Here are some shocking facts about your credit score: You don’t own it, the data is often wrong (especially since the pandemic), and it’s being used in more places for more reasons than ever before.
Most of us assume that our credit score belongs to us, but that assumption is wrong – it doesn’t. There are a whole lot of other facts about credit scores that many of us are totally unaware of. Here are a few of those facts.
By and large, your credit score is owned by the three biggest credit bureaus that maintain credit reports: TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian. Each has its own tweaks and methods for calculating scores. That’s why your credit score will be somewhat different at each of the three.
The three big credit bureaus are far from infallible, and they make mistakes. In fact, a huge error by Equifax affected some 300,000 consumers, dropping their scores by at least 25 points. Mistakes like that matter, as that’s enough of a difference that some would-be borrowers might have been wrongfully denied credit. The company admitted as much in a statement following the discovery of the error.
Housing agency Freddie Mac notified its clients that the Equifax error affected about 12% of all credit scores released from March 17 to April 6 and may have been incorrect.
In September 2017, Equifax disclosed that hackers had gained access to the company’s consumer data and that as many as 145 million people – about half the adults in America – had their personal data compromised or captured.
Credit scores are largely used when applying for loans or other financial situations. An example is when a company extends services such electric, water, or gas. Your credit score could impact the type of account you qualify for and the size of your deposit, if any.
But a study by the National Consumer Law Center (NCLC) has found that credit reports are increasingly being used for non-credit purposes, CNN reported. The data is being increasingly used in ways other than it was intended, according to consumer watchdogs.
“Credit scores are increasingly being used as a measure of character, when sometimes it’s just luck,” said Chi Chi Wu, an attorney for NCLC.
Concerns have arisen because, beyond the big three credit bureaus, over 50 smaller specialist agencies have sprung up that are now providing consumer credit data about potential employees, tenants, utility customers, and more.
It’s important to check your credit score to ensure that it is correct and free from errors, as well as to make sure no accounts have been opened in your name that you are unaware of.
All consumers are entitled to one free credit report per year from each of the big three credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. A common way to make the most of this is to obtain a free credit report every four months. For example, Equifax in January, Experian in May, and TransUnion in September.
You can also sign up for alerts with each of the three bureaus to be notified when your credit score changes or there is significant activity on your account.
The easiest way to get your credit report is to access the website authorized by federal law to do so entitled: annualcreditreport.com. Don’t be fooled by look-alike or named-alike sites!