By Jim Donovan

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — What’s your credit score?  To some that three digit number can be more like a dirty word.  If you want to improve your score consumer reporter Jim Donovan warns, be careful. Scammers can not only steal your information, but may also turn you into a crook.

From buying a car to buying a home, lenders can see your decisions in a credit report.  And some scammers see an opportunity.

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According to the Federal Trade Commission there are a few easy ways to spot a credit repair scam:

-If the company asks for payment before they render any services.

-If they ask that you do not contact the credit reporting agencies directly.

-If they suggest giving false information when applying for a mortgage or a loan.

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Another troubling trend among credit repair scammers, the promise of an entirely new credit identity, which can unwittingly land a consumer in trouble with the law.

You can spot these scams when a service suggests abandoning a social security number as a primary source of identification.

And instead using a new number they assign and call a CPN for credit privacy number or credit profile number.

In many cases these numbers are stolen social security numbers, often from children which is why they have a clean credit slate.

And that can turn a consumer into an unknowing identity thief despite their good financial intentions.

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The Federal Trade Commission has lots of information and advice on how to avoid being ripped off in a credit repair scam.