Happy New Year to you and yours as we start 2012. As usual, with the new year comes the inevitable resolutions about getting out of debt, losing weight, improving your credit score, etc. It’s that last one that I’d like to address.
One of the most frustrating things you can do is to try and improve a poor (or not so poor) credit score. In fact, unless you can get out of credit card debt quickly, there’s really no sure-fire way to instantly improve your credit scores. Even if you’re able to get some of the negative information removed from your credit reports, you really need to get most, or all, of it removed to really improve your scores in a meaningful way.
But what about the people who believe they’ve done everything right? They’ve paid their bills on time, they don’t have excessive credit card debt and they don’t apply for credit all over town. What if you’ve done all of the right things but you’re just not happy with your score? Where do you complain?
Let me save you the time. The FTC isn’t hearing from consumers complaining that their credit scores aren’t correct. In fact, if you look at the top consumer complaints from 2010 (the 2011 data hasn’t been released yet), the top 30 consumer complaints are completely void of anything that has to do with credit scoring, and this is a list that includes silliness such as, complaints about video games, office supplies and magazines.
The Credit Reporting Agencies
You could complain to the credit reporting agencies but you’ll get this response: “We don’t build the credit scoring model so we can’t help you.” This is, of course, correct. Most of the time, the score that’s going to be sold is your FICO credit score and that particular score wasn’t developed by any of the credit reporting agencies. So, unless you’re calling to complain about your credit report data, you’ve called the wrong guys when it comes to scores.
You could complain to FICO. They’re the developers of the FICO score, but they don’t calculate your scores. I know, it sounds crazy, but FICO isn’t involved with the calculation of your FICO scores; they’re just the model developer. The credit reporting agencies, the guys with whom you just hung up, are the ones who calculate your FICO scores.
In order to calculate a FICO score you have to marry two things: A credit report and a FICO scoring model. FICO only has the latter. Because FICO installs their scoring software at all three of the credit reporting agencies, scores have to be calculated by the party that has both the software and the credit reports, which is the credit bureaus, but they didn’t build the scoring software, so complaining to them is a waste of time.
The Bottom Line
So, who do you complain to if you don’t like your FICO score? The answer, frankly, is nobody. There is no single source defined by the lending or legislative environments that is tasked with accepting, addressing and rectifying credit score complaints. I know that’s a little bit of a buzzkill but it’s like complaining about the weather – there’s nothing you can do about it.
Now, if you’ve got complaints about the DATA that is fed into the scoring systems, then clearly that’s something you can take up with either the credit reporting agencies or the data furnishers. Data furnishers is a fancy way of saying “lenders, collection agencies and anyone else who sends data to a credit reporting agency.” If that data is wrong, then they’ve got obligations under Federal law to correct it, pronto.
And, of course, if you’d like to send me your complaints about your credit scores, I’m always happy to listen.
John Ulzheimer is the President of Consumer Education at SmartCredit.com, the credit blogger for Mint.com, and a contributor for the National Foundation for Credit Counseling. He is an expert on credit reporting, credit scoring and identity theft. Formerly of FICO, Equifax and Credit.com, John is the only recognized credit expert who actually comes from the credit industry. The opinions expressed in his articles are his and not of Mint.com or Intuit. Follow John on Twitter