Don't fall for credit score improvement shortcuts

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Low-budget television ads and promotional websites are full of tricks for boosting your credit score.

A piece in the New York Times took a look at a few of these programs which, according to the Times, the strategies often "include piggy-backing onto a stranger's credit card and receiving pay stubs from a fake employer. The latest comes from a San Diego company, TradeLine Solutions, which claims it can improve a borrower's credit score by adding somebody else's top-notch credit history to the borrower's history."

But industry experts warn that many of the tactics for improving credit scores that seem to good to be true are -- and often, they border on fraud and could get you into serious trouble. Trying to use other people's good credit to improve your bad credit is definitely suspect, and the credit bureaus are working hard to crack down on it.

How do you know if a given method of improving your credit score is legit? Basically, anything that doesn't involve you behaving responsibly with your money is suspect.

And if you have a poor credit score, you may not even be doing yourself a favor using shortcuts to a better score: It'll just make it easier for you to get overextended again, in the same way that using a Sharpie to change the nutritional facts on the bag of Doritos is unlikely to help you get in shape.

To get in better financial shape by improving your credit score, check out Liz Pullman Weston's great book Your Credit Score.

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