Think twice before you ignore a red light violation. (A... Think twice before you ignore a red light violation. (AP)
"So I just learned the hard way that an unpaid red-light camera ticket can be part of a credit report. That seems ridiculous," NBC's Chuck Todd tweeted last week after he presumably neglected to pay for a violation.

He followed up on his anger with two additional tweets.

"My issue with red light cam tickets being tied to credit reports is that there's no guarantee it was me driving."

"In this era where snail mail is so easily ignored, these red light camera municipalities need to come up with a better way to let me know I owe."

Todd received the infraction in Chevy Chase Village, according to Fishbowl DC, which is an area that can punish red light camera offenders through somewhat unconventional means: By hurting their credit score, which is used for things like getting mortgages and car loans.

Chevy Chase Village, like many other municipalities, doesn't have any kind of legal enforcement in place for red light camera violations. While you receive a ticket in the mail, there's not much the local government can do if you don't actually pay it. Generally, points aren't added to your license and a Failure to Appear (FTA) arrest warrant will not be issued.

However, as Todd found out, it's still not a good idea to ignore these fines. Even if you live in an area that does not enforce these infractions, some governments, like Chevy Case Village, can still send your fine to a collection agency, which can harm your credit score.

The Washington Post covered this issue a couple years ago and found that unpaid red light fines can lead to a serious hit to your score, especially if your credit is exceptionally good.

"Someone with a 680 score could lose roughly 50 points from the addition of a collection of this nature," Barry Paperno, spokesman for FICO, told the Post. "For someone with a 780 score -- very, very good credit -- the appearance of one of these collections could lower their score by as much as 105 to 125 points."

Bottom line: If you have received a red light violation, do your homework and see what exactly your local government has the authority to do before you decide to just throw it in the trash.



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