Canada Day: Reuters falls for math myth, moth-to-flame

In this bicentennial year, with apologies to a gracious nation of people of warm hospitality, here is the belated Canada Day update.  Try the wines of Niagara-on-the-Lake, and the mussels and ice cream found there, originating at P.E.I.

And, now, on with the show.  It’s a doozy.

On his little Reuters website, a real media baron published this quote from a Fair Isaac spokesman, “‘Credit utilization (amounts owed as a percentage of available credit) counts for 30 percent of a person’s credit score.'”

It must have been given in writing (unless the dude can inflect parentheses).

The Fair Isaac statement is false because it is mathematically impossible.  Here’s the doozy part– a mind-blower:  The credit score company’s spokesman in the Reuters item even replied, “I understand well that ‘amounts owed’ is driven by half a dozen factors not just utilization.”


Credit score expert John Ulzheimer calls this nonsense a myth.

Win column:

Losers column:

and more.

But, consider the source– not the one in the journalistic sense, but the source of the reach of the repeated rumor: Reuters.  For another eyeful, see Canada Day, 2011: Reuters on employers and credit scores.

This monkey business about the so-called “credit utilization” is all Dr. Veghead‘s fault. A Kat Malone he is not.

A message to the really wrong Reuters rumor repeating rookie writer: Let me know when you have completed Poynter’s Math for Journalists: Help With Numbers.

Average credit scores by state

Recently, Fair Isaac (FICO) asked the provocative question, “How does your #FICO Score compare to the rest of the US?”

The accompanying link leads a new homepage at the company’s consumer-oriented website,  It features an interactive map of the United States on which you can see a national average credit score (692) and averages for individual states.  The state with the highest average credit score in the country is North Dakota, at 720.

The map below shows the above average states in green, and the below average states in white.

US states with above average credit scores

The state-by-state breakdown is a departure for FICO, who has never answered the same type of illustration published years ago by national consumer reporting agency and competitor Experian.  Unfortunately the basis for the Experian map was the infamous Fake-O score, the PLUS score.  But despite that, let’s face it:  It was, frankly, full of Fake-O FICO funky fun.  Fair Isaac gets that.

Today, for its part, Experian seems to have moved on to yet another gambit: The highly-touted (media are suckers for anything new), VantageScore. (the address that previously hosted the map) now forwards to something called Live Credit Smart (click on “The State of Credit” on the left menu).  The interactive PLUS score map (similar to FICO’s) that was on the homepage at is now at (if you care).

Confused about which score is relevant?  You should be.  In 2008, FICO told that the TransUnion version sold on is FICO Risk Score, Classic 98 which is not the model mentioned in the Fannie Mae lending guidelines (section B3-5.1-01 (p. 427, pdf p. 455)).  On the other hand, the Equifax score at myFICO is, indeed, the same score mentioned by Fannie.  But, the one thing that the score used for mortgage lending or even the score is not is something called “FICO 8.”  Fair Isaac states, “When a significant number of lenders have upgraded, we will work with the credit reporting agencies to provide FICO 8 scores to consumers here on myFICO.”

Yet, FICO 8 is the score model in countless blog posts by FICO personnel as if it is significant.  They have not mentioned the shiny new map.  Yesterday’s commentary about the distribution of consumers by score doesn’t even bring it up.

It is anybody’s guess which score model is represented in the US state map.  And it used to be all about the median not the mean (“average”).  And there is a new AOR (with the typical, cliché wordplay right in the press release title).  And a new CEO, a board member.  And no coming to terms with the employers thing even as the rest of the world is enlightened (albeit with, in one case, a strange, contradictory result).  Still, some keep the myth going.

Wonks, you have got to love this.  Stay tuned.

MarketWatch, Dow Jones, News Corporation reporting on credit scores and employers

From: Greg Fisher []
Sent: Monday, March 05, 2012 6:33 PM
To: Rupert Murdoch, chairman and CEO, News Corporation (via Julie Henderson)
Cc: Melissa Rudy; Jennifer Waters, columnist, Consumer Confidential, MarketWatch, Wall Street Journal, News Corporation; David Callaway, editor-in-chief, MarketWatch, Wall Street Journal, Dow Jones, News Corporation; Lex Fenwick, CEO, Dow Jones, News Corporation (via Bethany Sherman)
Subject: RE: credit score, utilization ratio, Consumer Confidential, MarketWatch, Wall Street Journal, News Corporation, correction III, employers

You published:

Your credit score may be as important as your education and your job skills because it helps you navigate your lifestyle. It’s taken into account when you buy a house, a car or insurance, and when you seek credit for a small business. Increasingly, your score can help you land, or lose out on, a job, an apartment or utilities.

Employers do not use credit scores.

You quoted representatives from VantageScore, and Experian.  Experian states: “Experian’s Employment Insight report includes similar information about loans and credit cards that is listed in the credit report. It does not include year of birth, spouse reference, account number or credit score, which are irrelevant to hiring decisions.” claims, “One of the most prevalent credit myths is that employers use credit scores as part of their pre-employment screening processes.”

VantageScore told me that “employers use credit reports and not credit scores.”

If you still believe that your publication is accurate, then who is your organization’s source regarding credit score use by employers?  And, this time, please be specific:  What is the name of one person who said that employers use credit scores?  If the source is a document, please identify it and quote it.

What is your correction policy?

Greg Fisher
The Credit Scoring Site
PO Box 342
Dayton, Ohio  45409-0342


From: Greg Fisher []
Sent: Wednesday, June 22, 2011 10:15 AM
To: Jennifer Waters, columnist, Consumer Confidential, MarketWatch, Wall Street Journal, News Corporation
Cc: Melissa Rudy; Emily Glazer, reporter, Wall Street Journal, News Corporation; Teri Everett, senior vice president, Corporate Affairs & Communications, News Corporation
Subject: RE: credit score, utilization ratio, Consumer Confidential, MarketWatch, Wall Street Journal, News Corporation, correction II


a + b + c + d + .30 + f = .30

then the sum of… [previous email]


Forbes misinformation about credit scores (typo also)

The Dirty Secret About Your Credit Score” is a deliciously seductive title of an inaccurate article on from Investopedia (too many –pedias) which is owned by ValueClick.

The filthy secret (are you sitting down?) is this: Loan interest rates are based on credit scores.

See “variable pricing” (now known as risk-based pricing) on, circa 1998.

Before that 2010 shocker from ValueClick, in a typical introduction, the piece states, “It is a deciding factor for landlords in picking renters and some employers use credit scores to find dependable workers.”

Employers do not use credit scores because they cannot even get them (despite the story going around in Colorado the Colorado statehouse).

That rumor has a friend at Forbes (named Forbes).  Recently, Fair Isaac service namesake Suze Orman showed up and talked to a Forbes family member and did the deed.

Sloppy, sloppy, sloppy, New York.  And, there is a typographical error.  The ValueClick story says, “It determines the cost of majorpurchases[SIC] like cars and homes.”

At least they didn’t use the word even.


The Matrix: NBC, Reuters, Suze Orman, FICO and American Public Media

They did the dirty deed, spreading the big credit score urban legend.

Hardy har har.  There’s a tongue in cheek campaign to replace Suze Orman with Reuters’ tough Lauren “I demand a lot of answers” Young. But, in reality, it’s a perfect match.  That is, they both believe the same myth: that employers use credit scores.

Oh, those British and their dry wit.


CoreLogic FICO. Whoop-dee-doo.

There’s no hiding now,” warns the New York Times.

Oh, (Big) brother.  It’s another “new” score thingamajig.  Here are some other “new” ones to fear:

2000.  FICO NextGen
2003.  Experian – PLUS
2006.  VantageScore
2007.  FICO 8 (aka FICO 08)

And now, in 2011, the announcement of an exciting, bold, new CoreLogic FICO scoring solution! 


credit score, FICO availability, Associated Press

From: Greg Fisher
Sent: Friday, April 08, 2011
To: William Dean Singleton, chairman, Associated Press; William Dean Singleton (via Bernie Fischer, MediaNews Group), chairman & CEO, MediaNews Group
Cc:; Candice Choi, personal finance writer, Associated Press
Subject: credit score, FICO availability, Associated Press

See this message and your response at  

Your reporter wrote:

As background, lenders rely on two types of scores to gauge a borrower’s risk. FICO scores, which range from 300 to 850, are still the predominantly used scores. But VantageScores, which were developed by the three credit bureaus and range from 501 to 990, have gained popularity in recent years too.

The type of score you’ll get depends on where you buy it.

TransUnion sells both versions to consumers. Equifax only sells FICO scores and Experian markets the PLUS score on its homepage.

Where does TransUnion sell FICO scores?

If Equifax only sells FICO scores, then what is the Equifax Credit Score?

Greg Fisher
The Credit Scoring Site
PO Box 342
Dayton, Ohio  45409-0342

FICO credit scores: 368-839, 407-829, 397-871 & “300-850”

TransUnion:  “FICO scores range between 300 and 850.”

Equifax:  “FICO scores range between 300 and 850.”

Fair Isaac:  “FICO® Scores range between 300 and 850

“Fair Isaac argues in response that the term 300-850 is not the ‘actual scoring range for any of [Fair Isaac’s] classic FICO credit scores. The actual scoring range for the first FICO score developed for Trans Union is 397-871, for Experian is 368-839, and for Equifax is 407-829. Every version of these scores has a different range—none of which is 300-850.'”

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER, Fair Isaac v. Experian et al., July, 2009

“Second, the argument that ‘300-850’ is suggestive rather than descriptive because the actual scoring range for some Fair Isaac products goes beyond 300-850 is equally unpersuasive.”

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER, Fair Isaac v. Experian et al., May, 2010

ScoreInfo website launched by Fair Isaac

Fair Isaac introduced another website today:  ScoreInfo.  In a press release, Jordan Graham, president of FICO Consumer Services said, “FICO launched to help consumers better understand their disclosure notices and how to use that new knowledge to their benefit.”

On January 1, 2011, federal Fair Credit Reporting Act risk-based pricing notice rules went into effect.  The Federal Trade Commission and the Federal Reserve Board issued joint press releases, but there is no link to the Fed’s version here because its chairman, Ben Bernanke, has still not responded to the question about its statement about employers using credit scores.

The website joins Fair Isaac’s other websites and myFICO.

Canada – Pointage de crédit junk journalism from ValueClick

In an item on the Globe and Mail website, an Investopedia article contends, “Credit scores range from 300 to 850.”  However, in Canada the “pointages FICO vont de 300 à 900.”

In the U.S., the FICO credit score scale is 300 to 850.

Investopedia (who is actually based in Canada), a division of ValueClick, provides junk journalism articles to Hearst and Forbes, too.  Martin T. Hart is the chairman of ValueClick according to Forbes.  Whether you choose to believe Forbes about that is entirely up to you.