Not everyone needs to hire somebody else to help fix their credit. If you’ve got the time and patience and are willing to learn how some of the credit laws work, you can take try sprucing up your credit history on your own. But if you decide that your time is better spent elsewhere, you might consider putting a pro to work on your behalf. But who should that be?
The biggest player in the field of credit repair is Lexington Law. They claim to be 20 times larger than their nearest competitor and sign up 2000 customers each day on average. That’s impressive. But just because they are the biggest, does it make them the best? Can they really help you increase your credit score? Are they worth the expense? These are important issue to consider before hiring any credit repair company.
There is so much bad publicity about this industry, I thought it made sense to get out the Pilgrim microscope and take a look at Lexington for myself.
What follows is a deep dive into the world of Lexington Law to determine if they might be worth hiring if you need to repair and elevate your credit report. Let’s get started.
How Credit Repair Works
Before we understand Lexington Law, let’s take a few minutes to review the universe of credit reporting. When you use credit to buy something the creditor keeps tabs on whether or not you pay your bills on time (or at all). They record and report this information (usually) to at least one of the three major credit bureaus. If you do a good job making your payments, and the creditors and bureaus do a good job tracking your transactions, everyone is happy.
But if you blow it (use too much credit, pay late or never pay a certain bill) the creditors and bureaus will get upset and put a negative mark on your credit file.
And even if you play nice, the credit bureaus make mistakes. Lots of them. According to a recent government study, 1 in 5 credit reports contain material errors. That means negative items could be reported against you by mistake. And that’s just for starters.
Other times, data may be technically true but you still may have a legal right to demand they be taken off your report. There are a variety of consumer credit laws that protect you from games creditors play my friend. Those laws are on the books because the credit bureaus and creditors aren’t always fair.
This is where some people decide to hire a firm like Lexington Law; they force the creditors and credit bureaus to comply with the letter of the law. Once these companies do start playing by the rules, it can translate into a much higher credit score for you.
Nobody can clean up all the negative items on your credit report. If the data is accurate, verifiable and complete you might be stuck with a tarnished credit record for several years. But legal professionals who are well versed in consumer protection law can often remove a lot more off of your credit report than you might be able to do on your own. Let’s see if Lexington Law is one of those firms.
What Does Lexington Law Do?
Part of what the company does is help get negative data removed from your credit report. That includes late payments, charge offs, settlements, liens, collections, wage garnishments, judgements repossessions, bankruptcies and foreclosures.
They endeavor to get this information expunged by forcing creditors and credit bureaus to comply with the law. Specifically, these laws require that all the information on your credit report be accurate, verifiable, complete and timely.
As I mentioned above, there’s a 20% chance that your credit report contains significant errors. Lexington Law forces the creditors and bureaus to correct mistakes and wipe clean any data that isn’t right, can’t be substantiated or doesn’t tell the whole story.
Once they identify the negative items that need to be removed, they work directly with your creditors and credit bureaus. Since they are a reputable firm, sometimes they can get bad data removed just by asking. Remember that lawyers have a lot more juice than you or I do. It may not be fair, but it’s true.
If that doesn’t work, they take off the gloves. Consumers are protected by the Fair Trade Commission and a suite of powerful laws. And because the law firm is intimately familiar with all these statutes, they can force the creditors and bureaus to get on board and do the right thing.
Lexington Law started out in the early 90s by a small group of attorneys in Salt Lake City, Utah. When you consider that credit repair is built on the effective application of consumer protection laws, having a law firm in your corner is a huge advantage if you ask me.
Indeed, this company has really taken great advantage of their legal edge. Since their humble beginnings, they’ve grown tremendously. They now have offices in 20 states and serve clients in all 50 states.
This is especially impressive when you consider that the government watches over this industry like a hawk. In 2006 and 2008 alone the government shutdown 56 firms. Yet over that same time frame, Lexington expanded. Of course that doesn’t prove the service will work for you. But it does indicate that they have kept their nose clean. It also shows that consumers like what Lexington is doing.
I read through whatever complaints I could find on the company and didn’t find anything of substance. Also, I didn’t see any Federal Trade Commission law suits (the FTC is the government agency that regulates credit repair firms). I took that as a good sign.
On their site, they claim that their clients got 10.2 negative items removed from their credit report on average and that they’ve helped over 500,000 people since they started out.
Removing more than 10 negative items is really impressive if you ask me. If you do the math, that means they have been able to remove almost a third of all the negatives that appear on customers’ credit report on average and they were able to get this done in just under 4 months.
Of course they can’t guarantee those results. But if you get anywhere near that kind of outcome it’s going to have a monster effect on your credit score and financial life.
Everyone pays a $99.95 fee at day 5 to 15. After that you have a few choices. Ostensibly, you can chose from any of three service levels; regular ($59.95 a month), standard ($79.95 a month) and premier ($99.95 a month). But if you really want to get the job done, be ready to spend $99.95 a month for a few months at least.
Their least expensive level (standard) isn’t going to get you far. With this package, they only work with the credit bureaus and that’s just not enough. They only rely on the Fair Credit Reporting Act and they only contact the bureaus.
But in order to see impressive results you need to deal with creditors too. That’s why you should only sign up if you are willing to shell out the $99.95 a month my friend.
Once you go with the highest level, your Lexington legal team works on both the creditors and bureaus. They also apply the Fair Credit Billing Act and Truth in Lending Act and Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. These rules force creditors to show you their proof about the negative information and your credit account in detail. These laws also define how credit accounts are to be opened. Finally, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act provides consumer protection once a bill has been turned over for collections.
What Happens Once You Call Lexington?
The site encourages consumers to call in for a free consultation so that’s what I did.
Among other things, I wanted to see if these guys were just another heavy handed sales outfit or a company staffed by knowledgeable and helpful people.
I was relieved to find that the person on the other end of the phone was a para-legal professional who answered all my questions thoroughly. On top of that, he never once pressured me into signing up. I cannot stand high pressure tactics and I was grateful that my experience with the Lex Rep was a good one.
During your free hour consultation you can describe what you are up against and ask all your questions. If you determine that it makes sense to go to the next level, you set up your case.
That takes about 5 minutes and is pretty painless. At that time, you will be asked to fork over $12.95 so the company can get to work and obtain your credit reports. Next, the Lexington Law rep will review our credit report and start building your comprehensive repair plan.
Typically, the plan takes several months to implement fully but that doesn’t mean you have to wait for the firm to get into action. Within 5 days they contact the credit bureaus and creditors with dispute letters to get the ball rolling.
I thought it was cool that the company works together with you in deciding which items to dispute. They list all the negative items from your credit history in order of those most damaging to your score listed first. Then you go over those items together with your case manager and decide which make the most sense to contest and when.
The rep told me that the company doesn’t send out all the challenges at the same time. They’ve seen that clients get a better credit score result if they roll out the process rather than use a blitzkrieg attack method. That’s probably because the credit scoring companies become suspect when a consumer has a lot of disputes simultaneously. I thought that was a pretty good tip even if you decide to repair your credit yourself.
Once they send out the intervention letters, the credit bureaus have to investigate and get back to you within 30 days. If they accept your claim, they’ll let you know. And if the correction results in a higher score, the bureau will send you a new report.
If you don’t get a fair result, you talk it over with your case worker. If together you decide to take it to the next level, Lexington can demand the creditor bureaucrat escalate the item to a higher level team (among other tactics at Lexington’s disposal).
Keep in mind that the law in on your side. Any information that is inaccurate, unverifiable or incomplete has to slide off your credit report. Lexington uses these laws to bring your creditor to the table.
If the creditor can’t or won’t show proof for the negative data it has to come off. And even if the information is accurate, it has to expunge if it doesn’t tell the complete story.
What Else Does Lexington Law Do For Clients?
I said at the outset removing negative history is only one of Lexington’s tasks. They also help their customers add points to their score in other ways. They accomplish this by doing a full analysis of their credit history and coach clients on what to do proactively to garner points. This coaching process runs parallel to the credit repair process and I think that’s a great differentiator between Lexington and the competition.
I found their service agent helpful, knowledgeable and professional. They offer phone support Monday through Friday from 06:00 through 20:00. If you need help on the weekends, you can call on Saturday from 07:00 A.M to 17:00. These are Mountain Time hours by the way.
But you can find out what’s going anytime day or night simply by visiting their cool website or using their app. The site shows you exactly where you stand on your disputes. It also shows how your credit score increases every time a negative item is removed. Yeah!
What I Don’t Like About Lexington
There wasn’t too much to complain about with Lexington. The only thing I really found difficult to understand was their pricing. As I said, you really have to get their premier level if you want to clean your credit. That’s the point at which Lexington goes to bat for you with full force. It made no sense to offer lower level tiers.
When I asked about this, they told me that clients usually start out at the highest level and scale down as their needs diminish. That’s fine. It makes sense. But they don’t explain that on the website and I wish they would.
What I Do Like About Lexington
I like their results first of all. As I said, their average client has 10.3 items removed – of 27% of all negative items get wiped clean. Again, results aren’t guaranteed but that’s a heck of batting average. No wonder they are the industry leader.
I like that they are a law firm. Why should the big credit players get away with whatever they like? They do because most consumers don’t have the legal background to call them on the carpet. Well, if you hire Lexington, that problem is solved.
I was impressed by their roster and that they’ve been around for 20 years. My guess is they’ve got good contacts at the bureaus and major creditors and that’s worth a lot too sometimes. Remember, it’s not always what you know, but who you know.
Lexington survives and thrives in an industry that is under constant government scrutiny. They remove millions of negatives off consumers’ credit reports every year. This tells me they play it clean and add value for their customers.
Last, I think the credit coaching is helpful and valuable – but I wouldn’t sign up for this service for that alone.
Lexington Law Take Away
These people are the biggest in the industry for a reason. They are skilled professionals and they take their business seriously. They focus on consumer credit law and they know which buttons to push in order to get results. They can’t get rid of all the negatives on your credit report but there is a high chance they’ll be able to clean up a lot more than you or I can on our own and do so much faster than we could.
If I needed to fix my credit history, I’d call Lexington and take advantage of their free consultation at the very least. What have you got to lose by trying them out yourself?