If your credit reports are filled with bad notes that are harmful to your scores, resorting to “jamming” to fix matters will only keep you out of tune, and in some cases, out of hard-earned cash. To be clear: there’s the right way to get your credit reports and scores humming a sweet melody – and then there’s the wrong way that could leave you singing the blues.
Jamming strikes a bad chord with credit bureaus. The tactic is used by unscrupulous credit repair companies for the sole purpose of squeezing you for cash for as long as possible. Jamming enables them to play you like a fiddle, under the pretense of removing negative information from your credit reports.
How jamming is played. A credit repair company sends a flurry of frivolous dispute letters challenging every negative item on your credit reports – even if the items are accurate – to overwhelm the credit bureaus and “jam” the system.
Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, credit bureaus must review and respond to every dispute within 30 to 45 days or remove the disputed item from your reports. And that’s what the scamming credit repair companies trying to game the system are banking on. By burying the credit bureaus in a mountain of disputes, some won’t get addressed within the required window and will be removed from your reports – despite being legitimately reported negative information.
Jamming sounds so harmonious. Having seriously delinquent payments, collections, bankruptcies and other negative information deleted from your credit reports will give your credit scores a boost. You see your higher scores – and naturally it appears the credit repair company is doing a great job for you, right? Wrong. The negative items you paid to have “removed” are by no means forgotten. Unless your dispute is legitimate, the negative information that was removed will reappear on your credit reports.
Lenders and creditors report regularly to the credit bureaus (generally every 30 days). After the lender completes their dispute investigation and reports again, the disputed item (that’s now verified as correct) is placed right back on your credit reports and your credit scores take a dive.
Jamming always ends on a sour note. Should you get flagged as someone who files bogus disputes to try to jam the system, you’ll have a very tough time getting the credit bureaus to take you seriously when you do have a legitimate dispute.
Jamming also affects people who are legitimately disputing items on their credit reports, as it clogs the pipeline and delays the resolution of honest disputes. This scam has been so pervasive that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) released an advisory in September 2016 alerting consumers about potentially misleading credit repair services such as jamming. According to the advisory, consumers should be wary if a credit repair company claims it can get rid of the negative information on credit reports within a short period of time – even if that information is accurate and current – or if it promises a specific increase in credit scores or guarantees results.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) includes jamming as one of the five signs you’re being scammed by a credit repair company:
- Requires upfront payment before doing any work on your behalf
- Discourages you from contacting TransUnion, Equifax and Experian directly
- Instructs you to dispute all negative information on your credit reports, even if it’s accurate (jamming)
- Encourages you to falsify information on credit or loan applications
- Does not explain your legal rights
Don’t turn a deaf ear to the dangers of jamming. As with most things in life, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. No one can legally remove accurate and timely negative information from your credit reports. Making legitimate corrections to your credit reports and building your scores takes time. Not only is jamming illegal and expensive, the long-term consequences will far outweigh any short-term results.