May 5, 2010
Thankfully, my wife and I both have very high credit scores. I understand that if you constantly don't pay bills on time, or skip mortgage payments and fall behind, or walk away from a credit card debt, it's going to hurt your ability to borrow money. You'll have to pay a higher percentage of interest on any loan because of being perceived as a relatively riskier borrower. I get that. We've worked hard at making sure our score was as good as possible. But one of the things that I don't understand about life in modern America is how a person's credit score has become one of the central measures in one's life. Pay off a credit card and discontinue it, and your credit score goes down. Open up a new credit card and charge something on it and your score goes down. Be late on a payment or dispute a bill and not pay it on time, and your score goes down. Who has any real understanding of how the credit scores are created and what affects them? Yet they have steadily crept into a most important place in our lives. Practically any business can order a credit score on someone, for seemingly any reason. They are now often checked as part of a person's hiring process, as one example of an originally unintended use. I think it's a gross invasion of privacy because there is all kinds of information in there; information that is gathered for one purpose and sold for use for totally different ones. And the scores aren't even very good measures. If you check the three credit scores, they are always somewhat different because they are picking up different information. There are plenty of errors in the reports (one reason to keep up to date with your own) that never get fixed unless you force the issue. And some of it is just bad information. Here's an example, my wife's credit score is slightly higher than mine. That's good, except that it's erroneous. She's had less income than I since moving down here several years ago. But she pays all the bills for the household. So the information they are basing our scores on has to be fundamentally flawed. Yet those same measures act like a sword dangling over every normal American's head, threatening to change life in drastic ways if you let your score slip. No one ask me if I wanted a credit score. Truth is, I'd rather not have one in the first place. It's one good example of technology run amuck. But I seem to be one of a minority who still think privacy is possible, or even important.