Know Your REAL FICO – Lenders Demand It, You Should Too!
Particularly in these challenging economic times, consumers are ever more concerned about maintaining, establishing, re-establishing good credit...and having good FICO scores, the undisputed gold standard of credit scores. Why is FICO considered the gold standard??? Because FICOs are the scores used by the majority of lenders, employers, insurers, etc., to determine a consumer's credit worthiness. Over the years, the three major credit reporting agencies (Experian, Equifax, and Transunion) effectively promoted and sold consumers their FICO credit scores via their various websites (Transunion.com, Equifax.com, and Experian.com) as well as a wide array of their affiliated websites. This was done for so long, in fact that consumers have been trained to believe that "FICO" and "Credit Score" are mutually interchangeable terms. THEY'RE NOT!
ALL OTHER SITES are selling scores that are IRRELEVANT to your ability to get credit! By LAW, they are required to make "credit scores" available. The law does NOT, however, require them to be the SAME scores that are sold to your banks and others when they request your credit!!!!
And the credit reporting agencies are now taking full advantage of that mis-understanding. Frankly, it's a pretty magnificent (and VERY LUCRATIVE) mis-understanding! This has resulted in a subtle and profoundly misleading "bait & switch" that is quietly robbing consumers of their ability to actually know what a prospective lender or vendor will see when they request that consumer's FICO Credit Score. Again, these are the very reporting agencies that most lenders and vendors use!
Experian was the first to implement this switch when, on February 14, 2009 it pulled out of it's agreement with MyFico.com to provide it's FICO score on the official Fair Isaac consumer site...the only place where consumers could purchase all 3 FICO scores at once. There are some great articles on MSN's Money Central on this subject, including "Credit bureau move creates 'secret' scores" by Liz Pulliam Weston. In her article, Ms Weston states "Federal law has long guaranteed your right to see your credit reports...In 2003, you were also given the right to buy your credit scores from the bureaus. But the law doesn't specify you have to be given the same scores lenders use." In other words apparently consumers have no right to know what their REAL CREDIT SCORES ACTUALLY ARE! You'll find another great article at CNNMoney.com entitled "Don't be fooled by credit score inflation" by Ismat Sarah Mangla. Again, the author describes "the confusion around credit scores and scoring models" which is causing so much confusion with consumers...and for one reason...THEY DON'T KNOW WHAT THEY'RE NOT GETTING!
What is compounding this problem of MISinformation is that so much publicity is given to the consumer's "right" to an annual FREE credit report at AnnualCreditReport.com. Yes, the report is free and it does give you some insight into what is being reported to the credit bureaus about you. But, when you see your report, you are encouraged to purchase your Credit Scores. Unfortunately, it's NOT your FICO scores you're getting, but rather a more or less meaningless score that has no bearing on what lenders see from those same reporting agencies!
For years, consumers have relied on these three primary reporting agencies to help them determine whether what appears on their credit report is accurate or not, whether there has been credit fraud committed against them or not, and to monitor how the credit bureau was rating their "credit worthiness" via their FICO Scores...because that rating information is precisely what lenders, vendors, insurers, employers, etc., use to determine what consumers pay for services...even whether or not consumers can get those services at all.
Truth be told, most consumers have been trained to believe that "FICO" and "Credit Score" are synonymous...they are NOT! And the tree major credit reporting agencies and raking in millions capitalizing on that consumer MIS-perception. Consumers BELIEVE they are purchasing their FICO score, but are instead getting a "generic", totally unrelated, score in return called a VANTAGE Score. Today, the most popular "credit" websites and plenty of media marketing entice consumers into buying their current credit report and "credit score" without making it blatantly obvious (or even SUBTLY obvious) that they are NOT getting their FICO SCORES at all!
While we stopped paying attention, the reporting agencies have totally changed the game! At a time when many consumers are struggling to get access to credit, to find work, to find housing, the major credit reporting agencies are making it much harder for them to actually know where they stand: they have ALL ceased to make consumer FICO Scores available to the consumer to purchase on their sites and instead offer them "Credit Scores" created using a totally different platform...their VANTAGE Score platform. Scroll down to the very bottom of any of their sites and you will see, in very small type, that their scores are VANTAGE, one of "several" scoring systems. While it's true there may be several scoring systems out there...
FICO is the ONE SCORING SYSTEM THAT MATTERS!
It's THE PLATFORM that the Majority of lenders use!
But is what they offer all that different from FICO? Simple fact: FICO scores range from 300-850; the VANTAGE scores (offered by all three major credit reporting agencies in a collaborative effort to try to drown out FICO) range from 501-990. An 800 score in FICO means something totally different than an 800 score in VANTAGE. So when you visit Transunion, for example, to purchase your current report and credit score and you discover your "score" is 765...it's reasonable to conclude that you have pretty marketable credit. You should be able to get competitive interest rates, right? But when the BANK pulls your credit, what they will see is something totally unrelated to what you saw. Because the VANTAGE system and the FICO system use somewhat different data in creating their scoring, and different formulas for scoring that data, odds are extremely high that your FICO will be different than your VANTAGE score...most likely, MUCH different. Out of curiosity I pulled my own scores recently (FICO and VANTAGE)...and there was a 70-80 point discrepancy. I say "70-80" because I was able to pull both the Transunion and Equifax FICO scores from MyFICO.com and compare them to the scores I got directly from the Transunion and Equifax sites. By the way, the public is no longer able to see what Experian is telling lenders relative to their FICO scores! Experian is hiding that information altogether from the consumer! Not only can consumers not get their Experian FICO from MyFico.com, they cannot get it anywhere else either!
If you want to see an end to this practice, you can use this link to help you find your House representative, and you can find your senators here. Let them know it's time to end the practice of giving one set of scores to consumers and a totally different set of scores to the people who decide whether, and at what rate, to offer them credit. It's time to end Consumer Deception and replace it with Consumer Protection!