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Keeping Score: Our Credit Score, Our Right

Keeping Score: Our Credit Score, Our Right

 

As mid-April draws near, it is safe to say that most Americans have money on their mind. With tax day less than a week away, ‘tis the season… to be evaluating your financial decisions.

In this economy, homes are being foreclosed left and right, and going into debt is an increasingly common occurrence. About 4 million homes have been foreclosed on so far, according to ProPublica.org — meaning that the 4 million or so families living in them have been evicted.

58-year-old Sheila Ramos and her three grandchildren are some of them. She and her grandchildren were forced to leave her three-bedroom Florida home once it was claimed by the banks after falling desperately behind on the mortgage. Ramos took out these mortgages not to splurge or live ridiculously beyond her means, but to start her own business, and later to cope with injuries from a car accident. She now has to care for her three grandchildren out of a tent, without electricity, on a remote patch of land on a friend’s property on the Big Island of Hawaii. Her story is just one out of 4 million — and counting — in the United States.

Keeping track of your financial standing is important as ever — and being familiar with your credit report and credit score is critical to keeping afloat in the often treacherous waters of personal finances. Sadly, many things beyond our control contribute to financial catastrophes, such as divorces, hospital bills and other unforeseen expenses. Enabling Americans to be more financially responsible by making credit scores accessible and free is one way we can prevent bankruptcy, debt and homelessness.

Your credit score and your credit report are both important pieces of information that can help you get a handle on your personal finances. Both allow companies, landlords, banks and employers to have a glimpse into your money-managing habits, which they then use to make major life-altering decisions about you — like determining your eligibility to own or rent a house, have a certain job or take out on a loan.

One significant difference between these two forms of credit records is that the law grants you the ability to obtain your credit report for free, while in order to access your credit score, you are usually forced to pay fees or may be subjected to sketchy online “offers.” Both your credit report and your credit score determine so much of your future, it’s outrageous that only one is easily available to you. What’s more, the comparable inaccessibility limits the access of many people who would benefit from keeping track of their credit score. This is unfair; for such an important piece of information that has the potential to save people from desperate financial situations, being able to access and keep track of your own credit score should be your right.

In 2003, access to your credit report became free under the Fair and Accurate Credit Transaction Act, which was the end result of consumers and advocates fighting for the ability to access our credit reports. This shows us that it’s possible for the public to demand our right to our own financial information. If we once again make it loud and clear to Congress that it is also our right to be in the know about our own credit scores, we can extend this law to encompass credit scores as well.

If we want to improve the economic situation in the United States as a whole, we should start with Americans’ pocketbooks. Poverty and even homelessness can be avoided with this simple addendum to the Fair and Accurate Credit Transaction Act.

The nonprofit Consumers Union has acknowledged, “Consumers won the right to a free copy of their credit reports nearly a decade ago by bombarding Congress with hundreds of thousands of messages.” This, as we know, was a huge success—resulting in the 2003 Fair and Accurate Credit Transaction Act. There is no reason why our access to credit scores should be any more limited than that of our credit reports. Let’s show Congress (again) that Americans want to be financially responsible for themselves by demanding our right to our own credit scores.

Take Action: Demand the right to your credit score!

 

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25 comments

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12:04PM PDT on Apr 17, 2012

I have read so many articles about this while trying to teach myself about finance.
THE TRUTH IS if the American Public, at large, were to know how those scores are determined they would SCREAM BLOODY MURDER.

They take into account any illnesses by looking at how many medical expenses you have, if you've lost a relative, what courses you took in college, they check EVERYTHING and then rate it. It's horribly intrusive and really makes no sense except in the most absurdest way.

Think of it as how your car insurance is determined on steroids. Is everyone aware of how much the color of that car can change your rates? I can't figure how my smoking affects my ability to drive more than someone eating an ice cream cone on a hot day, but it does!

8:31PM PDT on Apr 14, 2012

It also puzzled me how they (banks,etc.) said we have a credit score but we have to pay to know what it is. BS

7:31PM PDT on Apr 14, 2012

Interesting how rather than learning from others some poeple just put down the person who is trying to help.
For 50 years I've refereed at all levels, now teach the refereeing courses and yes I get paid for it, yes refereeing 30 weekends a year and many years calling high school and college games during the week. Guess what, have money problems, get off your ass and try refereeing.

6:07PM PDT on Apr 14, 2012

knowing your credit score is the key to a good financial future to be built on

6:06PM PDT on Apr 14, 2012

Unfortunately, having lots of cash won't help you--you still have to care about your credit score: it matters for your car insurance, home insurance, and employment often times! Not to mention, renting. I came back from overseas in the military and I had $25k in the bank, no credit cards--never had credit, so guess what? I could not rent an apartment! I offered to pay the whole year's rent in cash, but was denied as all apartments in our area had a minimum score requirement and having no credit, I had no score and due to equal opportunity, they could not make an exception to the rules! SO B.S. Mike C. and others who think it doesn't matter, even if you do pay all cash!!!

4:36PM PDT on Apr 14, 2012

Signed!

3:12PM PDT on Apr 14, 2012

Carol O, People like Mike C have never known actual poverty and cannot relate to what some of us are going through.
Typically, they're on the side of the exploiters until they too fall victim. By then, it's too late -and they're too ashamed of their own gullibility- for them to support the proper reforms in our country.

2:12PM PDT on Apr 14, 2012

Makes sense to me. Petition signed.

1:06PM PDT on Apr 14, 2012

Right, Mike c; like shoes? I make $9/hr. and my rent recently got raised to $565 from $515. My budget was already at bare bones before this happened, now, there will be days I can't even afford FOOD.

11:05AM PDT on Apr 14, 2012

It would be wonderful if everyone had the ability to save and pay cash for everything and not purchase anything they can't afford. My father did that. And I applaud those who can. However, not everyone is able to do that.
Things happen that are out of our control and the funds saved have to be used. You are laid off through no fault of your own. When an emergency hospitalization occurs and there is no health insurance or none that is worth much. There are many events that do happen that cause someone to not be able to pay their bills anymore.
I think we need to remember not everyone has the good options available to them.
Just one of the reasons I don't believe credit scores should be used to gain employment. They don't reflect the devastations that may have happened and you can't gage a persons work ethic by using them.

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