Credit score: Nice guys finish last

By , CardRatings contributor
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Nice people — as well as bad drivers — should worry about their credit scores, according to recent reports.

According to the Globe and Mail, a Louisiana State University research team set out to investigate the common belief that employers could judge a job applicant's trustworthiness by reviewing their credit reports. The LSU researchers couldn't find evidence that paying a credit card late or being in debt had any negative impact on a employee's performance. However, assistant professor Jeremy Bernerth did report the unusual finding that nice guys really do finish last — at least when judged by FICO score.

Bernerth's paper, to be published in the Journal of Applied Psychology, reveals that aggressive and rude people tend to have higher credit scores than consumers of average temperament. Meanwhile, "agreeable" people often find themselves smoothing over rough spots on their credit reports. Bernerth told Psych Central that "being nice" often includes co-signing on credit cards and loans with friends or family members who later default on payments. Nice people also avoid conflict, making them targets for instant approval credit card offers at retail counters, said Bernerth.

Parking tickets haunt credit reports

Meanwhile, poor drivers and bad parkers could miss out on credit card deals by leaving parking tickets unpaid, according to research from AAA reported in the Washington Post. Drivers passing through a town might neglect to pay a minor parking ticket, but cash-strapped local governments have launched plans to use high profile collection agencies to round up penalty payments from traffic scofflaws.

According to the Washington Post, officials in one Maryland village adopted the technique after automated traffic cameras generated thousands of unpaid citations. Once debt collection agencies gain access to violators' personal information from government vehicle databases, they can file formal collection notices with the major credit reporting bureaus. That activity alone can reduce a credit score by 50 points, according to FICO spokesman Barry Paperno.

In addition, debt collectors can use data for "skip tracing," connecting new address and phone information to long-forgotten bills. Village officials told the Post that they hoped the threat of bill collectors would help reclaim much of the $1 million per year in unpaid tickets.

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