Slideshow Inside the Secret World of Alternative Credit Scores

Published
  • April 07 2014, 7:30am EDT
8 Images Total

A new report by the World Privacy Forum describes the proliferation of "consumer scores" and calls for rules that would make them more transparent to the public. These scores differ substantially from traditional credit scores, which are compiled using loan payment histories from credit reports. Instead, consumer scores rely on other data, such as retail purchase histories, demographic information and social media activity. Consumer lenders use some of them to evaluate loan applicants. Here's a rundown of selected scores and some of the World Privacy Forum's related warnings, including one that calls for updating existing consumer protection regulations.

Image: Fotolia

Consumer Profitability Scores

What they do: Identify consumers who are likely to pay their debts and whom financial product marketers are likely to find profitable

Who offers them: Experian, based on a database that has information from hundreds of sources

What's the issue? Although they're purportedly designed to target marketing pitches, they could serve as "unregulated proxies for credit risk."

Image: Fotolia

Content Continues Below


Collection and Recovery Scores

What they do: Predict the likelihood that delinquent debtors will pay their obligations

Who offers them: Fair Isaac Co. and Experian. Fair Isaac touts its collection score as "typically" boosting collection performance by 15%-20%.

What's the issue? The way these scores are used is "likely" to render them subject to the Fair Credit Reporting Act, says World Privacy Forum. Consumers have the right to see scores that are subject to that law, but the report states that "it is unclear" whether collection and recovery scores "are actually exposed to consumers."

Image: Fotolia

Churn Scores

What they do: Predict when consumers will leave one company for a rival.

Who offers them: Analytics IQ and Verisium, among others. Some consumer companies have developed their own.

What's the issue? "It is unlikely that many businesses make churn scores visible to their customers," the report asserts.

Image: Fotolia

Fraud Scores

What they do: Predict the likelihood that transactions are fraudulent.

Who offers them: Fair Isaac Co., CoreLogic, Interthinx, Visa, MasterCard, others.

What's the issue? Fraud scores can yield false positives, and victims of identity theft may become connected to damaged or erroneous fraud scores.

Image: Thinkstock

Content Continues Below


Social Scores

What they do: Measure influence, or what some refer to as "social networking potential"

Who offers them: Kred, SocialIq, Tweet Grader, Booshaka, Klout, others

What's the issue?"An individual may never realize that he or she did not receive an interview, job, discount, premium, coupon or opportunity due to a low score," the report states.

Image: Fotolia

Household Segmentation Scores

What they do: Classify households into categories based on their spending habits, lifestyles and demographics.

Who offers them: Acxiom, Experian and Claritas. The Claritas product uses categories such as "Pools & Patios" to describe upscale older households without kids and "Bedrock America" for downscale middle age households with kids.

What's the Issue? Household segmentation scores are not subject to consumer protection provisions of the Fair Credit Reporting Act since the law applies to individuals.

Image: Fotolia

Job Security Scores

What they do: Predict borrowers' ability to pay based on the stability of their incomes

Who offers them: Scorelogix touts its score as "dramatically" improving "banks' ability to reduce credit losses."

Image: Fotolia