Credit & Debt Resources
Having the right tools to understand your credit rating and manage debt properly are crucial to financial success and empowerment. There are many resources available to increase your knowledge and power as a consumer.
A good credit score is an important aspect of your personal finances. It can help you qualify more easily for a loan and to receive better interest rates. Credit scores can also influence decisions made by potential property managers, deposit requirements for utility services, and employment decisions for some types of employment.
There are three major credit reporting agencies: Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. These agencies store information reported to them about your credit and debt activities and provide your credit report and score to lenders, creditors, landlords, and others who wish to evaluate your creditworthiness. Checking your own credit does not negatively impact your score - you can and should check it often. You can receive one free copy of your credit report, from each of the three major credit reporting agencies, every 12 months, from Annual Credit Report. Your credit score isn’t included in the free copy, however, you can obtain it by paying a fee. You should also consider looking at your credit report more often every 12 months to protect yourself from identity theft crimes.
Consider contacting a financial counselor to review your credit report with you.
Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA)
The Fair Credit Reporting Act was enacted in 1970 to regulate credit reporting agencies and requires that they report accurate, timely, and verifiable information to credit reports. This act also allows individuals to dispute items on their credit report, furthering requiring that the credit reporting agencies delete inaccurate, untimely, or unverifiable information from consumer credit reports.
Should you find derogatory marks on your credit report, consider working with a credit repair company. Credit repair companies are organizations that are familiar with the FCRA and credit reporting requirements who may be able to help you get derogatory marks removed from your credit report. Credit repair companies are heavily regulated but it’s important to do your research before hiring one. Find out what makes a credit repair company reputable.
Fair Debt Collections Practices Act (FDCPA)
The Fair Debt Collections Practices Act was enacted in 1977 to protect consumers against abusive and unfair debt collection practices. The Federal Reserve offers a manual that explains the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act and outlines what constitutes a violation. If your rights have been violated, you may want to find an FDCPA attorney to file a lawsuit on your behalf. Many of these attorneys do not charge because the FDCPA penalizes debt collectors for violations by charging them attorney’s fees and up to $1,000 per violation, which is usually paid to you as the consumer.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is a U.S. government agency dedicated to making sure you are treated fairly by banks, lenders and other financial institutions. Their website includes resources for consumers on debt and credit.
Resources on debt collection
- The CFPB’s debt collection page provides an overview including links for specific information pertaining to debt collection.
- Know Your Rights When a Debt Collector Calls: This handout provides information to consumers about their rights related to debt collection, along with strategies on how to handle calls from debt collectors.
- CFPB has sample letters on debt collection that can help consumers who:
- The CFPB provides an overview of your rights and protections for medical bills and collections.
Resources on credit reporting
- The CFPB’s credit reports and scores page provides an overview including links for specific information pertaining to credit reports and scores.
- Understand your credit score: An overview of credit scores and tips on how to build and improve credit scores.
- How to rebuild your credit: Steps and tips on how to rebuild credit.
- Disputing errors on a credit report: Letter and instructions to help consumers dispute errors on their credit reports.
- Where to find free access to a credit score: Handout providing information on obtaining free credit scores.
- My credit report rule to live by: Help your clients create their own “rule to live by” on when and how to check their credit report.
One role of The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is to protect consumers from deceptive and unfair business practices. Advocacy and education are examples of how they bring their mission to life.
Credit, Loans, and Debt:
- Learn about getting and using credit, borrowing money, and managing debt. Available in English and Spanish.
Identity Theft and Online Security:
- How to protect your personal information and privacy, stay safe online, and help your kids do the same.
Report identity theft and get a recovery plan.
- The FTC provides checklists and sample letters to guide you through the recovery process.
Washington Law Help is an informational site maintained by Northwest Justice Project.
Money & Debt: Find topical information that addresses questions and issues related to the following topics:
- Car Issues
- Debt collection
- Medical bills
- Consumer fraud
- Credit problems
- Buying a home
- Identity theft
- Income taxes
- Legal financial obligation (LFO)
- Managing money
- Payday & small loans
- Small Claims Court
- Student loans
- For legal issues other than eviction
- Apply online or call 2-1-1 in King County.
- Outside of King County: CLEAR Hotline 1.888.201.1014, Mon-Fri 9:15am - 12:15pm
- Eviction Help
- Tenants can call 1-855-657-8387.
- Learn more about eviction help.
- Northwest Consumer Law Center provides legal support to Washington residents facing consumer legal issues such as debt collection, foreclosure, student loans, bankruptcy and auto fraud.
One-Time Student Loan Debt Relief
On Aug. 24, 2022, the Biden-Harris Administration announced a Student Debt Relief Plan that includes one-time student loan debt relief targeted to low- and middle-income families.
The U.S. Department of Education (ED) will provide up to $20,000 in debt relief to Federal Pell Grant recipients and up to $10,000 in debt relief to non-Pell Grant recipients. Borrowers with loans held by ED are eligible for this relief if their individual income is less than $125,000 (or $250,000 for households).
Federal Student Aid
Find guides to student loan repayment options, student loan forgiveness and various repayment options. For those still attending school, the FAFSA student aid form and instructions are available as well as information about loans and grants.
Washington State Financial Aid (WASFA)
Washington State offers financial aid for undocumented students and other select applicant who do not file a federal FAFSA application. Learn more about if you should complete the WASFA and the application process!
Washington Student Achievement Council
Looking for information about financial aid in Washington State? Check on the WSAC site, which has information and resources on all types of financial aid, including need-based programs, merit-based programs, loans, grants, scholarships, and more!
In addition, WSAC offers Student Loan Advocacy, free for students and borrowers in Washington State. The student loan advocate supports current and future student loan borrowers. Coordinating with other state agencies, Washington's loan advocate:
- Addresses student borrower complaints.
- Provides information and resources about student loan repayment.
- Educates the public about the rights and responsibilities of student loan borrowers.
You can file a student loan complaint through the Washington State Student Complaint Portal.
To get other help with your loans, contact the Student Loan Advocate.
Debt Slapped for Students, Educators & Parents
Debt Slapped is a set of tools to encourage high school students to wisely finance their post-secondary education or training and/or minimize future debt. Offered by Consumer Education and Training Services (CENTS), there is an online curriculum and guides for educators and parents. Don’t get debt slapped!