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The Savage Truth: Seasoned Credit Lines

But what happens if the deadbeat actually charges on your credit card and then doesn't make the payments? The first salesperson I spoke with told me that they never give the deadbeat your full credit card number. Sure, but what happens when it shows up on their credit report, now that they're an "authorized user"? What's to keep them from calling the card issuer and asking for a replacement card?

Steven deJesus, the president of one of companies whose ads are the most ubiquitous, concedes that "you bear all the risk of any unauthorized charges." Since his Montana-registered, Florida-based company started offering this "investment opportunity" in October 2005, it has attracted 38 "investors" (credit sharers) and more than 300 people who have been added as additional authorized users. He says he's had no complaints -- so far.

Of course, deJesus declares, if something goes wrong, you could always sue him. He continually uses the term "credit investors" for those who offer use of their credit, but he says he doesn't have to be registered in any way to conduct his business. And he and others with the same concept pay to have their ads pop up frequently on Google and Yahoo!.

At the bottom of one these Web sites, in huge bold type, it says : "We Want You to Achieve the American Dream." What these companies are really creating is the American Nightmare for those who use their good credit to "help" a desperate stranger. And that's The Savage Truth.

Terry Savage is an expert on personal finance and also appears as a commentator on national television on issues related to investing and the financial markets. Savage's personal finance column in the Chicago Sun-Times is nationally syndicated, and she released her fourth book, The Savage Number: How Much Money Do You Need? in June 2005. Savage was the first woman trader on the Chicago Board Options Exchange and is a registered investment adviser for stocks and futures. A Phi Beta Kappa graduate of the University of Michigan, Savage currently serves as a director of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange Corp. She also has served on the boards of McDonald's and Pennzoil.
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