During times when people need cash, they can get pretty desperate. Especially if they aren’t sure if they have any skills or own anything valuable to sell. But we all hear how good credit opens doors, and, if you’re one of the privileged few who has a high credit score, it might be tempting to try to sell it or let someone else use it.
In fact, someone appears to be trying something along those lines, per an ad Credit.com spotted on Craigslist in Columbus, Ohio, last week. The ad reads:
NEED CREDIT TO INVEST IN REAL ESTATE? USE MY 700 FICO SCORE! (NATIONWIDE)
HELLO I’M LOOKING TO USE MY GOOD CREDIT TO HELP SOMEONE INVEST IN REALESTATE DEALS. MUST HAVE A COMPANY AND CASH TO GET STARTED. I WILLING TO BE A PG FOR A FEE ON YOUR BUSINESS TO HELP YOU FLIP HOUSES! ONLY SERIOUS INVESTORS NEED TO RESPOND! MOST HAVE CASH TO SHOW YOU CAN PAY THE LOAN BACK! SO IF YOU HAVE PROJECT PLEASE EMAIL ME BACK.
We’re not sure who the person is, if the person is legitimate or why they are offering to sell their score. But the posting certainly brings up a few questions that we thought would be fun to explore: What could happen if you bought someone else’s credit score? And what could happen if you let someone else use your credit score?
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Why You Wouldn’t Want to Buy Someone’s Score
The opportunity to enjoy the perks of a good credit score may seem like a dream come true for someone saddled with bad credit — but it’s important to note it’s really more of a pipe dream.
“There is no way for a one consumer to allow another consumer to use her/his credit score,” says Eric Ellman, senior vice president of Public Policy and Legal Affairs at the Consumer Data Industry Association, a trade group that represents the three major credit reporting agencies. “In essence, this is what happens when criminals violate federal and state crime statutes by perpetrating identity theft.”
Attempting to buy someone else’s credit score opens you to a host of potentially dangerous situations.
“If someone runs an ad like this, they could be a criminal. They could have stolen someone’s information, and are happy to sell you good credit, because it’s not theirs in the first place,” warns identity theft expert Adam Levin, co-founder of Credit.com and author of Swiped, which chronicles the extent of the ID theft problem.
And using the number would actually make you a criminal, says Rod Griffin, director of public education for Experian credit bureau.
Since every person who uses credit has their own credit history, you cannot use someone else’s credit report, or credit scores, to qualify for services unless you use their identifying information and not your own, notes Griffin.
Also, “using someone else’s identity to apply for credit is a form of identity theft. Doing so could result in criminal penalties, including fines or potentially imprisonment,” he says.
Not to mention that the person selling their number could be doing it to gain access to your information in order to steal your identity. “They could say, ‘Listen, I’m selling you this information, but I really need to know more information about you. I need to see your Social Security number; let’s run credit reports on both of us.’ And you could end up being a victim of identity theft because of it,” Levin said.
But… Should I Let Someone Else Use My Credit Score?
If you’re selling your score to a stranger, that person will likely be using your most sensitive personal information, not theirs — in order to leverage your good credit score with the intention of securing money.
“They are making certain representations to the lender. And folks don’t have a good view of people who make fraudulent representations in the process of securing a loan,” said Levin.
You’re essentially forming a partnership and could be just as liable as the other person if something goes wrong, said Levin.
For starters, if the person were to successfully obtain a loan using solely your Social Security number, you would be considered responsible for the payments instead of them. Any delinquencies would wind up on your credit reports and damage your credit score. You could also potentially open yourself to having investors, customers or other business partners come after you for debt opened in your name, warns Levin. You could even face collection companies.
“How do you know they’re not setting you up?” he said.
Moreover, lying on credit applications is illegal. (It’s considered fraud.) And you’d be risking being a partner in an identity theft scheme.
There’s no telling where your information could land or what it could get entangled with. It could become associated with a trade line scam, which abuses lines of credit. In Newark, New Jersey, for example, federal agents arrested 13 people in 2013 who were allegedly involved with an international scheme that fabricated identities to obtain credit cards. They doctored credit reports to boost the spending and borrowing power associated with the cards, and went on a spending and borrowing spree, allegedly looting $200 million from businesses and financial institutions with no intention of repaying the loans.
Is It OK to Co-Sign?
Now there are legal ways in which your good credit score could help someone secure a loan — although it certainly doesn’t involve selling your digits to a third party. Some lenders allow people to get a credit assist from a cosigner if their scores or income wouldn’t otherwise justify approval. In that case, both parties are applying for the loan together. The lender determines its parameters when it comes to co-signing.
Keep in mind, if you do co-sign for or open a joint account with a friend or family member, both parties are considered liable for the loan payments. So, if the person you’re helping out doesn’t use the credit line responsibly, it would fall on you to make good — otherwise, your credit scores can suffer. You can learn more about co-signing here.
Of course, it’s always a good idea to monitor your credit to make sure you haven’t unintentionally fallen victim to any schemes or missteps. You can do so by pulling your credit reports for free each year at AnnualCreditReport.com and viewing your credit scores for free each month on Credit.com.