Accuracy of Information Maintained by US Credit Bureaus: Frequency of Errors and Effects on Consumers' Credit Scores

Authors

  • L. DOUGLAS SMITH,

  • MICHAEL STATEN,

  • THOMAS EYSSELL,

  • MAUREEN KARIG,

  • BETH A. FREEBORN,

  • ANDREA GOLDEN


  • L. Douglas Smith (ldsmith@umsl.edu) is Professor of Management Science and Director of the Center for Business and Industrial Studies at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. Michael Staten (statenm@email.arizona.edu) is Professor and Director of Graduate Studies in the Norton School of Family and Consumer Services at the University of Arizona. Thomas Eyssell (eyssellt@umsl.edu) is Professor of Finance and Associate Dean in the College of Business Administration and Maureen Karig (mkarig@umsl.edu) is Senior Research Associate in the Center for Business and Industrial Studies, both at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. Beth A. Freeborn (bfreeborn@ftc.gov) is an economist with the United States Federal Trade Commission. Andrea Golden (andreagolden@fico.com) is a senior analyst at Fair Isaac Corporation. This work was performed for the United States Federal Trade Commission (FTC) under Contract FTC-10-H-0187 with the University of Missouri-St. Louis. For their efforts in the design and launch of the research study, we recognize Dr. Peter Vander Nat at the FTC and Dr. Jeffrey Feinstein, formerly with Fair Isaac Corporation and now with LexisNexis Risk Solutions. For their work in executing the study, we recognize the invaluable efforts of the following individuals at the Federal Trade Commission, Fair Isaac Corporation (FICO), the University of Arizona, and the University of Missouri-St. Louis. We thank them all for their diligent contributions. The views expressed in this paper are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the Federal Trade Commission. We thank Peter Vander Nat, Ph.D., Senior Economist and COTR; Paul Rothstein, Ph.D., Senior Economist, now at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau; Loren Smith, Ph.D., Senior Economist; Michael Shores, Research Associate from Federal Trade Commission, Washington D.C.; Miako Farrow, Scoring Analytics—Analytic Scientist 1; Amy Nykamp, Scoring Department Administrator; Aayush Mahendru, Scoring Analytics—Analytic Scientist 1; Patricia Prorok, myFICO Product Support; George Sternecker, myFICO Product Support from Fair Isaac Corporation, San Rafael CA; Cathleen Johnson, Ph.D., Co-Investigator; Martha Staten, BS, Senior Research Associate; Gina McCann, BM, Senior Research Associate; Rebecca Barry, BS, Research Associate; G. W. Stovall, III, MBA, Research Associate; Molly Thrasher, MA, Research Associate; Niket Thakkar, BS, Research Associate from University of Arizona, Tucson AZ; Trisha Moses, MBA, Senior Research Associate; Aicha Liesenfeld, MBA, Research Associate; Azra Kazi Pervaiz, MBA, Research Associate; Jennifer Holmes, MSW, Research Associate; Justin Antonacci, MAcc, Research Associate; Paul Pratte, MS, IT & Web Developer from University of Missouri-St. Louis, St. Louis MO.

Abstract

A representative sample of 1,000 US consumers reviewed their credit reports from the three major US credit bureaus with help from university research associates. Twenty-six percent of study participants claimed to find at least one potentially material error and filed formal disputes with the relevant bureau(s). For 78% of the 263 consumers who filed disputes (20% of participants overall) at least one bureau altered the credit report accordingly. Thirty-three percent of disputants (8.7% of participants) experienced a resulting increase of 10+ points in one or more of their FICO® scores; 21% of disputants (5.5% of study participants) had one or more scores cross a threshold that would typically result in more favorable terms of credit. Our findings suggest that credit-bureau data are accurate enough to facilitate efficient lending and creditors' management of accounts, but individual consumers need to be vigilant to protect themselves against potentially costly errors in their files.

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