A single three-digit number has the power to help you buy a new car and lease an apartment -- or sink your chances of landing that new job. We're talking about your credit score.
1. Understand, first, that a credit score simply indicates how good you are at borrowing money
It doesn't indicate whether you're financially smart or successful, says Ryan Schrift, owner of RJ Schrift Private Asset Management in Belmont. It's a sort of snapshot in time that let's someone quickly understand your debt history and how likely you are to be able to repay any future loan. Most scores fall between 600 and 750, according to credit scoring agency Experian, and a score above 700 usually suggests good credit management.
2. The measures that go into your score are complicated
And each of the three credit reporting bureaus -- Equifax, Experian and Trans Union -- has its own weighted scale used to determine your score. That's why the number may vary slightly from bureau to bureau. But the main thing the companies look at is whether you have debt, if you've paid it back on time and what your total amount of debt is.
3. When does the score matter?
When you borrow money. Loan providers will use the score to determine whether they should cough up money and the terms at which they'll offer you a loan. Generally, higher scores mean you'll be able to borrow money at a more favorable interest rate, which makes borrowing less expensive for you. A higher credit score may also make it easier to rent an apartment, and some employers will pull your credit score as part of the pre-employment process.
4. The Fair Credit Reporting Act is your friend.
It was written to make sure the information credit reporting agencies keep about you is accurate, fair and confidential. And if the information in that file is used against you, that has to be disclosed to you, according to the Federal Trade Commission. That means if someone has used a credit report to deny your application for credit, insurance or employment, they have to tell you that and give you the name, address and phone number of the agency that provided the information.
5. You have the right to know what's in that file.
But it's your job to ask and find out, according to Rick Houser, chief credit officer for Alliance Bank and Trust. You're entitled to one free credit report every 12 months. To order it, go to www.annualcreditreport.com, or call 1-877-322-8228. You can also complete the Annual Credit Report Request Form and mail it to Annual Credit Report Request Service, PO Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281.
6. Understanding and correcting errors in your credit report is the best way to boost your score.
That's according to Houser. You're looking for errors or entries that are incomplete in your report. If you spot something and notify the agency, it's that agency's responsibility to investigate and fix errors. And Houser said those errors do happen -- including to him. His credit score was once hurt by missed payments on a loan that wasn't his. A quick phone call to the credit reporting agency cleared the matter up, but the lesson holds. It pays to keep an eye on what shows up on your report.
7. You can work with companies to fix other problems.
You can negotiate payment plans with creditors that help wipe out loans you're behind on, according to Schrift. Once those issues are taken care of, they'll be removed from your report, or at least updated to reflect you've paid off your loan. That'll give your score a bump.
8. Credit improvement advice? Be careful.
That advice can be good or bad, depending on how it's applied. One popular tip? Someone with good credit can co-sign a loan for someone with bad credit. If payments are made on time consistently, that can raise the credit score for the person with poor credit. Houser says such advice could be a good move -- if payments are made on time. Schrift was more hesitant to give the idea a thumbs up. If the person with poor credit fails to make payments on time, that could hurt the co-signer's credit score and leave him on the hook for the entire loan amount.
9. Be wary of agencies that promise to "fix" your credit
Some credit repair companies are legitimate and some are not, and it can be hard for the average consumer to figure out the difference. In many cases, the things companies charge a steep fee for -- like negotiating payment plans with creditors -- are things you can do for yourself.
Reach Adam Orr at 704-869-1819 or Twitter.com/AdamROrr.
SAN DIEGO, May 12, 2015 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Encore Capital Group, Inc. (Nasdaq:ECPG), an international specialty finance company, announced today that Jonathan Clark, Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer, and Bruce Thomas, Vice President, Investor Relations, will be meeting with investors at the SunTrust Robinson Humphrey 2015 Financial Services Conference in New York on May 19, 2015.
About Encore Capital Group, Inc.
Encore Capital Group, an international specialty finance company, provides debt recovery solutions for consumers and property owners across a broad range of assets. Through its subsidiaries, the Company purchases portfolios of consumer receivables from major banks, credit unions, and utility providers, and partners with individuals as they repay their obligations and work toward financial recovery. Through its Propel Financial Services subsidiary, the Company assists property owners who are delinquent on their property taxes by structuring affordable monthly payment plans and purchases delinquent tax liens directly from selected taxing authorities. Through its subsidiaries in the United Kingdom, Cabot Credit Management, Marlin Financial Services and Grove Capital Management, the Company is a market-leading acquirer and manager of consumer debt in the United Kingdom and Ireland. Through its Refinancia subsidiary, the Company services distressed consumer debt in Colombia and Peru. Encores success and future growth are driven by its sophisticated and widespread use of analytics, its broad investments in data and behavioral science, the significant cost advantages provided by its highly efficient operating model and proven investment strategy, and the Companys demonstrated commitment to conducting business ethically and in ways that support its consumers financial recovery.
Headquartered in San Diego, Encore is a publicly traded NASDAQ Global Select company (ticker symbol:ECPG) and a component stock of the Russell 2000, the Samp;P SmallCap 600, and the Wilshire 4500. More information about the Company can be found at www.encorecapital.com. More information about the Companys Cabot Credit Management subsidiary can be found at www.cabotcm.com. Information found on the Companys website or Cabots website is not incorporated by reference.
Source: Encore Capital Group
It has baffled me for years. Time and again I see courts give junk debt buyerMidland Funding the benefit of the doubt when it comes to the trustworthiness of their evidence and the testimony of their witnesses at trial despite the fact that Midland often comes into court with partial documents and witnesses who truly dont have a clue as to the accuracy of what they are attesting to.
Why I dont know. Actuallyhellip;I think I do know, or at least have an opinion. My clients are debtors. The owe money that they havent been able to pay back. Regardless of the reason why, they are the contract breachers to some and dishonest or liars to others. And I believe that this view of debtors often spills over into the legal system. Even though in a perfect system it wouldnt, the legal system, after all, is made up of imperfect people.
But the time has come for Arizona courts to stop putting so much trust in the information that Midland Funding is flooding its courts with. Midland Funding files thousands of cases per year in Arizona and thousands more across the country.
Some states have seen Midland Funding for what it is and are fighting back.
Midland Funding, a junk debt buyer, has been exposed time and time again by attorney generals all over the United States as having shoddy and often illegal collection tactics. The most recent strike against Midland Funding (and its sister company Midland Credit Management) is a Consent Order that was signed just a few weeks ago with the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs. Part of this settlement with the with New York City Department of Consumer Affairs requires Midland Funding to pay $670,000 in penalties and costs as a condition of renewal of its license to collect debts in New York City. You can review the Consent Order by clicking HERE.
This comes right on the heals of an action pursued by the Attorney General of New York who pursued Encore Capital Group the parent company of Midland Funding for suing on debts that were beyond the statute of limitations and signing hundreds of affidavits a day without even reviewing the documents they were attesting were correct. In January 2015Encore Capital (Midland Funding) agreed to a settlement with the State of New York where in it agreed to pay a penalty of $675,000 and vacate 4,500 judgments that were obtained after the expiration of the statute of limitations. You can review a copy of the settlement and the finding of the State of New York by clicking HERE.
This action by the State of New York follows actions brought by the attorney generals in West Virginia in 2012 and Minnesota in 2011 for debt collection abuses on the part of Midland Funding.
Midland Funding has been signing off on Consent Orders since 2011 where it promises to stop certain behavior and institute stricter oversight on its debt collection efforts only to have another action brought against it a year later in a different state with the same types of prohibited collection tactics.
Looking at the recent history of Midland Funding provides nothing that should give courts confidence in the information and documentation submitted in the cases that fill their dockets.
Luckily there are safeguards for consumers. The Rules of Evidence, the Rules of Civil Procedure, along with the Fair Debt Collection Practices (FDCPA) are more than adequate to ensure that the consumers are not railroaded by a junk debt buyer with a history of taking advantage of consumers through the court system.
But too often Midland Funding is given the benefit of the doubt when it comes to a strict enforcement of these safeguards and sometimes the Rules are outright ignored because, as one judge told me in open court well, they owe someone, right?.
Blanket affidavits, paperwork with missing pages, falsified affidavits, witnesses that flipped through some documents an hour prior to trial yet testify with absolute certainty as to their accuracy, need to stop.
Debt buyer cases like those filed by Midland Funding often make a mockery of the evidentiary safeguards in place to ensure that a judgment is only entered if a plaintiff can prove its case.
If Midland Funding wants a judgment. Fine. Prove the case in court. But the time has come for courts to stop giving the benefit of the doubt to a junk debt buyer that wrecks havoc in peoples lives and incurs the wrath of attorney generals and regulatory bodies throughout the nation.
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It is difficult for anyone reading the detailed account of the sudden closure of Heald College not to feel empathy with the 900 students whose dreams of a better life have been shattered by the experience. The Post last week related in human terms the impact of the grim end to the once thriving local for-profit vocationally oriented school. Many were in shock, all seemed like their carefully laid hopes and plans were on the rocks.
Corinthian Colleges is a giant nationwide chain that included 28 campuses like Milpitas Heald, Everest and Wyo-Tech. The three also had facilities in Arizona, Hawaii and New York. A total of 16,000 students were affected by the shutdown of the parent company. In November, Corinthian sold off 56 other campuses to the non-profit Educational Credit Management Corp., which immediately cut tuition 20 percent and paid the US government $17.25 million for protection against future lawsuits.
The troubles of many of the for-profit career colleges have been brewing for years. With the necessity to drive up the price of their stock shares by ever-higher profits, many of these institutions wound up using commissioned sales people who lured young people into heavy government-backed student loans with promises of lucrative jobs at the end of the line. Like so many of the scams that marked the terrible housing scandals of the past decade, this type of chicanery was tolerated because everyone was doing good as well as lining their own pockets.
The local tragedy is that the Milpitas Heald campus did a lot of good for a lot of students. It also was one of the most successful of the Heald campuses, with a faculty of 120 dedicated instructors.