In some ways, the U.S. credit reporting system has improved. Credit freezes, which lock our credit information to deter identity theft, are now free and fast. We have free weekly access to our credit reports, courtesy of the credit bureaus Equifax, Experian and TransUnion, until April 20, 2022. Free credit scores provided by banks, credit card issuers and other companies allow us to easily monitor for signs of fraud and other problems.
Errors abound in credit reports
Nine years later, accuracy is still an issue. Earlier this year, Consumer Reports recruited nearly 6,000 volunteers to check their reports. The results: 34% found at least one error or account they didn’t recognize. (Unlike the longer-term FTC study, the Consumer Reports effort was not a representative sample of the population, says Syed Ejaz, a policy analyst and author of the Consumer Reports study.)
A 2012 study by the Federal Trade Commission found that 26% of consumers had an error on at least one of their credit reports, while 5% reported inaccuracies serious enough to potentially trigger higher interest rates or insurance premiums.
Unfortunately, our credit information still isn’t as accurate, easy to obtain or secure as it needs to be. These failures mean Congress and regulators need to step in.
There simply aren’t enough incentives for credit bureaus to get things right. Their primary customers are financial institutions that can profit if someone who’s creditworthy gets charged a higher rate because of a mistake, says independent journalist Bob Sullivan, author of “Your Evil Twin: Behind the Identity Theft Epidemic.”