Credit reports are an inescapable part of American consumer life, which means that what’s on them can make or break you when it comes to acquiring loans, opening credit cards, landing a job or even finding lasting love. Over the past few years, some changes have been made to how the credit bureaus report the information that they receive, as well as what information does and doesn’t show up on people’s reports. It can be confusing to parse through the different sections that make up a credit report, especially if you’re someone with a lengthy or complicated credit history. More changes are coming, according to an announcement made by the three credit bureaus — Experian, Equifax and TransUnion — that will potentially impact the credit scores of around 12 million Americans. To help you understand these changes and what they could mean for your credit, we’ve outlined the information you need to know.
What’s going to change about credit reports?
Beginning July 1, civil judgments (which typically include you losing a case or failing to respond to a lawsuit) and tax liens will be omitted from both existing and future credit reports if the data doesn’t include at least three of the following data points: your name, your address, your social security number or your date of birth. Civil judgments and tax liens appear in the public records section of your credit reports, and since most judgments and many liens don’t typically include all of this information, it’s likely that millions of people across the country will see this information wiped from their credit reports. These changes are in response to research performed by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), which was released in a report earlier this month, to uncover and correct problems in the credit reporting industry. Among the changes being required by the CFPB are improved standards for matching public records data to the correct people as well as more frequent updates to this information in people’s credit reports.
How could these credit report changes affect you?
For those whose credit scores are currently dragged down by derogatory civil judgements and tax liens in their credit reports, this could mean a boost in creditworthiness as their credit scores go up. According to data assembled by The Wall Street Journal gathered from LexisNexis Risk Solutions and FICO, approximately 700,000 consumers will see their credit scores improve by at least 40 points, while just under 11 million consumers will see their scores raise by less than 20 points. Although these changes are set to impact a mere 6% of U.S. consumers now, there will likely be long-term effects felt by consumers and creditors alike for years to come. In addition to the benefit of raised credit scores, this will also hopefully help combat credit reporting errors, as it will force credit bureaus to be more diligent when it comes to matching public records data to the correct person’s credit reports. On the other hand, as LexisNexis Risk Solutions noted to The Wall Street Journal, there’s a chance that this could make lending more risky for creditors, as people with judgments and liens are twice as likely to default on their loan payments.
How can you tell whether your credit will be impacted?
If one or more of your credit reports currently has a civil judgment or tax lien (or multiple) listed as derogatory information, it’s possible that you will see these removed after these new rules go into effect. That said, it’s important to remember that not all civil judgments and tax liens will be removed — only those that don’t have enough of the required criteria — so if you don’t see your credit scores improve, that may be why. Not sure what’s on your credit reports? You can read our guide to checking your credit to find out how to get copies of all three reports, which U.S. citizens are entitled to for free once every 12 months by law.
Keep in mind, these aren’t the only changes that have happened with credit reporting in recent years. Since 2015, more than 30 states have won settlements against the credit bureaus over how they handle errors as well as other practices. As a result, some other new rules that have gone into effect include the removal of non-loan related items sent to collections (such as unpaid library fines or parking tickets) and changes in the way medical debts are calculated. Considering studies done by the FTC in 2012 and 2015 determined that a significant amount of Americans have discovered at least one error on their credit reports, it’s necessary for some oversight to be done to improve the reporting process as a whole. As such, it’s likely that this won’t be the end of the changes we’ll see over the coming years.
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