If you took out a loan earlier this year, there’s a potential that your bank will be in touch with you about a mistake that may have played a role in its decision to lend money.
This week, Equifax, one of the three major credit reporting agencies, disclosed that between March 17 and April 6, due to a coding error, it provided lenders with incorrect consumer credit ratings. Several million scores were impacted, according to a Wall Street Journal investigation.
According to Equifax, the majority of the scores did not significantly change, but a sizeable portion—less than 300,000—saw a movement of 25 points or more as a result of the error. That would be more than enough to alter the lending decision.
In its announcement, Equifax stated that it is working with its clients, or the lenders, to ascertain the “actual impact to customers.” According to a corporate spokeswoman, customers who believe their loan decision was impacted should get in touch with their lender. (More details on how to achieve that are provided below.)
According to a report from NBC News, a class-action lawsuit has also been brought against Equifax in U.S. District Court in North Georgia as a result of the revelation. In the lawsuit, consumers who were harmed are seeking compensation through a jury trial.
The importance of the credit scoring mistake
Consumers are aware that credit scores are important in determining whether or not they are approved for a loan or credit card, as well as the interest rate and other costs they will incur. The better terms you can qualify for depend on your score, and vice versa.
The majority of lenders base their choices on their FICO scores, which normally range from 300 to 850. Al Bingham, a credit specialist and mortgage loan officer at Momentum Loans, explained that within that range, there are typically 20-point bands for both mortgage and auto loans, each of which is linked to certain loan parameters.
For instance, if your score is between 700 and 719, you will be charged the same fee whether it is 700 or 719.
“As long as the change in the Equifax credit score stayed within that [band], there is no issue,” Bingham said.
However, if the error made the score leap outside of that range in either direction, “it becomes an issue for rates and fees,” he said. In other words, the roughly 300,000 consumers whose scores were off by 25 points or more either received worse conditions than they ought to have — or they might even have been denied entirely — or qualified for better terms than their actual score would have permitted.
The code issue and how to tell if you were affected
Uncertainty surrounds the timing of consumers’ direct communication with their bank or other lender in the event that their credit was adversely impacted by an erroneous score. The largest bank in the US, JPMorgan Chase, released the following statement: “We are proactively working with Equifax and our customers to address [the issue] on a case-by-case basis.”
You should be able to examine your records from the transaction to see if the lender supplied your FICO score in disclosure forms if you’re unsure whether you would have been affected because you took out a loan within the affected time period, or sought to but were turned down, Bingham said.
Be aware that when it comes to the data they gather to make a lending decision, lenders treat different consumer loans in different ways. Banks often only request a credit score from one of the three major credit-reporting companies — Equifax, TransUnion, or Experian — for auto and personal loans, according to Bingham. Therefore, you are unaffected if Equifax is not listed in your documentation.
However, keep in mind that even if you find out that Equifax sent your lender your credit score, this doesn’t necessarily mean the result was erroneous enough to alter the terms of your loan.
Introducing new complications for mortgage applicants
Determining how a poor score affected the loan terms you qualified for may be more difficult for mortgages.
According to Bingham, lenders look at the FICO score provided by all three of those agencies and use the middle one, which is disclosed to mortgage applicants.
“If the Equifax score was so compromised that it dropped or increased below or above one of the other FICO scores, that is a bigger challenge,” he said. “That means the Experian or TransUnion score was used and should not have been.”
Another possibility, according to him, was that the lender had utilised the middle Equifax score, which was incorrect.
“It is going to be really difficult for any lender or consumer to correct the Equifax FICO score [that was used],” Bingham said.