By Vic Gerami
The myth that all LGBTQ people are affluent and devoid of financial challenges is just that — a myth.
Based on an LGBTQ finances survey conducted by Experian in May 2018, things aren’t exactly rainbows and roses when it comes to credit and finances in the queer community.
In fact, our community puts more emphasis on discretionary spending versus savings than the general population. We are also more likely to report bad spending habits. Those statistics are bad news for many individual LGBTQ folks … especially for those individuals’ credit reports and credit scores.
Sixty-two percent of the LGBTQ community has experienced financial challenges based on sexual orientation. Members of our community are also less likely to seek out professional financial planning and personal credit management advice.
I spoke with credit and financial expert Alex Miller, to breakdown the basics facts about credit and advice on credit repair.
Miller got his start in Fortune 500 companies, such as First Data Merchant Services and American Express. Inspired by AmEx’s customers’ high credit scores, he started studying federal laws, the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) and the Fair Isaac Scoring Model (FICO). Upon his certification in consumer credit laws, FCRA and the Fair and Accurate Transaction Act, Miller successfully applied what he learned to fix his own credit and set out to help others. Since, he has assisted thousands of consumers to enforce their credit rights and dramatically improve their credit and quality of life.
What are some of the myths out there about credit?
One of the biggest myths about credit is that you have to pay the debt to collection companies and that you have to respond to their threatening letters and rude phone calls. And that’s not necessarily true. Once your debt has been bought and sold to a collection agency, your debt is already paid for by the collection company. But if you don’t know how to utilize the federal laws to fight against collection companies they will ruin your credit and prevent you from living a life of financial freedom.
It’s not as easy as some people think to fight these collection companies. You can’t just download these bland letters from Google and mail them off and think that the credit bureaus will respond and delete most of these negative accounts because they won’t. The bureaus are a lot smarter and they are aware of these simple letters that millions of people have already used millions of times. You may be lucky and get one or two deletions here and there but not enough to get you 100% free from debt. You have to have something stronger and I have created something stronger that will get you 100% deletions in 90 days.
What made you in into credit repair?
I first got into credit repair while working at American Express because I was so amazed at how their customers mostly all had credit scores over 750 and well into the 800s. At that time, my scores sucked. I had a 580 with tons of collections and charge-off accounts. I was in debt over my head and I wanted the good life that they all seemed to have. So, I started studying how credit works. I researched the federal law, the FCRA and the Fair Isaac Scoring Model, also known as your FICO score.
I became obsessed with getting out of debt the most cost-effective way I could. I found that the $40,000 of collections I had hanging over my head could be deleted from my credit report legally — and I wouldn’t have to pay one single dollar to get out of debt. I could be free again. I could start over and begin to live my best life.
What are some of the biggest challenges people have with their credit histories and scores?
I would have to say some of the biggest challenges people have is student loans. Every day, over 100 credit files come across my desk, and on average, at least 90% of these credit files have student loan debt with late payments, collections and charge-offs. It’s sad and it breaks my heart to know that at around 18, the first debt that most consumers accumulate is student loans. Worse, most people who graduate from college don’t ever get a job that pays them enough to pay for the debt they have just accumulated. So most people work the next 20 years struggling to try and pay it off. I think it’s so important to address this problem first, student loan debt is the first debt I delete in a credit-cleaning strategy I call “the three-round burst.”
Is there a ‘typical’ credit-repair client, or do they come from all walks of life?
My clients are from all walks of life — and from all 50 states across America. I have cleaned NBA and NFL players’ credit. They have accumulated millions of dollars of debt. I’ve also cleaned business owners’ credit by successfully disputing and deleting bankruptcies from their credit reports. But I especially enjoy helping school teachers. Anyone who has a U.S. social security number and who has debt in collections, and/or charge-offs, late payments, etc. … can benefit from a strategically approached, ethically applied, legal credit-repair plan. Our company has been ranked by Google as one of the top five credit-repair firms in Houston, but we are a national firm. Regardless of whether you choose Alex Miller Credit Repair or another firm, I highly recommend talking to anyone you know who’s benefited from good credit-repair service or get a recommendation from an accrediting organization.
Say I have bad credit, what makes you think you have the power to restore my credit?
According to the Federal Trade Commission and the FCRA, which gives me the power I have, I can successfully dispute and delete negative accounts such as bankruptcies, foreclosures, car repossessions, child support, collections, student loans, charge-offs, hospital bills and other types of debts in many circumstances. A stronger score will help you live your best life again or maybe for the first time.
What is the process of restoring one’s credit?
The first thing we require is for the person to get an accurate credit report. There are several services out there, but we have credit-monitoring sites that we find to be the best sources. Once that’s done, my team studies the client’s credit report; then we extract all of the negative inaccurate accounts, and we email them a free credit analysis. Then, we get on the phone with the client to review their analysis to hear their story, and then educate the client on their rights.
The law says we must let the clients know that they can do this themselves. You can also go to Lowes and buy bricks and build your own house. You can do it, but it may not be wise to build your own house if you are not a contractor. Similarly, with credit repair, you’ll probably be better off if you allow me, one of my credit specialists or someone else with a lot of professional experience under their belt assist you. Just like having a professional roofer put your new roof on, you’ll save a lot of money, heartache and a lot of your time by letting us do the heavy lifting, because this is our area of expertise.
How long will it take?
Timelines vary. I can only speak for our company. Our slogan is this: “What other credit-repair companies do in three years, we get done in about three months.” Our special technique is called “the three-round burst.” Each round is 40 days. We are going to do three master rounds of advanced deletions. You will get results every 40 days of the negative accounts that get deleted from your credit report. We have clients who have seen increases in their credit scores by 150 to 300 points in 90 days or less.
Do you have any tips for readers for safeguarding their credit?
Yes I do. I want people to know that identity theft is the No. 1 crime in America. And if they use our credit-cleaning services, we will assist them with placing a free fraud alert and security freeze on their credit report to help protect them from identity theft.
Can you share a success story?
People call in, send thank-you letters and send pictures of their new houses and cars all the time. Still, it’s easy to lose track of how many small business loans we’ve helped clients get approved, how many start-ups and entrepreneurs our credit-cleaning services have helped launch.
But the story of a guy named Raymond is so near to my heart that I’ll never forget it. Raymond was a truck driver who was living in his truck by the time he reached out to us. He’d lost his job, his house, car and his family. This guy couldn’t get approved for a pack of bubble gum because his credit was so shot. When my phone rang and I picked up the receiver, I could immediately hear the despair in Raymond’s voice. He didn’t have enough money to afford my services. But after hearing his story, I created a payment plan that he could afford over time. This man was in debt over $300,000. He was so broke. My heart just ached for him. I used my own credit card to purchase his credit report for him because that’s how much I wanted to help him.
The foreclosed loan on the house he once owned was $350,000. Nevertheless, in fewer than three months, I was able to successfully wipe his credit clean by employing provisions of the Federal Trade Commission and the FCRA. He called me and we both cried when he sent me pictures of his new five-bedroom house. I believe in second chances; that’s one of the basic promises of the American dream, which contrary to myth, is still alive and well.
How much should an average consumer pay for credit repair?
I can only speak for our company. We have three levels of service. They range in cost from $750 to $1,000-$1,500, depending on the complexity of the case.
Visit ftc.gov or alexmillercreditrepair.com for more information.
— Vic Gerami is journalist, media contributor and the editor and publisher of The Blunt Post. He spent six years at Frontiers Magazine, followed by LA Weekly and Voice Media Group. His syndicated celebrity Q&A column, 10 Questions with Vic, is a LA Press Club’s National Arts & Entertainment Journalism Award finalist. In 2009, he was featured in the Wall Street Journal as a ‘Leading Gay Activist’ for opposing Proposition 8 and his marriage equality advocacy. Vic was on the planning committee of the historic Resist March in 2017 and is a founding board member of Equality Armenia. In 2015, he was noted in the landmark Supreme Court lawsuit, Obergefell v. Hodges, in which the Court held in a 5–4 decision that the fundamental right to marry is guaranteed to same-sex couples by both the Due Process Clause and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Vic is a contributor for Montrose Star, DC Life Magazine, Out & About Nashville, Q Virginia, GNI MAG, QNotes, Windy City Times, WeHo Times, GoWeHo, Los Angeles Blade, Asbarez, California Courier, Desert Daily Guide, Armenian Weekly, GED, The Pride LA, IN Magazine, OUT Traveler and The Advocate Magazine.