freecreditreport.com not worth the jingle

douchebag[1]If you’ve been following along my various blogs, you’ll know since moving to the US I’ve been totally focussed on getting my credit rating in shape. Despite showing up with a letter of referral from my UK bank in 2006 that I’d been a total rockstar managing the mortgage on a $1.2 million dollar home loan, I couldn’t get so much as a contract cellphone.

Credit ratings are everything. I didn’t have one. So I’ve tackled this over the past 7-years like a religious zealot. Monitoring it, bumping my rating up to 771/748/771 on my 3-Bureau report. Feeling good, Oh happy days I’m in the 10%. As part of that effort I paid off my mortgage, managed payments, used cards I didn’t didn’t need, and only once missed a payment and that was due to a processing error in what was supposed to be the set-up for an automated payment system by my FCU Amplify here in Austin.

Still, no matter. Turns out I’m considering another investment opportunity, and I got a call from Amplify about a Home Equity loan, or Line of Credit. I agreed, applied and sent in all the usual documents. I heard back today the interest rate was going to be almost 1.5% higher than we’d discussed, due to my credit rating being only “674”. How could that be I asked, and then pulled my 3-bureau score and sent it along.

Turns out that Amplify uses Equifax. When Equifax is asked for a commercial rating, it doesn’t use the one it gives your potential lenders, it uses something called the PLUS Score. Turns out this really isn’t the same score, and in my case it’s a whole 60 points off the real score. Seriously. It’s right here on the freecreditreport.com website. Right there it says “Your PLUS Score is a numerical representation of your credit risk on a scale very similar to those used by lenders.” Similar, not worth the calculation they did to make it up is more like it. Experian themselves use the same bogus PLUS Score. It doesn’t matter which of these services you sign up for, the result won’t be what they report to a lender. You have been warned.

Turns out, that most of the three credit score agencies do the same, yes Experian, Equifax and TransUnion all only provide fake credit ratings when you sign up for their online services. Is it any wonder why people spend so much time and effort gaming the system?

If you ended up here looking for help, I can’t. Robert Palmer has a great video on this.

Author: Mark Cathcart

Formerly an Executive Director of Systems Engineering and a Senior Distinguished Engineer at Dell. Prior to that, an IBM Distinguished Engineer working for the Systems Group in NY and Austin. I'm currently "retired until further notice".

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