Consumer Empowerment Part 3 Of A Series

Your credit report won't have a ghost of a chance unless you avoid these 10 foul-ups

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Judith E. Davis had top-notch credit until she hitched herself and her credit to her former fiancé. The decision initiated a host of credit foul-ups that almost ruined her life. “Having great credit meant I was able to do whatever I wanted. I wasn’t wealthy, but I had access to [things] if I needed [them],” she says. It was 1998. Davis, 35, was an office manager at Carr America Realty Corp. in Washington, D.C. Her fiancé was an audit manager at an advertising firm. Eight months into their courtship, he lost his job.

He soon fell behind in making his car payments, and “he said he couldn’t catch up. He told me he talked to the people at Toyota [about getting a new car because the ‘repo man’ was coming for his old one],” says Davis, who is a screenwriter now living in New York. To make a long story short, Davis bought him a new $30,000 SUV on her credit, thinking there wouldn’t be a problem since their finances would soon become one.

Again, he missed payments. “I even deferred payment on my own car note one month to pay his,” she declares. Despite her best efforts to keep both car notes afloat, her credit suffered.

Unfortunately, love is sometimes blind, so Davis continued to cover her former beau’s expenses at the cost of her own–and her credit rating. “He told me that in college he had a friend who gave him [insider-trading] information about a stock deal. And now he had to pay the money back or he would go to jail,” she explains. “I helped him because he was going through a rough time. Most of the time, I would help him just to shut him up.”

After almost two years, having helped him “with $5,000 here, $1,500 there,” the money she gave (and lent) him totaled $30,000. She soon figured him for a swindler (and a court in Massachusetts verified that he had done this to another woman). She took him to court in Virginia in September 1999 and will receive $12,500 in restitution when he is released from prison. “My lawyer said these cases are hard to prove, so I accepted the judgment,” she says. So she’s out some money, but her satisfaction is the 18-month jail term he is currently serving. “At the time, I felt so frantic,” she says, especially since her father was ill. “But life isn’t about regrets. Things work out for good people eventually.” Currently, she is rebuilding her credit and says she will think twice before lending her credit to anyone else.

Despite the conundrum Davis found herself in, she could have saved herself a degree of heartache had she not commingled her credit (see foul-up No. 3) with someone else. Unfortunately, Davis’ poor judgment is more common than we’d like to believe, since all of us know someone (it may even be ourselves) who has failed to properly safeguard his or her credit. Still, you can avoid such a calamity happening to

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