From liar loans to FICO scores, the housing market is riddled with dishonesty. Things are so bad that you begin to sorry for the poor hapless mortgage brokers out there. Is there anyone out there that they can trust?

Here is one scam that needs to be stopped quickly. People with poor credit can boost their credit scores by linking up with people with good credit histories. The trick is quite straightforward; people with good credit histories attach people with poor credit histories onto their credit cards. Furthermore, the Internet is there, ready to match up the credit cripples with the people with beautiful FICO scores.

The scam has some interesting implications for the current foreclosure crisis. Suppose that a large number of low interest mortgages were extended to people who should have received high interest subprime loans on account of the poor credit history. Superficially, this might mean that these pseudo-high quality borrowers have a lower probability of default, since the interest on their loans is lower than it otherwise would have been.

However, it is more likely that these irredeemably irresponsible borrowers maxed out on their credit limits. They probably took out larger loans in the otherwise could have, leaving them just as vulnerable to default, regardless of their fake credit scores.

Will this have an impact on the fast imploding housing market? It comes down to a question of how many subprime borrowers infiltrated the quality mortgage market. One thing is for sure: mortgage brokers were not asking too many searching questions about default risk. Perhaps, we shouldn't feel so sorry for them after all.

(Washington Post, June 16) The days may be numbered for dozens of Internet-based companies that promise to quickly boost FICO credit scores by 200 to 300 points. Fair Isaac, the developer of the widely used FICO score, plans to introduce key changes designed to derail schemes that transplant high-quality credit card histories to the files of people with low FICO scores.

The credit-boost companies, easily found on the Web by searching for "credit trade line," claim that they violate no federal laws and are not seeking to defraud mortgage lenders. But mortgage industry groups, federal and state regulators, and credit industry leaders say the programs represent significant threats to the home lending system -- opening the door to fraudulent home loan applications.

Using a FICO-boost service, for example, a mortgage applicant with a history of late and missed payments and a FICO score in the 500s could puff up his or her score well above 700 and be eligible for the best interest rates and fees.

How could that happen? Check out the online pitch of one promoter: "Rent your credit and earn thousands," it proclaims. The company offers cardholders with sterling payment histories on cards with high balances "as much as $10,000 a month or more" simply by accepting unseen borrowers with poor credit backgrounds as "authorized users" on their card accounts for 90 days.

Although the add-on users receive no access to the credit card and cannot rack up charges, Fair Isaac's FICO model allows the cardholders' excellent payment histories to flow directly into the credit files of all authorized users on the card. The addition of the high-quality credit quickly raises the scores of any authorized users -- even though the add-on users may still be poor credit risks.