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
Lots of 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 collection agency.
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
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