Credit Insider Guide to Credit Score Victims
Section #1: Good Intentions
CREDIT SCORING is a terrible practice.
First, credit scores are not the objective beacons they pretend to be, and consumers pay mightily as a result. To help fully understand why, Lexington should bring in an applied social scientist. Oops, right here! I'll say more about the statistical fallacies surrounding credit scoring shortly.
Second, some lawyers contend that the practice of providing credit scores to potential creditors, insurers, and employers may well violate the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), an interesting civic issue with profound implications for the entire industry.
Third, certain government-overseen housing programs like FreddieMac rely upon the predominant credit scoring system whose underlying mathematics are still kept secret by a single for-profit corporate monopoly. Such secrecy (untested and unaccountable secrecy at that) is quite the conundrum in a country where citizens demand to know how tax dollars are spent.
Finally, and perhaps most outrageously, consumers are offered precious little information which might help them to optimize their credit scores. Sure, there are plenty of web sites which detail the basic outlines of what comprises a score, and we'll review all of that here too. Unfortunately, though, such dazzlingly hypnotic and overly general information doesn't really help real-life consumers with street questions like, "What will help my credit score most today: Paying off a charged-off account from five years ago, or closing two or three of my fifteen credit card accounts? Paying off a student loan, or paying off a credit card? Paying down one account entirely, or paying down all my accounts a little bit?"
So as a result of the rampant unfairness, institutional secrecy, rotten science, and a virtual dearth of truly helpful information, Americans are roundly and routinely victimized.
Good intentions. Nobody ever sat down and decided to make things worse for consumers. In fact, the intention was quite the opposite. Credit scoring was an attempt to remove issues like RACE, GENDER, SOCIO-ECONOMIC CLASS, and INCOME from an overall assessment of every consumer's credit report.
Back in the Good Old Days before 1970, a credit report would very often include such things as whether you were black or white, whether you embraced a particular religion or were atheist, rich or middle-class, whether somebody thought you were an alcoholic, courtroom quotes from ex-spouses, and whatever else they could find. Likewise, bankers once withheld credit to those whose appearance just didn't fit their idea of what defined a good human being. You could even be denied because the loan officer simply thought you looked strange. Sadly, sometimes the actual reasons were based upon racial preconceptions or similar prejudices.
Strange as all of that may sound today, the FCRA still draws a distinction between "investigative consumer reports" (like subjective statements by ex-spouses regarding moral character), an activity which was practically legislated away, and the kinds of consumer disclosures we now accept as the norm. The basic idea, then, for credit scores was a good one. It was an attempt to inject science into the process.