Mortgage company not reporting loan payments to credit bureau

August 25, 2011 20:17 by Consumer Ed

Dear Consumer Ed:

My mortgage company is not reporting my payments to the credit bureaus.  I always pay on time, and I feel this information would boost my credit score.  Are mortgage companies legally required to report this information to the credit bureaus?

Consumer Ed says:

Although mortgage companies usually report mortgage loans and ongoing payments to one of the major credit bureaus, they are not legally required to do so.

It is possible that your mortgage payment information is not being reported because of a clerical error. If you have not already done so, contact your mortgage lender, explain the situation and request that it furnish your payment information to a credit reporting agency. If your lender refuses to do so, there are some other things you can do to improve your credit score:

  • Review the information on your credit report to make sure there are no errors or collection items that you are unaware of.  You can access your credit report for free by going to www.annualcreditreport.com. If you find  an error on your credit report, contact the credit reporting agency directly to dispute it.
  • Pay your bills on time, as late payments and collection items can send your credit score tumbling down.
  • Having a low debt-to-credit ratio will boost your credit score. So try to pay down credit cards that have balances at or near the credit limit. 
  • You shouldn’t necessarily cancel a credit card when it’s paid off, especially if you have had that credit card account for a long time. Keeping the account open, even if you don’t use the card, could help your score by improving your debt-to-credit limit ratio. In addition, older accounts contribute positively towards your credit score. 


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Can I get a grant or rebate for doing a home energy audit?

August 13, 2011 00:13 by Consumer Ed

Dear Consumer Ed:

I received a call from a company that said I could get a $3,000 federal grant if I had them do an energy audit of my home.  They then requested my social security number and bank account information so they could check my credit rating. I got suspicious and hung up. Do you think this was a scam? Are there really grants or rebates available for doing an energy audit of your home?

Consumer Ed says:

You were wise to be suspicious of the caller. Unsolicited calls or emails asking for your personal or financial information are usually attempts at identity theft.  There has also been a scam reported in Florida where con artists posing as utility workers have been going around neighborhoods and calling consumers offering free energy audits. To ensure you’re contacting the actual utility company, you should call the number on your power bill.

There are several legitimate programs that offer Georgia residents rebates or financial assistance with energy audits or energy-efficient home improvements. However, they generally require you to initiate contact with them, not vice versa.  Here are some programs that you may be able to take advantage of:

Weatherization Assistance Program - Low-income homeowners may be eligible for the Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP), which provides weatherization services allowing income-eligible households to reduce their energy bills by making their homes more energy efficient.  For more information and to apply for Weatherization Assistance, visit www.gefa.org.

Free Online Energy Audit - Georgia Power offers a free online energy audit tool to help residential customers determine where the most energy is consumed in their homes and what they can do to lower their monthly bill.  Go to www.georgiapower.com to access this tool.

Free In-Home Energy Audit - Georgia Power also offers customers a free in-home energy audit. An Energy Expert will visit and visually inspect your home and help show you how much you can save on your energy bill. To schedule a free energy audit, call 1-800-524-2421 ext. 200, or visit www.georgiapower.com.

Zero-Interest Financing for Energy Improvements - The residential energy efficiency financing programs, which are funded through Georgia Environmental Finance Authority (GEFA) as a result of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, allow homeowners to apply for funding to complete a number of energy-efficiency improvement projects, and for the purchase of eligible ENERGY STAR appliances. Financing is available through Oglethorpe Power Corporation, Electric Cities of Georgia, Municipal Gas Authority of Georgia and Estes Heating & Air. Contact your electric and/or gas provider for more information on available energy-efficiency loan programs.

Georgia Power Rebates – Georgia Power customers may qualify for rebates of up to $2,200 on energy-efficient home improvements. To be eligible, you must get an energy assessment by a participating contractor (for a fee), and the improvements must be done by a qualified contractor participating in the Georgia Power Home Energy Improvement Program. Rebates are based on actual energy savings achieved. For more information, visit www.georgiapower.com.

Federal Income Tax Credits - As a homeowner, you may also qualify for federal income tax credits if you purchase certain energy-efficient products or renewable energy systems for your home during 2011. For more information on what products qualify, visit the U.S. Department of Energy’s website at www.energysavers.gov.

One final note:  If you hire a contractor to make home improvements, ask people you know for names of contractors they would recommend. You can also check their reputation with the Better Business Bureau (www.bbb.org).  Ask the contractor for his license number so you can verify that he is licensed with the Secretary of State’s Office. Make sure the contractor provides you with a detailed written contract before any work is begun, and don’t pay for work that is incomplete.

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Financing a car when you have bad credit

April 8, 2011 20:21 by Consumer Ed

Dear Consumer Ed:

I am shopping for my first car.  I can’t afford a brand new car so I’ll be looking for something used. Also, my credit is not so great because I was late on some credit card payments.  How can I make sure I get a good deal on financing despite my low credit score?

Consumer Ed says:

If your credit score is low, some lenders may refuse to give you a loan, and those who do grant you credit may not extend you the lowest interest rate available.  There are legitimate lenders and dealerships that will charge higher interest rates to people with bad credit. However, there are also some dealerships who seek to take advantage of consumers like you by charging sky-high interest rates.  So, before you even begin visiting dealerships, you should shop for a loan.  You can probably get a better deal on financing through a financial institution, so start by contacting several banks and credit unions to see what loan terms they can offer you.  Credit unions often offer lower rates than banks. 

While it is important to try to get the lowest interest rate you can, you also want to ensure that you are buying a quality vehicle from a reputable seller or dealership.  So once you have found the lender who offers you the best loan terms, start shopping for a dealership.  You may want to speak to trusted friends or relatives who have had a positive experience with a dealership.  The Better Business Bureau’s website (www.bbb.org) rates businesses and shows whether there have been any consumer complaints against them.  Finally, check the car out thoroughly before you sign any paperwork.  Go for a test drive, run a vehicle history report, and most importantly, have the car thoroughly inspected by your mechanic. Also, make sure the dealer puts any promises and warranties in writing because once you sign a contract, the deal is final.

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