Identity Theft

The Worst Way to ‘Help’ Your Credit Score

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Some people had the bright idea to sell stolen Social Security numbers to consumers who were in search of a better credit score. With their newly purchased identities, consumers went out to get auto loans, bypassing the lending problems they would have encountered had they presented their real, dismal credit information.

Of course, that’s illegal, so this ring of identity thieves has a lot more to worry about than getting good interest rates on auto loans.

Eighteen people face federal charges for involvement in the scheme, which began in September 2010, according to the Indianapolis division of the FBI.

Kimberly Taylor, 47, of California, allegedly stole Social Security numbers and sold them to David Day, 36, of Indianapolis. Taylor sold the numbers to Day, saying they were credit profile numbers and could be sold to consumers as a legitimate way to improve credit scores — which they aren’t. Credit profile numbers (CPNs) are Social Security numbers that go unused, often belonging to minors, and selling them is a form of identity theft.

Prosecutors said Day sold the numbers to people who needed better credit when applying for car loans, often giving the consumers instructions for fraudulently establishing creditworthiness. This included fake Social Security cards and mortgage documents, and Day helped some customers create false credit histories, according to the FBI.

At least eight Indianapolis-area financial institutions and six car dealerships were listed as victims in the indictment, announced Sept. 13 by U.S. Attorney Joseph Hogsett’s office.

Taylor, Day and 16 co-defendants who purchased the numbers were charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and making false loan and credit applications. The conspiracy count carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison, according to the U.S. Attorney’s office. Conviction could also bring 30 years in prison for making false statements on loan and credit applications, as well as five years for using a false Social Security number. The 16 co-defendants are between the ages of 27 and 46.

Building your credit the legitimate way takes time and effort. You should first check your credit reports, which you can get for free once a year, to see where you currently stand. Then, you can monitor your credit score as you rebuild using Credit.com’s Credit Report Card, which gives you a free credit score update every month. The Report Card will let you know which parts of your credit report are pulling down your score.

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