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A New Report for Liens and Judgments


A New Report for Liens and Judgments

As a follower of the HOPE4USA Credit Blog you are already aware of the massive credit reporting changes which are on the horizon. The 3 credit reporting agencies have announced that on July 1, 2017 they will be removing the vast majority of judgments and about half of the tax liens from their consumer credit reports in an effort to comply with the National Consumer Assistance Plan (NCAP). (You can read more about that announcement and what it means for consumers here.)

The removal of so much negative public record information is slated to quickly improve the credit scores of millions of Americans. Many consumers are understandably excited about the forthcoming credit reporting changes. Lenders, however, have been much more apprehensive.

Why Lenders Are Nervous about the Change

The new credit reporting policy, greatly anticipated by many consumers, is actually quite worrisome for lenders. Lenders depend upon credit report data and, by extension, credit scores to help predict risk - the risk of doing business with new applicants. In order to remain profitable lenders cannot issue loans to people who are unlikely to pay back those loans plus the agreed upon interest according to the terms of their agreements.

Public records, like judgments and tax liens, on credit reports and the impact which those public records have upon a consumer's credit scores serve the purpose of helping lenders to predict risk more accurately. In other words, the data helps lenders be more profitable. Since lenders are in business to make a profit, just like everyone else, any tool which helps them to achieve that goal is greatly valued. The removal of so much tax lien and judgment data from credit reports will make an important lender tool (traditional credit reports and credit scores) much less effective.

According to LexisNexis, borrowers with a judgment or tax lien filed against them are twice as likely to default on a loan when compared to consumers without these challenges. Additionally, these same consumers are believed to be 5 and 1/2 times more likely to enter into pre-foreclosure or foreclosure when compared with borrowers who do not have judgment or tax lien records. If you can put yourself into a lender's shoes for a moment then you can understand how the sudden inability to access this predictive information would be unsettling.

Introducing LexisNexis RiskView Liens & Judgments Report

In answer to this newly created need in the lender marketplace, Innovis (sometimes referred to as the 4th national credit reporting agency) has announced a partnership with LexisNexis® Risk Solutions. The 2 companies will be combining their efforts and resources to offer the LexisNexis® RiskView Liens & Judgments Report.

According to LexisNexis the new product will offer lenders "uninterrupted access to...lien and civil judgment data." The new report is being advertised as 99% accurate, with a nationwide network of court runners delivering the most current public record data available. Furthermore, LexisNexis states that the new report, available in July of 2017, will be fully FCRA compliant and will feature a "robust dispute resolution process to help consumers report and correct inaccurate information." Of course, whether or not this so-called "robust" dispute process will improve upon the currently problematic dispute processes in place with most of the consumer reporting agencies remains to be seen. Regardless, the report is being marketed to lenders as a solution to fill the hole which will be left by the removal of so much public record data from traditional credit reports.

Significance for Consumers

At this point predictions are purely speculative of course, but chances are high that a significant number of lenders may choose to take advantage of the new RiskView Liens & Judgments Report. The report has the potential to improve a lender's ability to predict risk. As such, consumers who may have been anticipating that the removal of certain public record information from their credit reports might solve all of their problems may be in for a bit of a letdown. Yet the news is not all bad for consumers either as they will be able to look forward to all of the following:

  • Most judgments and about 1/2 of the tax liens are still going to be removed from the credit reports produced by Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian in July of 2017.
  • The removal of public record information could very likely result in a credit score increase. A consumer may need to pay off a public record in order to qualify for a loan (or for a number of other reasons) of course, but an increase in credit scores could still lead to a number of financial benefits.

To summarize, the removal of a judgment or tax lien is not going to suddenly erase all of a consumer's credit and financial problems, but it is still a small victory for the consumer nonetheless. Additionally, although the details have not yet been released, consumers should have access to a copy of this new liens and judgments report as well as a right afforded to them under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). Once the reports are made available it would be wise to request and review your own report to monitor for the errors which are unfortunately far too common among consumer reports. 


Michelle Black is an author and leading credit expert with a decade and a half of experience, a recognized credit expert on talk shows and podcasts nationwide, and a regularly featured speaker at seminars across the country. She is an expert on improving credit scores, budgeting, and identity theft. You can connect with Michelle on the HOPE4USA Facebook page by clicking here.


Wells Fargo Scandal: 3 Steps You Should Take If You Are a Customer of the Banking Giant


Wells Fargo Scandal: 3 Steps You Should Take If You Are a Customer of the Banking Giant

Since 2011 employees of Wells Fargo may have opened over 2 million unauthorized credit card and bank accounts without the permission of their customers. The banking giant was recently fined a whopping $185 million by regulators as a result of the investigation which reveled these and other disturbing findings.

The Scandal Is Actually Identity Theft

Motivated by the desire to meet cross selling sales quotas, a disturbingly large number of Wells Fargo employees opened accounts which were not authorized by their customers. Over 5,300 employees have been fired by the banking giant as a result of the scandal; however, that does not erase the fact that over 1.5 million unauthorized deposit accounts were potentially opened without consent and a shocking 565,443 credit card application were submitted without permission.

Stated simply, the Wells Fargo employees who participated in this shady behavior for years committed identity theft. Identity theft is defined by Merriam-Webster as "the illegal use of someone else's personal information (such as a Social Security number) especially in order to obtain money or credit." Victims of the Wells Fargo scam have been charged fees and many have faced credit score damage due to the illegal actions of another. Wells Fargo has been ordered by the CFPB to pay "full restitutions to all victims," but those funds will not undo any credit score damage which occurred as a result of the fraud. 

Steps You Should Take

If you bank with Wells Fargo you should certainly consider taking steps to ensure that you were not charged any fees unfairly. You should also verify that your credit is not currently being damaged by any unauthorized accounts. Here are 3 steps to help you get started.

1. Review Your Credit Reports

In light of the scandal, the very first thing you should do if you bank at Wells Fargo is to take a long, hard look at all 3 of your credit reports. It is important to review your credit reports often, but it is especially important to review your credit reports when you suspect that you may be a victim of identity theft. You should check your reports for both unauthorized credit card accounts and unauthorized hard inquiries (i.e. when your credit report was pulled by a lender as part of a loan application). You can claim a free copy of your 3 reports online each year at If you have already claimed your free reports or if you wish to see your credit scores then another great resource to check out is

If you discover unauthorized inquiries, know that they have the potential to damage your credit scores for 12 months and may remain on your credit reports for 2 years. You can alert the credit bureaus and the bank if any unauthorized inquiries occurred and ask that they be removed from your reports since they were a result of identity theft. These requests can be handled on your own, or you can hire a reputable credit repair professional to take care of the leg work for you.

2. Be Cautious When Closing Credit Card Accounts

Fraudulently opened Wells Fargo credit card accounts are not automatically going to have a negative impact upon your credit. Yes, the initial inquiry would have hurt your credit along with the fact that the new account might have lowered the average age of accounts on your credit reports. Both of these factors might have damaged your credit scores. However, oddly enough the credit card you never asked to open might actually be helping your credit scores overall.

If you discover an unauthorized Wells Fargo credit card on your credit reports, but the account is reporting a $0 balance and no late payments then the account could possibly be helping your scores by lowering your overall revolving utilization ratio. The fact of the matter is that closing the unauthorized credit card account might even potentially have a negative impact upon your scores. However, if the account is impacting your credit negatively then, just like with the unauthorized inquiries, you have the right to contact the credit reporting agencies and the bank itself to request that the fraudulent account be completely deleted from your credit reports.

3. See If You Are Owed a Refund

Unauthorized bank accounts, thankfully, are generally not going to have any impact upon your credit reports or scores. Furthermore, there is no potential danger of damaging your credit scores by closing these accounts if that is your desire. Of course you should keep in mind that although these accounts are likely not impacting your credit, you may have been unfairly charged banking fees associated with these accounts. It is a good idea to check a history (online, over the phone, or in person) of all existing Wells Fargo accounts in your name. If you discover any accounts which were opened without your consent, you can take a look at your statements (both for the individual accounts and your primary account as well) to see if you are owed a refund for wrongfully charged bank fees.

You Can Ask for Help

As is the case with any credit related problem, you have the right to try to navigate the muddy waters of repairing credit errors on your own. However, remember that you have the right to hire an expert to help you as well. You do not have to struggle through analyzing your credit reports or trying to correct inaccuracies alone.

CLICK HERE to schedule a no-obligation credit analysis with a HOPE4USA expert today. 


Michelle Black is an author and leading credit expert with nearly a decade and a half of experience, a recognized credit expert on talk shows and podcasts nationwide, and a regularly featured speaker at seminars across the country. She is an expert on improving credit scores, budgeting, and identity theft. You can connect with Michelle on the HOPE4USA Facebook page by clicking here.


Are Your Student Loans Stopping You from Qualifying for a Mortgage?


Are Your Student Loans Stopping You from Qualifying for a Mortgage?

When you were filling out financial aid applications to help cover your college tuition you probably did not give much thought to how your student loan payments would affect your budget once you graduated. You almost certainly never contemplated how your student loans might impact your credit when you were ready to apply for a mortgage. However, whether you considered the ramifications ahead of time or not, the reality of the matter is that your student loans can sometimes make or break your ability to qualify for a home loan even if your loans have never been paid late or are currently in deferment.

If you are preparing to apply for a mortgage or are already struggling to qualify for a mortgage because of the student loans on your credit reports, the good news is that all hope is not necessarily lost. In fact, depending upon your situation there may even be a few different ways to solve your qualification problems. Take a look...

DTI Problems

Buying a home when you have outstanding student loan debts can certainly be a challenge for multiple reasons. One of the first ways that student loans can make it difficult for you to purchase a home is due to the fact that the amount of these loans will usually be counted against you when you apply for a mortgage. As a result your debt to income ratio (DTI) will increase, causing the amount you qualify to borrow to be reduced. Sometimes these DTI issues can make it impossible to qualify for the home you really want to purchase.  

Student loans may cause you DTI issues even if the loans are currently deferred. (Before you graduate and often for certain periods of time after graduation your student loans may be placed into a deferred status - that is to say that your payments are temporarily placed on hold.) Unfortunately even if you are not currently making a monthly payment on your student loans some portion of the debt still may be counted against your income when you apply for a mortgage loan and the lender calculates your ability to make a house payment.

Potential Solution #1: Consolidation

When you consolidate multiple student loans into a single new loan you can often lower your monthly minimum payment. Assuming that you are eligible to lower your payments through consolidation, consolidating those loans offers you a potential solution to lower your DTI thus enabling you to qualify for a larger loan amount.

Additionally, when you consolidate your student loans your credit scores might even see a small upward bump as well. By consolidating multiple student loans you can reduce your overall number of accounts with balances. Since FICO's credit scoring models pay attention to your number of outstanding debts, consolidating could certainly be a positive move for your credit.

 Credit History Problems

If you have not always made your student loan payments on time you may have another obstacle to try to overcome when you fill out a mortgage application. Unfortunately, if your loan payments are not current then they may put the brakes on you purchasing a new home entirely. Qualifying for a mortgage while your student loans are past due is going to be nearly impossible.

Naturally the easiest way to solve this problem is to pay to bring your loans back to current status if you can afford to do so. However, if your past due student loan debt is too high for you to pay off in one fell swoop, rehabilitation may be an option for you to consider.

Potential Solution #2: Rehabilitation

You may be able to eliminate the default status on your student loans and move those loans from collections back to current on your credit reports by entering into a rehabilitation program. To enter into the loan rehabilitation program you must agree in writing to make 9 consecutive monthly payments (each within 20 days of the due date). The size of your monthly payments will be based upon your income and a variety of other factors.

Once you have completed your rehabilitation payments successfully, your loan should be eligible to be removed from default status and should resume being reported on your credit as a current loan. Unfortunately, any late payments previously made on the loan before the account went into rehab will remain on your credit reports where they may continue to damage your credit scores accordingly for up to 7 years. As a result, during your loan rehabilitation process it would be wise to look into other ways to try to improve your credit - either on your own or with the help of a reputable credit expert.

DIY or Professional Help?

If you like so many millions of other Americans took out student loans to help finance your education then learning the best ways to manage that debt after graduation is a essential to your financial and credit wellbeing. You can try to figure out the best way to manage your loans by yourself or you can work with a pro. Naturally you have the right to try to consolidate or rehabilitate your student loans with your lender completely on your own (just like you have the right to try to repair your own credit or even attempt to perform your own vehicle repairs). However, just like DIY credit repair or auto repair may be an extremely difficult and inadvisable project, so can trying to resolve your student loan issues without professional assistance.

Remember, student loan servicers are supposed to help graduates by making sure that you are well aware of all of the different options you have available. Your loan servicers should be telling you about consolidation options, rehabilitation options, and even loan forgiveness options. However, the truth is that most of the time they do not. (Would a lender really be motivated to help you pay a smaller monthly fee even if the option is available to you?) By hiring a reputable student loan expert to assist you there will be someone on your side, guiding you step by step through finding your best loan repayment, rehabilitation, or forgiveness options and even filling out the paperwork to apply for these programs on your behalf.

CLICK HERE if you would like to have a student loan relief expert reach out to you today. 


Michelle Black is an author and leading credit expert with nearly a decade and a half of experience, a recognized credit expert on talk shows and podcasts nationwide, and a regularly featured speaker at seminars across the country. She is an expert on improving credit scores, budgeting, and identity theft. You can connect with Michelle on the HOPE4USA Facebook page by clicking here.


My Debt Has Been “Charged Off.” What Now?


My Debt Has Been “Charged Off.” What Now?

“Michelle, last year I lost my job and was unable to keep up with my credit card payments. The credit card accounts have been closed and the accounts are being reported as “charge offs” on my credit reports. I don’t know why, but the accounts are still showing outstanding balances. Since the accounts have been charged off that means that I don’t owe the debt anymore and the balances should be zero, right? What gives?!”

A somewhat common misconception which consumers may have is the idea that if a bill is charged-off then the debt is no longer owed. Unfortunately for the consumer, that is a myth. A charge off does not equal forgiveness of a debt.  Charge off is simply a classification or a category that creditors give to debt which they will be writing off as a loss for tax purposes. When a charge off notation appears on a credit report, it does not mean that the consumer no longer owes the balance. The balance may still be very much owed to the creditor or collection agency.

When a debt is charged off by the original creditor (typically once the account has become around 6 months past due), it is often sold or turned over to a collection agency. If you can afford to pay the debt before it is reported to the credit reporting agencies, you should do so. You can save yourself a big headache in the future by paying the account now.

It is also important to be aware of your rights concerning charged off debt. Take a look at the list below to protect yourself from “credit bullies” who are employing abusive or illegal collection tactics.

Know Your Rights

1. FDCPA (Fair Debt Collection Practices Act) -

Collection agencies are not allowed to harass you. They cannot call you excessively, threaten you, or call you at all hours of the night. Collection agencies cannot call your friends and family members in an attempt to embarrass you. There are a lot of other protections afforded to you under the FDCPA. If you have been called or harassed by a collection agency, it might even be in your best interest to speak with an attorney who specializes in FDCPA cases. In fact, feel free to contact us if you would like a referral to a reputable attorney in your area. If you have been harassed then there is a chance your attorney will even represent you on contingency with no upfront funds coming out of your pocket for attorney fees.

2. FCRA (Fair Credit Reporting Act) –

A. Re-aging is illegal.
Derogatory accounts are allowed to remain on your credit reports for 7 years from the date of default (when the original account became 6 months past due). If a collection agency changes the date of default on the original debt in an attempt to manipulate the date when an item is purged from your credit reports, that is known as re-aging and it’s illegal.

B. You have the right to dispute inaccurate, questionable, unverifiable, and outdated accounts.
If you believe that a collection account on your credit reports has been re-aged, you have the right to dispute the account with the credit reporting agencies. You can file disputes on your own, or with the help of a professional like HOPE4USA. You also have the right to dispute any accounts which you believe to be inaccurate or unverifiable. 

The best thing that you can do for your credit scores is, of course, to keep all of your payments on time. However, anyone using a little common sense can realize that most people never set out not to pay their bills. It’s not like consumers with credit problems just wake up one morning and say, “I think I’ll stop paying my bills today.” No, most people who get into credit and financial trouble do so due to unfortunate circumstances like job loss, illness, family emergencies, etc. Bad credit happens to good people every single day.

If you have made credit management mistakes in the past, there is good news. Bad credit does not have to last forever. CLICK HERE to download our free HOPE4USA Credit Report Toolkit for some expert advice on how to get started on your road to recovery today!


Michelle Black is an author and leading credit expert with over a decade and a half of experience, a recognized credit expert on talk shows and podcasts nationwide, and a regularly featured speaker at seminars across the country. She is an expert on improving credit scores, budgeting, and identity theft. You can connect with Michelle on the HOPE4USA Facebook page by clicking here.