Illegal ways to change your credit score (plus legal alternatives)

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Attempting to claw your way out of debt and past credit issues is frustrating when you’re trying to earn a good credit score. Even when you do everything right, it still seems like it takes forever to see changes.

It might be tempting to take dishonest shortcuts to reach a better credit score overnight, but you’ll likely find yourself battling new problems instead. We’ll cover four ways to change your credit score illegally, and why they’re risky.

Then we’ll review effective alternatives to changing your credit score legally.

1. Hire a Hacker

In recent years you’ve likely heard reports of hackers infiltrating large companies to steal the personal data and passwords of millions of customers.

You’ve probably wondered, “If they can hack in to steal my credit then why can’t they hack in to fix it?” Spy movies make a hacker’s job seem as simple as a few taps on a keyboard, but there’s much more that goes into hacking your way to good credit.

Credit bureaus and financial companies install state-of-the-art security to protect consumer information. They also employ cyber security professionals to monitor those systems around the clock for signs of attack.

So any hacker you might find to pull this off would have to break through multiple levels of security and fail-safes to get anywhere near your credit report information. Pursuing a better credit score with this method brings a good chance that both of you will be caught.

The penalty for trying to falsify credit information comes with serious criminal charges that may result in jail time or a hefty fine for you and the hacker. Since this comes with such a large risk, you can be sure that a hacking expert will charge handsomely to do this work for you.

What to Do Instead: Beat the System Legally

There are legal ways to reach an 800 credit score. Instead of hiring a hacker to change your credit score, you should take the honest route and beat the system legally. Learn the ins and outs of the credit system and make it work for you.

With a little education and consistent work around improving your credit score, you can go from bad credit to a 700+ credit score within 6-12 months. All without looking over your shoulder wondering when you’ll get caught.

The most important aspect of your credit to maintain is your payment history. It makes up 35% of the calculation for your credit score. You’ll also want to keep your credit utilization low on credit card debt as that makes up 30% of your FICO credit score.

The length of time your accounts have been open is important as well as your credit mix and the number of new credit accounts you have. Use this information and other credit basics to make a plan and get a handle on your credit reporting.

If you’re not sure where your credit scores stand, use a credit score app to get a free credit report along with tips on how you can improve.

2. Get a CPN

A CPN or credit privacy number is often presented as a solution for people with bad credit. While the use of a CPN might be necessary for some situations, it’s not a solution to hide a bad credit profile.

Typically a CPN is used by government officials or celebrities to protect their personal information, but it’s still connected to their actual credit profile and credit history.

When you’re issued a legitimate CPN from the Social Security Administration, the nine-digit number doesn’t erase any of your previous credit history. Plus, if you actually need a CPN, the Social Security Administration offers them for free.

When a crooked credit repair company suggests buying a CPN, they’ll require you to take other steps meant to create a fake identity. They’ll tell you to change the address on your driver’s license or use a new phone number or email address on credit applications. Don’t do it!

The “CPN” number they’re giving you is a Social Security number that likely belongs to a child, a deceased person, or even a prison inmate. By purchasing a CPN from a disreputable credit repair company you’re committing identity theft. That’s a federal crime.

What to Do Instead: Fix Your Own Credit

Instead of potentially facing federal charges for stealing someone’s identity, try fixing your own credit. While fixing your credit might seem like an overwhelming project, there are free tools and resources available that teach you how to do it.

Most DIY credit repair follows a basic plan such as:

  1. Pull and review your credit report for any errors
  2. Send dispute letters to the credit bureaus for any inaccurate information
  3. Arrange to make all of your monthly payments on time
  4. Pay down high-interest debt
  5. Keep new credit applications to a minimum
  6. Monitor your credit report and credit score for changes

If you simply don’t have the time, work with a reputable credit repair company to dispute any outstanding errors and get your credit scores to a better place.

A reputable credit repair company will abide by the Credit Repair Organizations Act (CROA) in the methods they use to repair your credit. They won’t ask you to get a new SSN, a CPN, or an EIN to avoid past credit mistakes.

Earning good credit this way isn’t always fast, but it’s rewarding to see your hard work reflected in a higher score.

3. Dispute Every Bad Thing On Your Credit Report

Shady credit repair companies often suggest disputing every bit of negative information on your credit report whether it’s accurate or not. Even if you’re not using a credit repair company, you might think to do the same thing out of desperation.

When you dispute everything on your credit report rather than just the wrong information, you run the risk of delegitimizing any true disputes you’re making. This can sometimes result in everything being returned as a “frivolous dispute”.

The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) only gives consumers the right to dispute any information on their credit report they believe to be unverifiable, inaccurate, or misleading. Accurate information shouldn’t be disputed.

While it’s not technically illegal, it won’t take you far in your quest for good credit. Even if you manage to get an accurate negative item removed, it may still reappear on your credit record once it’s verified with the creditor.

This means you’ll have wasted your time and potential money if you paid a credit repair company to do it.

What to Do Instead: Dispute Inaccuracies and Wait It Out

Instead of disputing all of the negative items on your credit report, you should only dispute the inaccurate information. This gives your dispute legitimacy. When you send the dispute, you should include any relevant documentation that proves why you’re disputing the record.

From there you’ll have to wait about 30 to 45 days for the credit bureaus to complete their investigation with the lender, debt collector, or creditor before sending you a response. They may ask for more information or decide that your dispute is valid and remove the error.

The credit reporting agency can also choose to decline the dispute altogether. If they do, you can choose to challenge the decision.

Most people think that you have to wait seven years before true bad information stops hurting your credit. That’s not true. After 2 years, late payments and other bad items on your credit report don’t hurt you very much.

There are people who achieve a 700+ credit score just two years after obtaining a bankruptcy. You can completely turn around your credit profile within just two years!

4. Buy Authorized User Tradelines

Building credit isn’t easy. If you’ve been at it for a while, you may have even encountered a credit score decrease when nothing changed in your credit file. Instances like this drive many people to find fast and easy solutions like buying tradelines.

Buying authorized user tradelines straddles the line of legality. Technically, buying authorized user tradelines isn’t illegal…yet. There are currently no federal regulations against buying authorized user tradelines. However, there is legislation being introduced to ban the practice.

The lack of solid legislation hasn’t stopped credit card issuers from prohibiting this within their terms and conditions. Credit card companies are very good at recognizing what tradeline selling and buying looks like and they’re known to shut down accounts that participate in it.

The penalties aren’t just for the seller.

If it’s discovered that you purchased a tradeline to improve your credit scores before a credit application, you’ll have your application denied or have any approvals revoked. It’s viewed as a deceptive practice that aims to defraud creditors and lenders.

When you really want that new car, home purchase, or credit card, it’s a tempting solution that seems to get you what you want. In reality, it’s dishonest and circumvents the protective aspects of the credit system. That could lead you to qualify for more debt than you can afford.

What to Do Instead: Buy Legitimate Tradelines

According to the latest credit score statistics, the average credit score for homebuyers in 2021 was a solid 731. There’s no getting around the fact that you need good credit to make things happen.

Instead of risking it all by buying expensive authorized user tradelines, try getting your own tradelines. You might think you can’t because of previous credit issues, but these tradelines are built to help you improve your credit score without putting you in debt.

  • CreditStrong’s Credit Builder Loan
  • Self Credit Builder
  • Grow Credit
  • BoomPay

The first two are credit builder installment loans. CreditStrong is best if you’re looking for a higher loan amount with affordable payment options. They also have a revolving credit builder plan which gives you the credit reporting benefits of a credit card without the extra debt.

Self has multiple payment options to fit your budget and offers a path to a secured credit card. With both of these credit builders, your monthly payments get stored in a locked savings account until the end of the loan. So you build savings and credit instead of having debt.

BoomPay allows your monthly rent payments to be counted towards your credit score. For a small fee of $2 a month, they report each rent payment to all three credit reporting agencies. You can even pay to have the previous 24 months of rent payments reported with this service.

Grow Credit allows your monthly subscriptions to count towards your credit score. Simply choose a plan that fits your needs and Grow Credit will integrate with your bank account and issue a card with a credit limit to pay your subscriptions.

None of these options run a hard credit check and you have the option to cancel at any time.

Also read the rest of the articles from our series:

FAQs

Can You Cheat Your Credit Score?

There’s no way to cheat your credit score without landing yourself in serious legal trouble. All of the options to cheat your way to better credit come with criminal charges and/or monetary penalties.

How Do I Drastically Change My Credit Score?

You can drastically change your credit score by drastically changing your credit habits. You’ll find that to be true whether you try to fix your credit on your own or with the help of a reputable credit repair company.

Make significant changes to your financial habits and you’ll see a change in your credit score. If you regularly make late payments, make every effort to pay on time. If you usually pay the minimum on your revolving debt, direct some extra funds to those monthly payments.

Is It True That After Seven Years Your Credit Is Clear?

This is true in some cases but not all. For situations involving a collection account, the account will be removed from your credit report after seven years.

This isn’t always true for bankruptcies. Depending on the type of bankruptcy you filed for, it may take up to 10 years to remove the record from your credit report.

 

This article originally appeared on DigitalHoney.com and was syndicated by MediaFeed.org.

 

More from MediaFeed:

How closing a credit card could hurt your credit

 

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It may not have been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners. 

 

Most cardholders see their credit score fall when they open or close a credit card, but a new LendingTree analysis of several thousand anonymized credit reports shows that this doesn’t have to be the case. Cardholders may have far more control over the direction and magnitude of these moves than they realize.

 

To answer the question of what happens to your credit score when you open or close an account, analysts reviewed credit reports one month before and one month after a single credit card was opened by 1,785 anonymized LendingTree users, as well as reports of 2,412 users who closed a single card.

 

The cards were opened or closed in the second quarter of 2021, and those who opened or closed multiple cards during that period weren’t included in the analysis. People who didn’t have a credit score before opening their card were also excluded. Researchers then compared the VantageScore credit scores for those consumers to see how they changed.

 

What LendingTree found was that cardholders’ actions mattered a lot. While credit scores only move by a handful of points on average when a card is opened or closed, larger, more extreme moves in either direction do happen. Moreover, the magnitude and direction of those moves appear to be significantly influenced by what consumers do with those cards immediately after opening them or shortly before or after closing them.

 

DmitriMaruta / istockphoto

 

LendingTree researchers compared credit reports one month before and one month after a single card was opened by 1,785 anonymized LendingTree users, as well as reports of 2,412 users who closed a single card.

 

People who opened or closed any additional cards in the three months (one month before, month of change, one month after) were excluded. The cards were opened or closed during the second quarter of 2021.

 

i_frontier / istockphoto

 

It’s one of the most common questions I’ve been asked in more than a decade of talking about credit cards for a living: How does closing or opening a card affect my credit?

 

The short answer is that it depends. Whether you’re talking about VantageScores (which were used in this report and can be tracked regularly through the LendingTree app) or FICO Scores, credit scores are incredibly complex, nuanced tools with myriad factors helping to determine how they move. These factors include the length of your credit history, the total number of loans you’ve taken out over time and how many different types of credit you’ve had, whether your balances and utilization are trending higher or lower, and many more.

 

VantageScore and FICO formulas generally emphasize the same actions and traits, though they weigh them somewhat differently. For example, VantageScore’s formula states that your total credit usage — your balance compared to your available credit — is the most important piece of the formula, while FICO says your payment history is.

 

While it may be impossible to predict the exact impact of a card opening or closure on a specific individual, data can help people better understand what they might expect. That was the goal of this report.

 

LendingTree researchers found that 60% of those who opened a card saw their VantageScore fall in the month after they opened it, while just 40% saw their scores rise. That split largely disappeared when looking at those who closed a card: 52% of those saw their VantageScore credit score fall and 49% saw it rise.

 

On average, a user’s VantageScore credit score fell by six points in the month after they opened a credit card and increased by two points in the month after they closed a credit card.

 

But wait, didn’t we just say that most people see their credit score fall when they close their card? (Yes.) Then, how can the average score go up at the same time?

 

LendingTree

 

The answer is that while slightly more people see their scores fall (52% down versus 49% up), the average score increase is significantly larger than the average decrease. As a result, we get this statistical quirk in which most people see decreases but the average movement is up.

 

A deeper dive into the data indicates that the shifts can be dramatic — in either direction:

Card openers:

  • Average score change, increased credit score: Up 24 points
  • Average score change, decreased credit score Down 25 points

Card closers:

  • Average score change, increased credit score: Up 24 points
  • Average score change, decreased credit score: Down 18 points

So why the big variation? One likely reason is that we all have very different credit histories, and those differences play a big role in how an individual move impacts a score.

 

For example, a person with five credit cards, a mortgage, a car loan and a spotless 20-year history of making payments may not see their score change much after closing one card or opening another. That’s because there are already decades worth of other data points being factored into their score.  But if someone closes their only credit card or opens a new one for the first time, the shift could end up being more significant because their history is so thin.

 

Still, these movements aren’t only impacted by your distant past. Our data clearly indicates that what you do just before or after closing or opening that card has a huge impact as well.

 

LendingTree

 

Credit cards don’t get closed or opened in a vacuum: There are as many reasons for those openings and closures as there are cards. Those reasons tend to dictate the actions taken after those cards are opened or closed, and those actions appear to have a huge impact on what our credit scores end up looking like in the months after the openings and closures.

 

One action that has a major impact, according to the analysis, is raising or lowering your balance. For example, if you opened a credit card and proceeded to increase your overall balance, the data shows your VantageScore fell an average of 14 points in that first month with the card. Conversely, if you lowered your balance after getting that new card, your VantageScore rose an average of 11 points in that first month.

 

One example of when you might open a new card and lower your balance: a balance transfer. You may sign up for a zero-interest balance transfer credit card, do the transfer and then proceed to pay down your debt without any new spending.

 

The numbers look similar when closing a card. Increase your balance and your score drops an average of 12 points, but lower your balance and your score jumps an average of 10 points.

 

Two-thirds of people who open a credit card increase their overall balance within a month of getting that card. Not surprising: People don’t generally get credit cards to stick them in a desk immediately. However, more than 4 in 10 people who close a credit card increase their balance on their other credit cards in that first month, leaving them with fewer cards but a higher overall balance.

 

(It’s important to note that this report didn’t distinguish between voluntary and involuntary closures. It’s possible that some of the folks who increased their balance after a card closure might have had that card closed by their issuer, which has happened frequently since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic.)

 

That’s troubling and has major ramifications when it comes to another critical aspect of credit scoring.

 

LendingTree

 

When opening and closing a card, often the biggest immediate impact of the move is on your utilization rate. If you owe $1,000 and have $5,000 in available credit, your utilization rate is 20%, which most any credit expert would tell you is an OK rate (though the goal should also be to keep that rate at zero):

 

$1,000 balance / $5,000 available credit = 20% utilization rate

 

If you open a new card with a $5,000 credit limit, suddenly the equation changes. Your total available credit jumps to $10,000 and your utilization drops to just 10%.

 

$1,000 balance / $10,000 available credit = 10% utilization rate

 

Close a card, and the shift can be more dramatic. If that closed card reduces your total available credit to just $2,000, your utilization rate is a suddenly unacceptably high 50% and your credit score is likely to suffer:

 

$1,000 balance / $2,000 available credit = 50% utilization rate

 

Those are significant changes, just from the act of closing or opening the card. However, the LendingTree data analysis again indicated that what people do afterward can have a major effect on how big those changes are.

 

Just over half (51%) of those who open a new card increase their utilization rate, resulting in an average 19-point drop in their VantageScore. Among the other 49%, the average score increased by seven points.

 

When looking at those who closed cards, 57% saw their utilization rate jump and their average VantageScore fall by 10 points. The remaining 43% lowered their utilization and saw a 14-point jump.

 

Again, these different scenarios can arise because of people’s actions. For example, if someone gets a new credit card and immediately goes spending, that higher balance can override any benefit of the extra available credit. Or if someone closes a credit card but simultaneously pays off a significant part of their current balance, the positive impact of the debt reduction can make the negative of the reduced available credit less important.

 

LendingTree

 

The decision to open or close a credit card isn’t always an easy one, but there are some things you should keep in mind when considering making such a move.

 

kitzcorner // istockphoto

 

Most everyone’s credit profile is unique — what dramatically altered one person’s credit score might not make much difference to someone else’s. Your best move is to avoid the guesswork and focus on what matters most: paying your bills on time, keeping balances low and not applying for too much credit too often. Do those three things over and over and your credit will be fine.

 

If you’re getting a new card to improve your utilization rate and bump up your credit score, a spending spree on that card could undo all the good that you’ve done. The key is to increase the available credit part of the equation while maintaining or even reducing the debt portion. That’s when real improvement can come.

 

DepositPhotos.com

 

Don’t open/close cards if you’re planning to apply for a mortgage or auto loan soon: While it’s difficult to predict how much the opening or closure will impact your score, it likely will. That’s why it’s best to avoid making any major moves with your credit card before applying for a new home or auto. Any shifts in your credit score when applying for those big-ticket loans can cost you big money, so be patient and wait to get that new card after you close on that new house.

 

phototechno/ istockphoto

 

Credit-scoring formulas factor in a certain amount of rate-shopping when seeking out cars, homes or student loans. They know that you may not just take the first rate from the first place that offers you a loan. But that’s not the case with credit cards: Applying for too many credit cards in too short a window can reek of desperation and be a real turnoff for lenders. Be cautious.

 

BartekSzewczyk

 

Closing may not be your only option: If your card doesn’t have an annual fee, consider keeping the card but using it less. For example, charging a small recurring fee like a monthly streaming subscription can be a good way to keep a card active without running up unnecessary charges. You could also speak with your card issuer about downgrading your annual-fee card to a no-annual-fee version of that card. Issuers are frequently willing to do that, which will allow you to get rid of that annual fee for good without all the concerns that can come with closing a card.

 

DepositPhotos.com

 

Credit is important, but it’s not always the most important thing. If you need that new credit card to make ends meet in a tough time, don’t concern yourself with its impact on your credit. If you’re having difficulty resisting the lure of available credit or paying bills on time and the stress of having a credit card is too much, don’t be afraid to close it. The positive effect on your mental health may override any negative effects to your credit.

 

Related:

This article originally appeared on LendingTree.comand was syndicated by MediaFeed.org

 

Nastia11/istockphoto

 

Featured Image Credit: GCShutter.

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