Editors' pick: Originally published Dec. 1.
If the number of social media followers you have is not without significance at this point in the 21st Century, but the venerable credit score is still probably more important. Your credit score can affect your ability to buy a home, rent an apartment and even get a job. Fortunately, just as there are things you can do to add followers, there are ways to repair a credit score damaged by a spell of unemployment, a medical crisis or other events.
For most people, repairing credit is a do-it-yourself job. "I really think if you have the time to do it, it's not that difficult to do," says April Lewis-Parks, director of education for Consolidated Credit, a Fort Lauderdale-based non-profit consumer credit counseling organization. "It's just like anything else," she adds. "It takes time."
A typical home-brewed credit repair job might take a few to several hours, spread out over from several weeks to a few months. Costs should be limited to paying for postage, photocopies and long-distance phone calls.
You can also use a credit repair service, which will do the work for you. However, these can be expensive. A typical credit repair service may charge an upfront fee of $100 or so, plus ongoing monthly subscription fees of about that much until the matter is resolved, which could take several months.
Lewis-Parks cautions against making large advance payments, or additional payments unless and until the service can show progress in the form of negative items being removed from your credit report. "They shouldn't be paying up front," she says. "Maybe there's a nominal consulting fee, but then as items come off the credit report they should pay per item." Also avoid any service that promises a specific increase in your score or claims to be able to remove accurate, if negative, entries from your report, she adds.