BOCA RATON, Fla. - Refinancing his home won't be as easy as Ken Bender once thought. Filling out the paperwork, the father of two learned his credit scores didn't match. One agency had it as high as 804, another had it as low as 699.
"It's a lot of uncertainty about the future, where I stand, where I thought I was and where I am now is two different things," says Bender.
Bender's issue was an unpaid doctor bill that ended up in collections.
Thousands of South Floridians have it much worse. They're facing tumbling credit scores because of short sales or foreclosures.
"Your score can go from 700 to a 400 pretty quickly," says real estate lawyer Dan Kaskel.
So how do you increase a suffering credit score? There's no silver bullet solution, but there are steps you can take to get on the right track.
First, get a free copy of your credit report and check it for mistakes. Then cancel any credit cards you don't need, and start paying off balances. Expand your borrowing power by increasing your credit limit, but don't spend it.
"It increases your credit score because it shows you have excess capacity that you haven't maxed out and you're probably responsible because you have a $20,000 limit but only use $15,000," says Kaskel.
If you're starting at the bottom and no one will authorize you a credit card, open a secured card, or a store or gas card and pay on time.
"That is a credit card, a form of credit and by building up a good payment track record with secured credit, that'll help," says Kaskel.