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Office of the Commissioner of Financial Regulation

 

Attention Maryland Consumers Experiencing Credit Problems:  Avoid Credit Services Businesses Making False Promises - Advisory Notices

 

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BEWARE of credit services businesses ("CSBs"), often referred to as credit repair businesses that make promises they cannot deliver. Don't believe advertisements that make false claims, such as:

  • "We can erase your bad credit - no problem!"
  • "Create a new credit identity - legally."
  • "We can remove bankruptcies, judgments, liens, and bad loans from your credit reports forever!"

Every day CSBs target consumers with troubled credit. These companies promise to clean up consumer credit reports to help consumers obtain credit, insurance, and employment. CSBs require consumers to pay significant fees, often in advance, for promised services. The fact is, however, no one can remove accurate information from your credit report, even if it is negative. Don't be taken in by false advertising.

Maryland has Strict Laws to Protect Consumers

The Maryland Credit Services Businesses Act (the "Act") regulates any person offering credit repair services to Maryland consumers. Important protections under the Act include:

  • No Up-Front Fees: Under the Act, a CSB may not charge or receive any money or other valuable consideration prior to full and complete performance of the services that the CSB has agreed to perform on your behalf.
     
  • Must Be Licensed: Any individual or company offering credit repair services as described in the Act must be licensed by the Commissioner of Financial Regulation ("Commissioner").
     
  • Written Contract Required: A CSB must enter into a written contract with you. Among other provisions, the contract must include a detailed description of the services to be performed and the results to be achieved by the CSB.
     
  • Written Disclosures Required: A CSB must provide you with a written information statement before entering into a contract, or receiving money or other valuable consideration from you. The information statement must include the following statements among other important information:
    1. Your right to review any file maintained about you by any consumer reporting agency ("CRA"), and your right to receive a copy of your consumer report containing all information in the file as provided by the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act ("FCRA");
       
    2. Your right to a free copy, from the CRA, of your consumer report containing all information in your file, if requested by you within 30 days of receiving notice of a denial of credit as provided under the FCRA;
       
    3. A nominal charge not to exceed $5 may be imposed on you by the CRA for a copy of the consumer report containing all information in your file, if you have not been denied credit within 30 days from receipt of your request; and
       
    4. Your right to dispute the completeness or accuracy of any item on you contained in any file that is maintained by any CRA, as provided under the FCRA.
  • Right of Rescission: You have the right to cancel a contract with a CSB any time prior to midnight of the third business day after the date of the transaction.

Other Important Provisions of the Act:

  • A CSB may not create, or assist you in creating a new credit identity by obtaining and using a different name, address, telephone number, Social Security Number, or employer tax identification number.
     
  • A CSB may not make, assist, or advise you to make, any statement or other representation that is false or misleading to a consumer reporting agency, government agency, or person to whom you apply or intend to apply for an extension of credit, regarding your creditworthiness, credit standing, credit capacity, or true identity.
     
  • A CSB may not make or use any false or misleading representations in the offer of services to you.

Penalties for Violation

Anyone violating the Act may be subject to significant administrative, civil and criminal penalties, including fines up to $5,000 or imprisonment up to 3 years, or both, plus possible additional civil penalties.

Use Care if Choosing a CSB

If you choose to do business with a CSB, make sure that the company is licensed and in compliance with the law. Additionally:

  • Avoid any CSB that advises you not to contact a credit reporting company directly.
     
  • Avoid any CSB that advises you to dispute all of the information in your credit report (regardless of its accuracy or timeliness); and/or
     
  • Does not inform you of your legal rights and what you can do for yourself free of charge.

How to File a Complaint Against a CSB

Consumers may file complaints against a CSB by sending a written complaint to the Commissioner of Financial Regulation, Attention Complaint Unit, 500 North Calvert Street, Suite 402 Baltimore, Maryland 21202. You may also call us at 888-784-0136 or 410-230-6097.