Data Facts Blog


Data Facts Answers Question About Authorized User Accounts

Question:  “In the past, our mortgage company has encouraged borrowers who have either little credit or are rebuilding their credit to become an authorized user on the account of a spouse, parent, or sibling. Recently, however, we have heard that authorized user accounts are no longer factored into a person’s credit score, and will not help increase a credit score. What is true?  Help!”

Data Facts answers: The designers of the credit scoring formula model (FICO) meant for authorized user accounts to be utilized for a person with good credit and a long credit history to be able to assist their children, spouses, or siblings with their credit history. When an account holder adds another person to their account as an authorized user, that person gets all the benefit of the good payment history. In lots of cases, this dramatically increases a person’s credit score.

Sneaky people began to exploit this practice. Websites popped up selling “piggybacking”. A person with less than stellar credit history could be added to a complete stranger’s credit, and artificially boost his score.  These websites charged thousands of dollars, and paid people with good credit to add dozens of stranger’s names to their credit accounts!

In an attempt to eliminate this practice, the credit score model builders for Fair Isaac originally decided that their new scoring model- FICO 08- would NOT consider authorized user accounts in the formulation of the credit score.

 After further research, however, they reversed this decision. Eliminating authorized user accounts would wipe out millions of consumers’ credit scores who utilize the authorized user status legitimately (they are authorized users on their parents’, spouse’s, children’s, or siblings’ accounts). The model builders decided to allow the authorized user status to still be figured into the credit scores. (Keep in mind the model builders have added additional- although undisclosed- measures that will close the piggybacking loophole).

Allowing authorized users accounts to be figured into the credit score is great news to millions of consumers who maintain that status legitimately. However, if you are an authorized user, try to follow these tidbits of advice:

 – Make sure the main account holder has a good credit history. An authorized user does not need to be on accounts that have just been opened, or accounts with late payments or high balances. The goal is to use the account to boost a credit score. A credit line that is new, paid late, or almost run to the limit will most likely result in the score dropping.

–  Open at least some accounts in your name. While an authorized user designation does figure into the credit score, some lenders remove those accounts from consideration during lending decisions. Consumers should realize it’s risky to rely on authorized user accounts for their entire credit history. It is recommended that consumers be a main or joint borrower on at least a couple of credit lines.

–  Be sure you trust the main account holder. If the main account holder begins paying late or runs up the balance, your credit will be affected (remember, however, an authorized user will not be responsible for the debt).  Make certain the account holder is someone you trust to make good financial decisions before becoming an authorized user on their account.

When employed correctly, the authorized user designation continues to be a helpful tool which consumers can utilize as a boost to their credit history. It is not a long-term solution, and should be used as only one small portion of the credit building plan.

~~Susan McCullah is the Product Development Director for Data Facts, a 23 year old Memphis-based company.  Data Facts provides mortgage product and banking solutions to lenders nationwide. Check our our website for a complete explanation of our services.

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Credit Score Success from Scratch; a Simple Recipe

A high credit score is like a homemade meal; it takes time, patience, and cannot be whipped up instantly.  Let’s look at the recipe to build a great credit score from scratch:

First, you need to have the ingredient of credit. People who don’t have any credit are not showing the credit scoring model their financial management skills.  A credit card, home loan, or car note is a main ingredient in the credit score recipe.  Remember: you are not required to carry a credit card balance. Using a credit card will help build your credit even if you pay it in full every month.

Second, make sure you pay a lot of attention. Pay those credit obligations on time, because timely payment is the single most important aspect of building a good credit score.  You can gain lots of points by having a good history of on time payment, and, conversely, you can spoil your credit score with just a few missed or late payment patterns.

Third, keep those credit card balances low. Credit card balances are like salt, less is more.  The credit scoring model looks at your credit card balance in relation to your credit limit (this is called a credit utilization ratio). The lower the ratio, the more positively it affects your credit score. Make sure to never charge over 30% of your total credit limit, because you don’t want to get penalized.

Fourth, keep those old credit cards open and use them every now and then. You will get points for a long, lengthy credit history.

Fifth, don’t add too many ingredients all at once. If you don’t have any credit and are just starting out, don’t open too many credit cards too fast. One line of credit every year or so will work out great.

Sixth, remember to have more than one ingredient, if possible. The scoring model likes to see that a person can manage a mix of credit. Having installment loans (mortgage or car) and revolving loans (credit cards) will give a boost to your score.

Seventh, keep an eye on it. Check your credit report at least once a year and examine it carefully.  Make sure there aren’t any errors (such as creditors that you don’t recognize, late payments or collections reporting incorrectly, etc). This happens all the time, and the sooner you catch it, the better off you will be. Dispute any incorrect information to get it removed.

Attaining a great credit score takes a little time, self discipline, and attention. However, putting in the effort will assure that you can get the best deals on mortgage, auto, and credit card rates. Following the recipe we just laid out is a great start to help you cook up a great credit score!

~~Susan McCullah is the Product Development Director for Data Facts, a 23 year old Memphis-based company.  Data Facts provides mortgage product and banking solutions to lenders nationwide. Check our our website for a complete explanation of our services.

From Data Facts: A Quick Check of Your Compliance Standards

Red tape, bureaucracy, paperwork!  Whatever you want to call them, compliance rules and regulations can be time consuming and confusing.

However, complying is very important, and should be a top priority. The penalties for non-compliance are just too stiff to ignore.  Here are a few tips to help make sure you (as a mortgage lender) are in compliance with federal and state regulations. *

Befriend the FCRA:

The Federal Fair Credit Reporting Act regulates the operation of consumer reporting agencies, and also affects you as a user of information. It regulates how a consumer’s information may be used, and restricts who has access to this sensitive information.   In order to be in compliance, one needs to have a thorough understanding of the FCRA.

Store your paperwork:

The Federal Equal Opportunities Act states that a creditor must preserve all written or recorded information connected with an application for 60 months. In keeping with the ECOA, Data Facts, Inc. requires that you retain the credit application and, if applicable, a purchase agreement for a period of not less than 60 months.

 Properly dispose of sensitive information:

As part of the Fair Credit Transaction Act of 2003, if a consumer report is being used for a business purpose, it is subject to the Disposal Rule.   This rule calls for the proper disposal of information in consumer reports and records to protect against “unauthorized access to or use of the information.”

Guard your emails:

Email hacking is becoming more and more prevalent. Periodically review how your organization is using email to exchange information. Make sure sensitive information that is being sent via email is protected by using Winzip password protection, and by never sending social security numbers in the body of the email.

Have a plan for a breach: 

If you have not already done so, establish processes and procedures (in a written plan) for responding to and containing security violations, unusual or suspicious events and similar incidents. The goal should be to limit damage or unauthorized access to information assets and to permit identification and prosecution of violators.

 Know your state laws.

Certain states have passed restrictions in addition to the FCRA. Make sure to be familiar with any additional laws in your state, and follow these rules carefully to maintain full FCRA compliance.

 Maintaining compliant procedures and processes is an integral part of doing business in the mortgage industry.  By taking the time to become comfortable with the laws and regulations, you will be better able to protect yourself and your business from lawsuits, fines, and penalties.

*(This is not intended to provide legal advice. You should consult your own company’s Human Resource and Legal departments and/or obtain legal advice).

~~Susan McCullah is the Product Development Director for Data Facts, a 23 year old Memphis-based company.  Data Facts provides mortgage product and banking solutions to lenders nationwide. Check our our website for a complete explanation of our services.

April is Financial Literacy Month: Numbers and Websites You Should Know

In the spirit of Financial Literacy Month, Data Facts has compiled a list of very important numbers and websites for consumers.

Ta-Da!

To obtain a credit report:

www.annualcreditreport.com This site allows you to request a free credit report from all 3 bureaus once every 12 months. Call 1-877-322-8228 to order the report by phone.

To get on the Do Not Call List:

 Call 888-382-1222 from the phone you wish to register, or go to www.donotcall.gov . Due to the Do Not Call Improvement Act of 2007, phones that are registered will remain on the list permanently (previously it expired after 5 years).

To opt out of mail solicitation and pre-screened offers:

 Call 1–888–567–8688  or visit  www.optoutprescreen.com . You are able to opt out electronically for 5 years. To opt out permanently, you will need to print out the form and mail it in.

To contact the Credit Bureaus:

Equifax: Call 800-685-1111 or visit them online at www.equifax.com
Experian: Call 888-397-3742 or www.experian.com 
Transunion: You can reach them at 800-888-4213 or www.transunion.com  

To create a letter disputing errors on your credit report:

Under the FCRA, both the credit reporting company and the information provider  are responsible for correcting inaccurate or incomplete information in your report. To take advantage of all your rights under this law, contact the credit reporting company and the information provider. Visit http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/credit/cre21.shtm for a sample dispute letter.

Other important numbers to have on hand:

  • Your insurance agent
  • Your health insurer
  • Your bank’s main AND local branch
  • Your brokerage house
  • All of your credit card issuers

Utilize these websites and numbers to make sure you welcome the month of May prepared and in top financial condition!

~~Susan McCullah is the Product Development Director for Data Facts, a 23 year old Memphis-based company.  Data Facts provides mortgage product and banking solutions to lenders nationwide. Check our our website for a complete explanation of our services.

FHA Changes Their Stance On Collection Accounts…..for now

FHA had decided to implement a new rule that would not provide home loans to applicants with collections of over $1000, unless those balances were paid off before closing.  

The rule (Mortgagee Letter 2012-3) was announced by the agency in March and set to take effect on April 1.  Affecting all potential home buyers who were showing an unpaid collection on their credit reports, this new stance was expected by housing analysts to have a negative impact on the housing market.  

FHA was going to require buyers to pay off collections of over $1000 before a mortgage loan would be extended.  The FHA attributed the change in policy to their ongoing effort of building a stronger portfolio.

The worry from mortgage experts was that this would be especially detrimental to young, first-time homebuyers.  These borrowers most likely would not go through the tedious process of paying off old collection accounts, due to the expense and the frustrating difficulty in dealing with creditors.

According to an article on Builderonline.com   “JPMorgan Chase analysts estimated the rule would cut demand for FHA loans by 10% to 20% in the next few months.”

The ruling has now been postponed to not take effect until July 1. This will give FHA time to seek additional input on this section and work to clarify guidance, as appropriate.

~~Susan McCullah is the Product Development Director for Data Facts, a 23 year old Memphis-based company that provides mortgage product and banking solutions to lenders nationwide. Check our our website for a complete explanation of our services.

Credit Scores: Small Mistakes that Spell Big Trouble

Most people are aware of the big actions that can cause your credit score to take a tumble: filing bankruptcy, having an account sent to collections,or being foreclosed upon. However, these are not the only actions that can decrease your credit score. Here are some other mistakes a consumer can make with their credit. While not ‘major offenders’, these 5 missteps can still prohibit you from joining the credit elite.

Maxing out your credit card.

 The balance to limit ratio is almost as important as paying your bills on time, accounting for 30% of your credit score.  A good rule of thumb is to never charge over 30% of your credit limit. This means if you have a total of $10,000 as the limit on your credit cards, you should never have a balance greater than $3,000.

Consumers who think they are managing their finances wisely by only having one credit card, but are using over 30% of the limit are actually HURTING their credit score.

 Missing a payment

 Just one 30 day late payment can drop your credit score significantly. Payment history is the single most important factor in the calculation of your credit score, at 35%.

A consumer who has no late payments on their credit history is gaining lots of points for their positive usage! One late pay can change all that. It is possible for a good credit score to drop 80 points with just one 30 day late.

Whether you sign up for automatic payments through your bank, get an app that reminds you, or write the date your bills are due on your calendar, pay those bills on time!

 Not checking your credit report.

It is estimated that over a third of credit reports contain some sort of error. These bits of erroneous information can be accounts showing late that were actually not late, collections that should have never gone into collections, or accounts that are not even yours! 

By not checking your credit report, these errors linger on your credit history and can cause your score to take a dive. Be sure you are checking your credit report at least once a year.  Review all accounts, balances, and payment history.  Make certain to follow up on any information that looks erroneous, and get it removed from your report by filing a dispute.

 Co-signing a loan.

 Sure, you want to be a good friend, neighbor, cousin, brother, etc. and help obtain a line of credit your loved one cannot qualify for on their own.   However, becoming a co-signer on a loan for someone else is really asking for trouble.  If the borrower does not pay on time or at all, you are responsible for the loan.

The loan will also show up on your credit report and be factored into your credit score. If the borrower is paying late, all those late pays will show up on your credit report, affecting your credit score in a very negative fashion. And once that happens, there is nothing you can do about it.

The scariest part of all is that this can happen without your knowledge. Co-signers rarely receive a copy of the bill, so they would not be made aware of the issue until the account was in a default status.

The best advice on this one is: Just say NO!

 Closing an old credit card

 15% of a person’s credit score is their length of credit history.  Credit cards are factored in by the age of the oldest account, and the average age of all the accounts.

Look at this example. Say you have 4 credit cards. The oldest is one you opened in college, 22 years ago. The others you have had 15 years, 9 years, and one you just opened 2 years ago.  Currently, the oldest account is 22 years old, and the average age of the accounts is 12 years.  If you close the oldest account, that changes the oldest account to 15 years, and the average age of the accounts decreases to 8 years. This change in credit history can cause a decrease in your credit score.

The best idea would be to keep the old credit card, and use it a few times a year to make sure it is positively factored into your credit score.

 It’s obvious to guard against bankruptcy, foreclosures, and collections.  Also make it a top priority to put measures in place to make sure you don’t make any of these small credit mistakes either.  Your credit score will thank you for it!

~~Susan McCullah is the Product Development Director for Data Facts, a 23 year old Memphis-based company that provides mortgage product and banking solutions to lenders nationwide. Check our our website for a complete explanation of our services.

Things You Need To Know About Harp 2.0

Millions of homeowners are underwater on their mortgages, owing more than their homes are worth. This year HARP (Home Affordable Refinance Program) has been re-vamped to allow more homeowners to refinance their mortgages.

This is great news, as Corelogic estimates that 11 million homeowners are underwater and could benefit from assistance. The new changes to HARP will allow the homeowner to refinance regardless of how much their home has dropped in value.

There are some guidelines in order to refinance under HARP. In order to be eligible:

–  The mortgage must be owned by Fannie or Freddie (and originated before June 1, 2009)

–   The mortgage must have been paid on time for the last 6 months, and have no more than 1 30 day late in the last 12 months

–   The current loan-to-value ratio must be over 80%

–   Previous participants in HARP are not eligible

This is GREAT news for homeowners who have kept up with their payments!  These homeowners can move forward in the program right away. Remember, this program is available through December  2013.  Even if a homeowner currently has some recent late payments, if they can get and stay current, they can eventually take advantage of HARP to refinance their home.

Fees have been reduced for HARP loans, and in most cases, an appraisal is not needed.  Lenders can utilize  Automated Valuation Models (AVM’s) to instantly determine the home’s value.

Lenders must then show that the homeowner reaps at least one of these benefits by participating in HARP:

–   The new loan reduces the size of the monthly payment

–   By refinancing, the loan is changed to a more stable loan product

–   The new loan reduces the interest rate

–   The refinance moves the loan to a shorter term

These new changes are expected to help millions of homeowners refinance to a more manageable, stable loan, and allow them to stay in their homes and avoid foreclosure.

 

~~Susan McCullah is the Product Development Director for Data Facts, a 22 year old Memphis-based company that provides mortgage product and banking solutions to lenders nationwide. Check our our website for a complete explanation of our services.

Identity Theft: The Newest Open Door to Thieves

ID theft continues to be a rampant and expensive crime in the U.S.  Purse-snatching, dumpster diving, and mail stealing are all ways that criminals steal your identity. These thieves can then use your credit cards, social security number, and other personal information to rack up charges, open new accounts, and even apply for jobs!

Identity theft and ways to combat it have been topics of many tv and printed articles. You have probably viewed or read some of these tips and even implemented a few of them into your habits. So you are protected, right?

Uh, probably not.

Unfortunately, these crooks are very creative, and constantly scheming up new ways to steal pieces of information about your identity. So, while you may have a locking mailbox, a shredder you use faithfully, and guard your social security number as closely as you would your little sister, you could be overlooking one thing: your cell phone.

In today’s “smart phone world” a person can manage their entire lives. Paying bills, banking, stock trading, and online shopping can all be conducted over your nifty little phone. This makes your phone a goldmine to identity thieves.

Ways the thieves can steal it:

 They steal your phone. Cell phones are evolving constantly, and the amount of storage available on them is growing by leaps and bounds. By stealing your phone, criminals can access your credit card numbers, banking applications, and email accounts. This can supply them with a plethora of information that they can use to steal your identity.

They tap into your Bluetooth connection: Thieves can access your Bluetooth connection, and connect their device with yours, pilfering pieces of information that are not secure on your cell phone.

They can eavesdrop on you. A crook with access to your phone can download software that allows them to listen to your phone conversations. From there, they can extract any information you talk about on your cell phone, and use this to gain access to your accounts, credit cards, etc.

They buy it from you: There are unscrupulous people cruising the internet for used cell phones on sites like Craigslist and Ebay. Their goal is to buy a cell phone that has not been completely cleared of important, sensitive information that they can use to steal your identity.

When it comes to Identity Theft, ignorance is definitely NOT bliss.  Being aware of these sneaky ways to steal your identity can put you in a better position to protect yourself. Here are some ways to make sure you are not vulnerable.

1: Lock down your cell phone with a strong password. Utilizing a number/letter password is the first step toward securing your phone from intruders. Make sure the password is not easily guessable, and set your phone to auto lock.

2: Don’t auto-save your banking passwords. Any applications that deal with sensitive information need to also have a strong password, and take the few extra seconds to type it in every time you access the app.

3: Always turn your Bluetooth off if you are not using it. This can greatly minimize an identity thieves’ ability to hack your phone.

4: Don’t leave it laying around. Keep your cell phone with you when you are out and about, and out of sight at work. This will guard against a person being able to download software that can tap into your conversations and emails.

5. Erase it before selling. When it’s time to get rid of your old phone, make certain all sensitive information is completely removed from the device.

Identity theft is largely a crime of opportunity. By decreasing your cell phone’s exposure to criminals’ access, you can effectively guard against becoming another statistic.

 

~~Susan McCullah is the Product Development Director for Data Facts, a 22 year old Memphis-based company that provides mortgage product and banking solutions to lenders nationwide. Check our our website for a complete explanation of our services.

The Truth About Closing Credit Cards

If you have read anything about how to get and keep a high credit score, you have probably seen this advice: never close your credit cards. This advice is true and good. Sort of.

The 2 parts of valid reasoning behind the idea of not closing any credit cards are:

1: Closing a credit card will decrease your debt utilization ratio. A whopping 30% of your credit score is calculated from your Amounts Owed. Your debt utilization ratio (your total revolving debt divided by your total credit limit) needs to be as low as possible in order to reap the maximum credit score. Closing a credit card takes away some of your total credit limit, which can raise this ratio, and lower your credit score.

2. Closing a credit card will impact your length of credit history. It’s a fact that the credit scoring model looks at how long a person has had credit established; the longer, the better. Closing a credit card you have had for many years may cause your length of credit history to decrease, which can result in a lower score.

So, there are valid reasons to not close your credit cards.

ADVICE: Never close a card that has a balance, your only credit card, or your oldest credit card!

But what if you have a ton of cards, are aiming to streamline your finances, and want to close some of them? Which ones can you close that will have minimal impact to your credit score?

If you have made the decision to close some of your credit cards, choose these (in this order):

Your newest card. The last credit card opened needs to be the first one to go. This card is not helping you very much with your length of credit history, so closing it should not have much impact on your credit score.

Your card with a zero balance. If you never use a particular piece of plastic, it is probably not figured into your credit score (credit lines must be used at least every 6 months in order to be factored into your credit score). Closing a card you never, ever use should have no impact on your credit score.

Your card with the worst terms. Big annual fees, high interest rates, and no perks give you no incentive to keep a card active.

You card with the lowest limit. A low limit credit card is probably having little effect on your debt utilization ratio. Closing low limit plastic can help limit your number of cards without great danger of credit score damage.

Closing credit cards doesn’t have to kill your credit score, just make sure you are choosing wisely.

Other points to remember are:

Always look at your debt utilization ratio before closing a credit card. If your ratio is going to be over 30%, don’t do it.

Always keep at least one credit card open and active, and pay the bill on time. This will give you points for managing credit wisely.

Always keep your oldest credit card open and active.

Take these tips to heart to ensure that whittling down your lines of credit has minimal impact on your credit score.

~~Susan McCullah is the Product Development Director for Data Facts, a 22 year old Memphis-based company that provides mortgage product and banking solutions to lenders nationwide

Mortgage Triggering; Who is calling my customers?

Mortgage triggering is a frustrating, pull-your-hair out phenomenon that rears its ugly head frequently during a refinance boom. If you are a mortgage lender and haven’t experienced it yet, lucky you.

Mortgage triggering is the process that some lenders use to gain customers.

Basically, lenders purchase these ‘trigger leads’ from the bureaus or other companies. The leads are consumers who have recently had their credit pulled in order to qualify to buy a home. Once purchased, the lenders call these consumers, (who could be YOUR customers) and extend them a firm offer of credit.
This process is covered by the FCRA as a legal practice. (FCRA, 15 U.S.C 1681). The wording of the language is: ‘to obtain a consumer’s private information an institution must have consent OR present a firm offer of credit in their solicitation’. So, when lenders buy these leads, they must call, email, or mail a firm offer of credit to the consumer.
The argument for triggering is that is gives consumers a choice. Triggering offers consumers more than one option for a mortgage loan.
The argument against triggering is that unscrupulous loan officers may make ‘too good to be true’ statements, or run a bait and switch scheme using the consumers’ information.
Through the years, Data Facts has answered this question many times. Customers are confused and frustrated by the sometimes multiple phone calls they receive from competing lenders. They feel their private information has been sold. And it has.

How customers are triggered: lenders set up their criteria based on the credit score, LTV ratio of the loan, and even the geographic area of consumers they wish to target. Once set up, the consumers that fit these criteria are monitored by the triggering company. When a consumer that is on this list has their credit pulled for a mortgage loan, this triggers in the system. The lender then receives this information, and calls the consumer with an offer.
How to guard against it:
1: Educate your customers. Warn them that they may receive calls with competing offers, and they may be ‘too good to be true.’ Simply knowing to expect the calls from other lenders will decrease the frustration most consumers feel about this practice.
2. Tell your customer to opt out. If a consumer opts out of prescreened offers, this will stop the trigger leads. They can opt out at http://www.optoutprescreen.com. The catch; this process takes 5 days to take effect, so if their credit has already been pulled, this will not block the offers immediately.
3. Advise your customer to get on the do not call list. All trigger leads are supposed to be scrubbed against the do not call list. Consumers can add their name to the list by calling 1-888-382-1222 from the phone they wish to register, or register their number at http://www.donotcall.gov. Again, this takes a few days to take effect.

There is no sure fire way to protect your customers from receiving these trigger calls. However, if you arm them with the pertinent information, you can minimize the possibility of losing a customer to your competitors.

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