After reading news headlines from CNN to Mint.com suggesting that it’s just a matter of time before credit reporting bureaus begin using my social media footprint and friendships to rate my credit, I felt sad that I was going to have to drop all the old friends I reconnected with on Facebook after my high school’s 30th reunion.
After all, I did meet them in my school’s smoking lounge in the late 1970s. Who knows what kind of credit they have now. What if they grew up to become financial lollygaggers?
I put in a call to Experian Director of Public Education Rod Griffin to find out the best way to figure out my friends’ credit scores so I’d know who to unfriend, lest they tarnish my stellar score and prevent me from getting a mortgage
Griffin told me to take my finger off the unfriend button. Turns out, those companies trying to use social media to determine creditworthiness are in other countries.
Here in the U.S., social media isn’t used for consumer credit scoring. Why not? Because there are some pesky consumer laws in this country that require credit reporting companies to use data that actually predicts whether you’re likely to pay a debt. The data has to be about your behavior, not your friends’ behavior, and it has to be related to repayment, not what you think of Obamacare.
Even if someone could show that posts about hating pink houses corresponded to hating to pay your bills on time, Experian wouldn’t use your hatred of pink houses to calculate your credit score because it’s not related to actual bill-paying behavior.
The data most relevant to credit scoring isn’t who you’re interacting with on social media, it’s your financial track record. A late payment on a car loan is a strong indicator that you’re not going to pay another debt, like your mortgage.
We Americans have other consumer rights that would make using social media in credit reporting tough — like the right to fix mistakes in our credit reports.
If social media information was used in credit scoring, can you imagine the letter you’d have to write to get errors fixed? And how would the credit bureau try to correct errors? Maybe we would write a letter like this:
Dear Social Media Credit Reporting Firm:
I don’t know where you got the idea I’m good friends with Joe Johnson. I’m not. He contacted me after my 30th reunion and I didn’t want to hurt his feelings by refusing his friend request. Please make the correction in your files as required by the Fair Credit Reporting Act.
It Doesn’t Work for Loans, Either
A second federal law would make it really tricky to use your social media postings to decide whether to give you a loan. The Equal Credit Opportunity Act says you can’t discriminate against me because of my gender, ethnicity, marital status, or age.
All of those characteristics appear on the average mom’s Facebook feed. If you stripped out pictures of me (I’m pretty obviously white), my husband (yes, I’m married), and my girls’ nights out with friends (I’m pretty obviously female), there’d be nothing left but pictures of my daughter playing field hockey. And a headshot of me that’s so digitally altered you might not realize you should be discriminating due to my age.
So for now, I’ll remain friends with my fellow Wilde Lake High School Wildecats because finding out what happened to old classmates is what social media was meant to do. But credit scoring? Not so much.