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(KTVI) – Consumers see promises to erase bad credit advertised all over the place.   While it`s a tempting offer there are some things you should know before you pay for that credit fix. Why pay a lot of money when you can do much of the leg work yourself. Bad credit is only as bad as you allow it to be

It happens, you slip into a downward, job loss and medical bills can negatively impact your credit score.   But don’t rush to the credit repair companies according to Rob Swearingen with Legal Services of Eastern Missouri.   ‘I think these companies are offering services that are actually beyond what they can achieve. If you owe money and it`s on your credit report no company is going to take it off. If you`re paying money to a company to repair your credit I think you`re throwing your money away.’

The three major Credit Bureaus allow you to dispute inaccuracies affecting your credit score.   You don’t have to pay a third party to do that. And if you sign with the wrong company you could pay as much as $750 for little or nothing.

The Better Business Bureau issued an alert about these signs appearing on St. Louis streets.   And the Federal Trade Commission shut down a credit repair scam that targeted Spanish speaking consumers.

The folks at Clearpoint Credit counseling offer credit counseling. It starts with a review of debt followed by a clear management plan according to Dennis Johnson.   ‘That`s where we`re looking at specific creditors to see if they might lower interest rates for the client. ‘Clearpoint Credit counseling has a minimal monthly fee associated with the management plan. This non-profit organization reports some of its clients are totally debt free in less than five years if they follow the plan.

For those who can’t afford to pay any amount there’s operation hope inside a North County branch of Regions Bank.   It’s free and you don’t have to be a Regions Bank customer. Something long overdue according to Mike Hart, Midwest Area President Regions Bank.   ‘We`re underbanked in North County. The general population is underbanked and better credit scores are one way for people to avail themselves of better financial solutions. And live better lives.’

Bonita Williams will head Hope Inside for Operation Hope at Regions` New Halls Ferry Branch. She says, ‘It starts with a mindset in terms of repairing your credit. You must consider budgeting, saving, knowing how to read a credit report. Those are the things I`m here for to help you with. Also, knowing what your rights are as a customer as far as credit reporting.’

Operation Hope opens inside Regions Bank on May 18th.   If you need help improving your finances and credit score do your homework before signing with a service.   The Federal Trade Commission offers tips and the Better Business Bureau will tell you if a company has a good reputation.