This past weekend, New York Times business columnist Joe Nocera took a look at the credit-score industry , which is more important than ever, now that the companies that stuffed their vaults with bubble-money making bad loans are scared of making any more bad loans. Would-be borrowers can miss lenders’ mandatory credit-score cutoffs by a single point—even though the data used to come up with those score numbers is ridiculous info-sludge, whatever the credit-reporting companies happen to trawl up in the darkness from the sea floor.
People get bent out of shape about the terrible decline of journalistic standards, now that lazy, unprofessional bloggers and the press that chases them will go and publish anything, no matter how badly sourced or wrong . Well, what if there were an immense, all-powerful industry that had sloppier practices than Perez Hilton’s, only this industry kept files not merely on celebrities but on almost every grown-up in America—and rather than publishing its atrocious fake-information on the Internet, where people could laugh at it and correct it, the industry distributed it through private commercial channels, so the only way a person could keep track of damaging misinformation about him- or herself would be by officially asking for it, over and over again, personally fact-checking it, and submitting formal requests for correction?
Here is what a business columnist for the New York Times learned, when he checked his own credit scores:
My own credit reports, which I looked up for this column, are a case in point. Although my score was O.K. — the low 700s — the reports themselves were full of unpleasant surprises. They listed credit card accounts I didn’t have, and failed to list at least one big one that I did have. Two of them noted that five years ago, I was late on a car payment. (I was?) My daughter’s old Brooklyn address was listed as my former address. According to Experian, I was still writing for Fortune magazine. It said I no longer lived in a house that I just bought two months ago. TransUnion, meanwhile, listed The New York Times as my former employer. Currently, TransUnion said, I am an employee of.
Rite Aid? I know, I know — it is supposed to be up to me to catch their mistakes (which is also why they don’t have to care about the mistakes.) But what I find incredible is that we have imbued credit scores with these magical predictive powers — and yet the companies coming up with the scores can’t even get the borrower’s address and employer right. It would be funny if it didn’t matter so much.
In a more civilized society than ours, the people who run the credit industry would all be bankrupted by defamation lawsuits or jailed for fraud. In a less civilized society than ours, they would be dragged to their deaths in the street by mules and the scraps of their bodies fed to alley cats.
As is, they keep on trashing people’s lives with impunity. They do not know or care what garbage they are feeding into their calculating machines, as long as they can keep selling the garbage that comes out.