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By G. Steven Bray
The authorized-user account: It’s been a trick folks with weak credit histories have used for a long time to improve their credit scores. Mortgage lenders have grown wise to this trick, and they’re finally clamping down on its use.
An authorized-user account is an account on which a consumer has signing privileges, but the consumer’s credit history wasn’t used to open it. For example, a parent might allow a child to be an authorized-user on one of the parent’s credit cards to help the child establish credit.
A few years back, credit repair companies started promoting this as a way for folks with weak credit to quickly improve their credit scores. Someone with strong credit would allow the consumer with weak credit to sign on an account, even if the two individuals had no other relationship. Unfortunately for creditors, the score improvement didn’t reflect the consumer’s true credit risk.
Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac loan guidelines now instruct lenders to carefully review loan applications for which a borrower has an authorized-user account. The intent is to weed out potential borrowers who used an unrelated individual’s strong credit to try to improve their chances for loan approval.
According to the guidelines, it’s acceptable for a borrower to be an authorized-user on an account belonging to another borrower on the loan, with the borrower’s spouse, or an account on which the borrower makes the payments.
If these situations don’t apply, the guidelines instruct lenders to review the borrower’s credit to make sure an authorized-user account didn’t have a significant impact on the borrower’s credit scores. If the borrower otherwise has weak or little credit, it’s possible the borrower’s loan request will be denied.