Washington, D.C. – With more than 6,500 data breaches in 2018, and thousands more this year, the threat of hackers stealing personal information has never been higher. Consumers must remain vigilant and consistently use basic security measures, such as multi-step authentication.
Another crucial step is to annually check one’s credit report, which is free to do from each of the three credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion). “Despite the increasing importance of checking one’s credit reports, our recent research shows a disturbing trend: the percent of consumers who believe it’s important to check one’s credit report has declined from 2012 to 2019, from 82% to 67%,” said Jack Gillis, Executive Director of the Consumer Federation of America.
A potential cause of the steep decline can be attributed to the improving economy and consumers’ financial condition. When CFA started surveying consumers on credit score knowledge in 2012, many Americans faced challenging credit card and mortgage debts, so checking one’s credit score was top of mind. As personal finances have improved, consumers have become less vigilant about checking their credit scores and reports. “The problem,” said Gillis, “is that with the increase in data breaches, it’s never been more important to keep a watchful eye on your credit reports.”
To help increase consumer knowledge of credit scores and reports, CFA and VantageScore Solutions® developed the Credit Score Quiz, an on-line tool for consumers to test and improve their credit score knowledge.
By using the Quiz, over 230,000 consumers have learned about the damage identity theft can cause and the many ways a credit score can affect one’s life. Problematic credit scores effect consumers by:
- Denying them access to needed credit.
- Increasing the costs of consumer, auto and mortgage credit.
- Increasing deposits required by utilities and cell phone companies to obtain service.
With free access to credit reports, and a multitude of inexpensive or even free credit monitoring services, consumers can stay on top of their personal credit status. Consumers who have been involved in a data breach, can often get free credit monitoring. “There are few things that have more impact on your personal finances than your credit status—staying on top of it needs to be a number one priority for all of us,” said Gillis.
 The research reported the findings of eight annual surveys of consumer knowledge about credit scores and reports. The most recent survey was conducted by the Engine Telephone CARAVAN survey, who on April 25-28, 2019, interviewed 1,002 representative adult Americans by landline or cell phone. The survey’s margin of error is plus or minus three percentage points.
Jack Gillis, Consumer Federation of America, 202-939-1018
Jeff Richardson, VantageScore Solutions, 203-363-2170