Credit score inquiries, ”less than five points” Wall Street Journal takes fewer words to describe effect of inquiries than even FICO score company Fair Isaac

TO: Annamaria Andriotis
CC: Jennifer Openshaw, Maria Lamagna, Brian Kelly, Elisabeth Hershman, Fair Isaac, Elizabeth Warren, Oscar Suris
FROM: Greg Fisher
DATE: Wed, Sep 21, 2016 at 2:22 PM
SUBJECT: false information, Murdoch, Wall Street Journal, credit score, inquiries, 1,497 #1609aa

I am with the media, I am on a deadline, and I am writing about you, Follower. See this message and your response on the Credit Score Blog.

I know what I don’t know about credit scoring. You wrote, “One credit inquiry will remove less than five points off people’s FICO scores, according to FICO.”

So, you expressed the situation with inquiries in only 13 words. When and where did Fair Isaac (“FICO”) say that, and what is the name of the person who said it?

On different pages, the organization published these sentences

For most people, one additional credit inquiry will take less than five points off their FICO Scores. (17 words)

In general, inquiries have a small impact; typically, a single inquiry can lower a FICO Score by less than five points. (21 words)

For others, one additional inquiry would take less than 5 points off their FICO score. (15 words)

I daresay your explanation is oversimplified. The idea appears to be a talking point– the party line. The same statement, word-for-word, of one above: “For most people, one additional credit inquiry will take less than five points off their FICO Scores.”

Is it possible for an inquiry to lower a FICO score 5 points or more? Perhaps Fair Isaac (who is copied on this message) will provide more information about its secret. The greatest credit scoring expert in the world still works there. If he doesn’t have the answer, nobody does.

Another inquiry enquiry

One guy (he, literally, calls himself the Points Guy) has said “two to five points” so many times that he actually believes himself. Brian Kelly was the subject on another Dow Jones/News Corporation website a couple of days ago. Your colleague writes, “Kelly says that if you’re not getting more value than the annual fee, but you don’t want to cancel the card and lose the years of experience you have with it, which can negatively impact your credit score, you can see if there’s a no-fee card you can switch to with the same issuer.”

HOKEY SMOKE! See Credit Score Myth 8.

And while that guy has a lot of plastic, you need to pay attention to another corker: “The Man with 1,497 Credit Cards”! Try to get me an answer. The poor dude can’t comment on the viral story about him– because he is not even alive! I looked into it. I checked public records in California. #1601T

The Real BIG Credit Score has dozens of factors

Your item also states, “FICO scores are comprised of five factors.”

That is not true. Your statement is Credit Score Myth 5. Who told you that? #myth5

And, nobody is getting a mortgage loan with a credit score of 850. Who is your source?

By the way, isn’t the title of that one, “How to Perfect Your Credit Score,” pushing it a little? Who wrote that headline? #TheHed

Also, tell your supervisor to send a message up your chain of command that I want my comments to a 2008 article restored. I do not participate in such discussions for my health and I am not putting up with Rupert Murdoch’s silly nonsense. Furthermore, the article that was attached to my comments is false. Employers do not use credit scores. I looked into it.

There are three comments on your story’s page. Are you going to delete them, too?

I could go on and I think I will. Another article is still false. In its source code is this

meta name=”article.summary” content=”Many employers are checking job candidates’ credit scores, but how big of a factor are credit scores in a company’s eventual decision to hire?”

By now, 8 years after I documented one very bizarre phenomenon, people giggle when they see that error. That it continues (on new and old documents) is truly pathetic. I’m having a big party for the 10th anniversary in April, 2018.

What is your supervisor’s name? I want it to make sure that my messages are getting through to the top person of your organization.

Now, let’s not leave the guest of honor out of the conversation. Wells Fargo states, definitively, that a credit score is also known as a “credit rating.”

That is debatable, but here’s the fun part: John Stumpf, the top person of Wells Fargo also states, “Employers often check the credit rating of prospective employees.” #myth2

Hashtag: Myth 2.

FUN FACT: Did you know that Wells Fargo has bank charter No. 1?

Veracity check

Finally, here is today’s truth test of your organization. In an opinion item titled “Democrats’ Zika Obstruction” dated July, the Wall Street Journal states, “Majority Leader Harry Reid recently claimed the bill ‘exempts pesticide spraying from the Clean Water Act.'”

That is false. U.S. Senator Reid is the minority leader, not the majority leader (largely due to his party not being in the majority).

Tell your supervisor about that error of the history of my country written by an unnamed person. I will not stand for it. I demand that your organization correct that error today.

I trust you, Ms. Andriotis, but your company is in no position to decide when this pathetic story of truth and falsity ends. Rupert Murdoch, the top person of your organization, is incompetent, foolish, irresponsible and does not know his place.

What is your correction policy?

Greg Fisher
Truth and Falsity
The Credit Scoring Site
PO Box 342
Dayton, Ohio 45409-0342
mobile/text 937-681-3224


Earlier this month, credit score company Fair Isaac promoted a social media message by a woman in Greece who claims, inaccurately, that employers use credit scores.

Employers do not use credit scores.

In her story, which is dated 2010, the writer states, inaccurately:

One area which may be controversial for a fico score to be considered is when they are used by potential employers. Some positions are dependent on a good score, and not measuring up could end up costing you the job you want. Again they are used to assess your reliability and can indicate how responsible you are.

In 2010 news agency Reuters furthered the employers-use-credit-scores myth when it interviewed the Fair Isaac CEO and reported, “FICO officially frowns on the fact that employers, landlords, and the like obtain access to individuals’ credit scores and use those scores as a proxy for that person’s general moral upstandingness.”

Prior to that article, regarding its information about credit scores and employment, Fair Isaac responded to that it used “anecdotal information gleaned from public sources such as published articles.”

Reuters has not made a correction.

Not almost 30 percent

“Keeping revolving credit low can have a positive impact on an individual’s credit score, since this accounts for almost 30 percent of a typical score.”  – A Fair Isaac press release, December, 2012

Let’s say we have 100 loaves of bread. There are two categories: Baked, and not yet baked (still dough).

There are 30 loaves in the baked category, and there are 6 types of loaves within that 30:

1   white
1   wheat
1   sourdough
1   French
25  rye
1   multigrain

If we add the 70 loaves that are not yet baked, the total is 100.

1   white
1   wheat
1   sourdough
1   French
25  rye
1   multigrain
70  not yet baked

Is it honest to say that almost 30 percent of the loaves are rye?

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.


Credit score expert deems inquiries 5 points issue Myth #1

A credit score expert declares that an idea about credit report inquiries is the number one credit score myth.

The Myth

Tom Quinn, who recently departed from Fair Isaac (who wants to be known as FICO), writes that “Myth #1” pertains to the inquiries made to a consumer (credit) report. The top myth, he claims, is that every inquiry for credit costs 5 points in the score system.

To give the myth mongers some credit, the notion has some foundation, since the scoring company uses the number 5 in its brief official statement. However, the fatal flaw is the incomplete explanation in the paragraph mentioning “5 points.” It says that one additional credit inquiry made for the purpose of applying for credit may have no effect, at all, on a person’s score. Then it says that, for others, one additional inquiry would drop the FICO score less than 5 points (indeed, 4 points or less, in other words).

Words matter

But, that is where this consumer appeasement exercise by (oh, alright, FICO) FICO falls apart. It fails the logic test because it means that for others, still, an additional inquiry may cost 5, or even 6 points. And, in turn, for others beyond that, logically, it could mean that the algorithm drops the score 100 points, or even 400 points. Who knows?

That is probably not the case, but mathematically–based on the word problem–possible. If The Wizard had said, “For all others,” instead of just “For others,” you could make the (4-point, at least) assumption.  It is akin to a trick question.

Here is the ultimate inquiry query in this inquiry:  What is the maximum number of points that an inquiry can cost in the Fico credit score?

As unsatisfying as it is, Quinn’s brief and frank statement answers it: “There is no fixed set number of points that an inquiry will cost.”

Life lessons

While opinions vary on which myth is really #1, the one about 5-points-for-an-inquiry is complicated, and soundbite explanations just don’t cut it. When even The Wizard itself uses the phrase “typically only accounts for five points” (key weasel word: typically) it’s enough to pull your hair out.  Quinn’s explanation says that there is no certain number of deducted points associated with an inquiry, and that, generally, “inquiries have a relatively minor contribution” to the score.  Of course, that is not much to hold onto, either. But, perhaps, that lesson of his elegant brevity (the antithesis of this post) is inherent and based in wisdom and real experience from within the system: saying less is more.  Pundits and journalists love to publish numbers, so if you are in an interview and say “5 points,” you had better be sure that the writers get the nuanced part of the the figure, too. The results of the failure to do so can be disasterous.

Fortunately, we have this great, big (almost) world-wide, collective intertwined web thing that we can use to explain things to each other (and make corrections), Kumbayah.

Or not.

The Expert

So, what evidence does Quinn give to back up what he is saying about inquiries? None, but the guy has expertise few can claim: The score company ex-vice president is fresh from Capitol Hill, having testified on behalf of his former employer as late as last year. He joins another former insider, John Ulzheimer, as a credible expert (as opposed to authors blowhards and anybody with a website) making cogent public statements about FICO credit scores.  It ain’t much, verified, or proven publicly–and we can take it on faith or play the cynic–but it’s the best we’ve got.

On the other hand, even Quinn’s platform with the perfect, enviable name,, gets it wrong about credit scores elsewhere on the same website.

Meh.  Whatever.  Myths are everywhere.