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Specialist works wonders raising credit scores

January 11, 2010 12:00:00 AM PST
If you want to buy a house, you'd better have a good credit score, and if you've had financial problems, chances are your score has taken a hit.A few weeks ago, Consumer Specialist Ric Romero made contact with several of our viewers who wanted to raise their credit scores. He got them in touch with a loan expert who has written a book on credit scores. And to our surprise, and the surprise of our viewers, he was more successful in raising their scores than was expected.

Mark Kramer of Huntington Beach helped a friend by co-signing on a loan. It turned out to be a financial disaster.

"He went downhill and kind of just brought me down with him," said Kramer.

Jill Hankoff of West Hollywood had a rough go of her own business and used her credit cards to help keep it running. That sabotaged her finances.

"I learned for several years to live on cash," said Hankoff.

And single mother Lorena Peters of Los Angeles lost her job while sending her kids to college. Her credit score suffered badly.

"I didn't realize just how important they were until mine became bad," said Peters.

So all three of these ABC7 viewers decided it was time to improve their scores. That's when Eyewitness News got them to talk to Al Bingham, a senior loan officer who wrote a book called "The Road to 850" (850 is considered the perfect credit score).

Bingham says although you don't need a perfect score, good credit is essential to your financial health.

"People don't realize how often that credit score is used, whether it be for an employment, maybe an account review for a credit card, maybe you are going to buy a home," said Bingham.

Peters, Hankoff and Kramer all want to buy a house.

"Right now, it would be a good time to buy," said Kramer.

And they know a good score can make a big difference in the interest rate and the monthly payment they will pay.

"It means about for sure $100 a month in savings in the interest, and if you multiply that times how many months in a year, times how many years in a 30-year loan, that's a huge amount of money that you save," said Hankoff.

But raising your credit score can be a challenge. Fair, Isaac and Company, the FICO score people, have a formula with a set of rules that are a mystery to most of us.

"The rules are hidden, and a lot of people don't know what the rules are, but Fair Isaac has provided these rules out there and they're not well-understood by the general public, even by those that work in the credit industry," said Bingham.

For the last few weeks Bingham has been working with our three viewers to raise their credit scores, and it turns out he was very successful.

Kramer went from 517 to 597, an 80-point increase. Hankoff went from 696 to 771, an 85-point jump, and Peters started with 534 and moved it all the way to 628, a whopping 94-point increase, all in just five weeks.

"I think that's incredible," said Peters.

Bingham helped our viewers to get rid of some of the bad debt.

"They removed those four or five credit cards that I was a secondary on, and that boosted up my score real quick," said Kramer.

And he showed them how to negotiate with their creditors for a lower loan balance.

"Most of them were more than half. It was like 60 percent -- a lot of them were 60 percent. One was even 70 percent. They decided to settle on 30 percent; three cents on the dollar," said Peters.

"It's amazing," said Kramer.

"I never, never in my wildest honestly thought he could do what has happened," said Hankoff.