Jeremy M. Simon's 3 favorite credit scoring questions
For his 100th column, our expert looks back at three interesting user questions
Credit Score Report
It's hard to believe I've made it to 100.
As of this entry, I've written 100 columns for
CreditCards.com readers addressing their questions about credit scoring and reporting.
My amazing readers have sent in all sorts of credit-related questions, ranging
from the straightforward to the strange. I've enjoyed reading them.
In celebration of 100 Credit Score Report entries, I've
picked several of my favorite questions for a second look. These are questions
that surprised, challenged or amused me. They are great examples of the struggles consumers face -- and hopefully overcome -- when it comes to their credit.
Whether you're revisiting these questions or reading them
for the first time, I hope you enjoy them.
Question 1: Planning to ruin an ex's credit
I just broke up with my boyfriend and I really hate that
[deleted]. He's an abusive alcoholic, but he has managed to have really good
credit. Me, on the other hand, my credit's in the toilet. I finally worked up
the courage to check my score (I had to peek between my fingers) and it was as
bad as I thought -- down around 500. I read your website about authorized credit card users and piggybacking and how you can "pass through"
your good credit to an authorized user. That gave me an idea. Does that process
work in reverse? In other words, can I mess up that stinking drunk's credit by
adding him as an authorized user on my account? -- Jamie
In perhaps the
only question I've received that needed to be edited for language, Jamie
describes an awful ex-boyfriend who she'd like to punish by ruining his good
credit. But what she outlines is a bad idea -- for several reasons:
First off, her plan may not work. Not all banks will add
just anyone -- specifically a nonspouse -- as an authorized user on a credit
card. Additionally, one of the credit bureaus
(Experian) doesn't list negative
information on authorized user's credit reports.
Her ex, meanwhile, could turn the tables. By requesting his
own card on a shared account, her ex-boyfriend could run up debts he (legally)
has no responsibility to repay.
Finally, by carrying out that plan, she will be breaking the
law. The plan outlined above constitutes identity theft, experts say, which
could possibly land her behind bars. And that's never something I'd recommend
for my readers.
Question 2: Getting accurate info off a credit report
I live in Cincinnati, and my fiancee and I had a couple
rough years back in 2006, causing us to have delinquent bills. It affected our credit score
drastically. We are now debt free and are in the process of trying
to purchase a home. Our credit scores just aren't ready yet, and my question
for you is: Is it possible (legally) that a creditor could delete our negative
credit listings if I ask them or give them a decent reason to do so? Is it
something that is possible, or is it mandatory that it has to stay listed on
your report for at least seven years? Thank you so much. -- Nicole
readers want to clean up their credit and get inaccuracies off their credit
reports, but it's not often I get a
question about getting accurate information removed. If I did, I'd have
to tell more readers it's typically not possible to delete correct credit
report items. Still, Nicole does have some options:
Debt collectors may agree to a "pay for
deletion," which involves erasing your missed payments from credit reports
in exchange for a lump sum payment.
Wait it out. Under the Fair Credit reporting Act
(FCRA), negative items typically remain on a credit report for up to seven
years, so figure out a way to pass the time until those negative items fall off
your credit reports.
During that downtime, catch up on any missed
payments and dispute any credit reporting errors to help your score's recovery.
Explain the reason for any financial setbacks in
a 100-word statement that gets added to your credit reports. Lenders may
consider the circumstances that got you into trouble.
Question 3: Another good reason to pay your traffic tickets
I received a photo ticket in a state other than the one in
which I reside. I have not yet paid the citation, which is labeled a civil
penalty rather than a criminal penalty (since photo tickets apparently are hard
to prove beyond a reasonable doubt). I have received a letter saying that if I
don't pay the penalty, the county will report it to a collection agency, which
will then affect my credit. Putting moral considerations aside for the moment,
can my credit actually get dinged for this? What do traffic safety and credit
have to do with each other? -- James
Getting a traffic ticket while traveling out of state created a conundrum
for reader James: Should he pay it to prevent that citation from potentially
wrecking his credit? Or should he put morality aside and not pay, figuring the
threats against his credit didn't amount to much? What do you think I recommended?
James needs to pay that ticket -- or see his credit score
fall: Since money owed to the county is not much different from a debt owed to
a lender, a collection agency could very well come after you for the cash. By
paying the ticket now, the reader may avoid having that ticket turned over to a
Having that ticket in the hands of a collection agency can
mean it gets reported to the credit bureaus as a collection account. Collection
accounts that appear on a credit report certainly can lead to a lower credit
score -- with a drop of up to 100 points in the case of high FICO credit scores. (The latest version of the FICO score -- FICO 8 -- however, ignores
collection accounts of less than $100.)
Still, it's worth fighting an unfair ticket. If you've paid
and it still shows up on your credit report, be sure to dispute its appearance
with the credit bureaus.
Keep those questions coming! I look forward to addressing
your next hundred credit concerns.
See related: Scheming to ruin an ex's credit score isn't wise, Want accurate, negative info off your credit report? Good luck, Unpaid traffic citations can lower drivers' credit scores, How to add a written statement to your credit report, How to dispute credit report errors, FICO 08: How new credit score formula will affect you
Jeremy M. Simon is a former CreditCards.com reporter who wrote about credit scoring, economic data, credit card crime and other issues. He is based in Austin, Texas. He is a graduate of Vassar College and has previously worked for Thomson Financial in New York City, where he wrote about the stock markets, and Texas Monthly, as well as several publications in Austin.
Published: November 1, 2011