.com

A Free Credit Score? Look Again!

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has shut down a marketing scheme by as many as 50 websites that lured consumers into unknowingly paying monthly fees to receive a free credit score.

free credit score

“View your latest Credit Scores from All 3 Bureaus in 60 seconds for $0!”, was one pitch to get consumers to actually sign up for a monitoring service that charged them monthly fees and was extremely difficult to stop.

Some of the websites that promoted these credit monitoring programs included www.ScoreSense.com, www.freescoreonline.com, and www.freescore360.com. The FTC claims that hundreds of thousands of consumers unwittingly signed up for their ‘free’ credit score not realizing that they were also signing up for a monitoring program and were being charged a monthly fee.

How to Avoid Getting Charged for a Free Credit Score

Be aware that anytime you are asked provide payment information, you run the risk of getting charged for something other than what you intended. Free trial offers that require consumers to include credit card or bank account information can be something you want to avoid. And, always research the terms of offers. Buried somewhere may be contractual language that obligates you to pay for something you do not want and/or was not disclosed in the original offer.

How to Get a Truly Free Credit Report

If all you desire is to receive a free copy of your credit report from either Experian, Equifax, or Transunion (the 3 major credit bureaus), then visit www.annualcreditreport.com. This website will allow you to see online, print out, or save as a PDF document one free credit report from each of the bureaus once per year. However, be aware that you won’t receive a free credit score. If you want to also see your credit score you will be asked to pay a fee. You may also see an offer to pay as little as $1.00 to see your score but, as the information above describes, be asked to sign up for a monitoring program that will charge monthly fees.

About ERA Credit Services

ERA Credit Services provides a truly free credit score and credit reports ongoing to it’s clients as part of the overall service of restoring their credit. ERA Credit Services specializes in working with consumers to leverage their rights under the Fair Credit Reporting Act and remove erroneous, obsolete and unverifiable derogatory items from their credit report. ERA Credit Services works with consumers in all 50 states and is located in San Diego, CA and Clearwater, FL. Agents are available to speak with clients about credit repair in Tampa, St. Petersburg, Clearwater, San Diego, all cities in Pinellas, Hillsborough and San Diego Counties and all other states in the U.S..

Proposed Overhaul of Credit Reporting Agencies

At the very least someone is paying attention to the practices of credit reporting agencies. Maxine Waters, a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from the 43rd Congressional District (South LA County, CA), has proposed sweeping changes to the way the big 3 credit reporting agencies (Experian, Equifax, Transunion) handle consumer information provided by creditors.

credit reporting agencies

Proposed Changes under the Fair Credit Reporting Improvement Act of 2014

The Fair Credit Reporting Improvement Act of 2014 proposes the following changes which would increase millions of consumer credit scores immediately:

  1. Currently creditors have the legal right to report a derogatory credit item on consumer credit report for 7 years, or 10 years in the case of a bankruptcy. The new bill, if passed, would reduce these time frames to 4 and 7 years respectively.
  2. Paid or settled delinquent debt remains on a credit report as a derogatory account. The bill would eliminate this although it is unclear as to whether the item would be deleted, upgraded to a ‘Paid as Agreed’ status, or other.
  3. When a consumer’s account has late payments their credit report reflects those late payments for the previously mentioned 7 year period. The bill would allow for a consumer to make a certain amount of on-time payments (perhaps 9 consecutive months) and have the previous late payments dropped from the report.
  4. Currently when a consumer disputes an item on their credit report that dispute is reflected on the report preventing them from closing a home loan in some cases. The bill would eliminate reporting of disputes unless the dispute by the consumer is deemed frivolous. Of course, what is deemed frivolous is controlled by the credit bureaus so this may or may not have much positive impact.
  5. The bill would eliminate the credit bureaus from offering a ‘free trial’ program to obtain their credit score and then switching consumers to a ‘paid program’.
  6. Currently consumers have the right to one free credit report per year from each of the 3 credit bureaus but they still have to pay for their scores. The bill would force the bureaus to also provide free credit scores once per year.
  7. Approximately half of all employers run credit checks on applicants. This bill would drastically reduce the number of employers able to do so by categorizing those than can. How this will be done is still unclear.

But Are Positive Changes to the Credit Reporting Agencies Really Coming?

This may be a welcomed bit of news for those in the know of current reporting practices but it isn’t cause to get excited just yet. Business Week stated that the bill is “unlikely to pass”. Business Insider goes further and states that, “the newest credit reporting act doesn’t have a chance”.