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          A woman looks out her window a city with numbers flashing through the sky.[11]Business
       
          How Credit Scores Can Run—and Ruin—Our Lives
          ============================================
       
          You can have a great credit history and still see your score plummet.
          How did the rating system become so powerful?
       
          [47]May 24, 2022May 25, 2022 - by [48]Emily Baron Cadloff[48]Emily
          Baron Cadloff
          Illustration by [49]Jeannie Phan, Updated 13:28, May. 25, 2022 |
          Published 14:57, May. 24, 2022
       
          Listen to an audio version of this story
       
          For more audio from The Walrus, subscribe to AMI-audio podcasts on
          [50]iTunes.
       
          Angela Monaghan was perched on a lawn chair when she learned that she
          was dead.
       
          A fifty-six-year-old high school teacher from the township of Tiny,
          Ontario, Monaghan had gone to her nearby Canadian Tire to apply for a
          store credit card. As a board member for a local music association,
          she had been tasked with buying sheet music. Because it’s a small
          organization, it was easiest for Monaghan to put the card in her name,
          make the purchase, and pay it off quickly.
       
          But her application was turned down. When she asked why, the sales
          associate told her she would need to call Canadian Tire Financial
          Services. So Monaghan took a seat on the nearby patio set and dialled.
          The financial services rep explained that TransUnion, one of Canada’s
          two main credit bureaus, had reported her as deceased. Because of
          this, her credit report had been wiped clean, her score reset to zero.
          Canadian Tire couldn’t issue a credit card to someone with no credit
          rating. Given that she was, in fact, alive, Monaghan pressed the
          issue. The worker on the other end of the line held firm. “They said I
          needed to take this up with TransUnion,” Monaghan says. “That’s when
          the nightmare began.”
       
          It was the summer of 2019, and her husband, Dave, had died two years
          earlier after a long battle with cancer. Somehow, TransUnion had mixed
          up husband and wife, marking Monaghan as dead. Luckily, she is nothing
          if not meticulous. She had kept careful records of everything that
          could establish her existence—purchases, appointments, calls. She set
          to work fixing the mistake. How hard could it be? she thought.
       
          It took two years for her old credit score to be reestablished. Two
          years of faxing in detailed documents—including Dave’s death
          certificate—only for the mistake to reappear. During that period, her
          life was effectively stalled. She considered moving, as it was painful
          to stay in the house she had shared with her late husband, but having
          a credit score stuck at zero meant she couldn’t get a new mortgage.
          She opted to do some renovations instead, but her nonexistent credit
          score scared off builders. Luckily, she found a contractor with whom
          she had a mutual friend, someone who vouched for her character. To
          make matters worse, Monaghan was recovering from a traumatic head
          injury at the time; she’s still on leave from her job. She thought
          about making the two-hour drive from her home to TransUnion’s offices
          in Burlington, but she wasn’t physically able to.
       
          While her story sounds extreme, it’s far from an aberration. Errors
          have been a long-standing issue with credit bureaus in North America.
          One recent survey from Consumer Reports found that more than one-third
          of credit reports in the United States contained false information. In
          2021, the Ontario Consumer Protection Agency received the equivalent
          of a call nearly every week related to credit report errors. And those
          statistics don’t represent the total number of errors—just the ones
          caught and reported. The most common mistakes involve incorrect names,
          addresses, or phone numbers. Bills that are paid on time can show up
          as late. Closed accounts can show up as open, or accounts can be
          duplicated, or credit limits can be wrong. Not only does the
          complexity of credit scoring formulae make them prone to errors, the
          automated nature of these scores can make inaccuracies harder to
          rectify—even after repeated efforts by a consumer.
       
          And these mistakes matter—even the most minor can cause havoc. A
          credit score represents your credit risk, or the likelihood you will
          pay your bills on time. Canada and the United States use a similar
          rating system, issuing a three-digit number. In Canada, that number
          typically ranges between 300 and 900. This score is like your
          financial first impression. A poor first impression doesn’t just
          jeopardize your ability to borrow money or make purchases; it can also
          limit where you can live and what kinds of job you can get: credit
          checks on prospective tenants and employees are increasingly the norm.
       
          In response, an entire secondary industry has popped up to help people
          repair their credit scores, offering tips and promises of quickly
          raising rankings by up to 100 points. Its existence preys upon a
          visceral feeling consumers have: that our credit scores vouch not just
          for our finances but for our characters. Are we reliable? Do we keep
          our promises? They are a mark of how much faith the system has in us.
       
          This anxiety has shot up during the COVID-19 pandemic, when finances
          have been especially tight. In fall 2021, a survey from credit bureau
          Equifax showed that Canadians were checking their credit reports at
          rates far higher than in prior years. That same survey also found that
          a significant number struggled to understand those reports, especially
          when it came to spotting mistakes.
       
          That finding highlights a frustrating aspect of credit scores: while
          they are linked to nearly every facet of our lives, their inner
          workings are, for many, steeped in mystery. Despite not grasping
          precisely how credit bureaus operate—and despite knowing that their
          scoring systems are persistently inaccurate—we’ve allowed them to be
          the judge and jury of who is working hard enough and who has shown
          enough determination to deserve a helping hand. And it’s nearly
          impossible not to participate: you can’t lease a car or buy a house
          without abiding by the system credit scoring helped create. Credit
          scores can improve your life. They can also ruin it.
       
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          In its earliest form, credit was as simple as the local baker fronting
          you bread, knowing that payment would come at the end of the week.
          But, as hamlets and villages became towns and cities, credit became
          formalized. England is the birthplace of modern credit reporting, with
          accounts going as far back as 1803, when groups of tailors came
          together to swap information about which customers would reliably pay
          their debts. This practice started popping up in different trade
          groups and unions, growing into regular newsletters and publications
          that listed everyone who had failed to pay. One such newsletter began
          in 1826, distributed by the Society of Guardians for the Protection of
          Tradesmen against Swindlers, Sharpers, and Other Fraudulent Persons.
          Since that was a bit of a mouthful, the group eventually became the
          Manchester Guardian Society and began employing a data officer to
          ensure the accuracy of its information.
       
          New York’s Mercantile Agency formed in 1841, aggregating information
          on its customers and distributing it to any lender—for a fee, of
          course. By 1864, it had compiled a ranked list of tens of thousands of
          companies across the United States and Canada (where it focused mainly
          on Quebec and Ontario-based businesses). These reports were
          handwritten and mentioned a business’s debts and profits as well as
          subjective commentary on the owners, their spouses, and their
          associates. Credit managers logged and filed notes on customers’
          characters and appearances. If there was a marriage, birth, death,
          promotion, or even a change in spending patterns, it was recorded. The
          credit managers who fed information back to the Mercantile Agency were
          encouraged to document things like community standing. Was the person
          in question active in their church? Did they have any confirmed—or
          assumed—problems with alcohol?
       
          Racialized and marginalized shoppers were regularly listed at the
          bottom of the hierarchy. As Josh Lauer writes in Creditworthy: A
          History of Consumer Surveillance and Financial Identity in America,
          prejudice was “codified as standard operating procedure.” According to
          a 1922 guidebook prepared by the Retail Credit Men’s Association of
          New York City, “Negroes, East Indians,” and “foreigners” were among
          the worst credit risks, just edging out “men and women of questionable
          character” and “gamblers.”
       
          This ranking system allowed early credit bureaus to cultivate an air
          of legitimacy within the business community. Credit bureaus “existed
          so that businesses could go to them and trust that they were doing
          background investigation and vetting customers,” Lauer explains. Early
          credit bureaus would even align themselves with law enforcement
          agencies, sharing information with local police to help solve crimes.
          That relationship became stronger in 1937, when the US Department of
          Justice arranged to purchase credit reports to help its officers build
          suspect profiles. “It just legitimized their entire operation into
          something that was civic in its orientation and for the good of the
          community,” says Lauer.
       
          In the late nineteenth century, as North American cities got bigger,
          more changes were afoot. In Canada, the Hudson’s Bay Company moved its
          fur trade away from a barter system to a cash-based exchange.
          Officials had to therefore keep more-detailed ledgers, complete with
          credit lent to buyers. The company eventually centralized and invested
          in a new phenomenon: the department store. To help turn over bigger
          quantities of merchandise, outlets like Hudson’s Bay wooed shoppers by
          offering staggered payment plans. Within a few decades, credit
          accounts at these department stores were common, along with charge
          cards specific to that store, which would get tallied up monthly or
          quarterly. The credit account was shorthand for the credit manager
          knowing you. It signified that you or your family had a relationship
          with the store and could be relied on to pay an outstanding amount in
          full. The store’s decision to trust people came first (usually through
          a credit manager who reviewed each application), followed by the
          charge account—and, much later, by the credit score itself—as a way of
          simplifying that process.
       
          Modern credit bureaus have their roots in this early system. Equifax,
          currently one of the two main credit bureaus in Canada, was
          established in 1899 as the Retail Credit Company. It moved to Canada
          in the early 1900s and expanded widely. TransUnion entered the market
          much later, in 1968, and started business in Canada in 1989. That
          year, the data these credit bureaus had been collecting—in one case
          for more than a century—was formalized by an operations research firm
          called Fair Isaac and Company. Its so-called FICO score—which, in
          Canada, is called a Beacon score or a Pinnacle—was marketed as a
          neutral value, the by-product of inputs, a calculation free of
          opinion. No more credit managers noting the colour of your skin, your
          marital status, or whether you belong to a church. Just raw data,
          amassed without comment. Of course, it wasn’t really that simple.
       
          When lenders are deciding whom to loan to, they need to figure out
          whom they can trust. The credit score is a quick and easy way to make
          that decision. As private companies, Equifax and TransUnion are
          regulated both federally and provincially, but key legislation sits
          with provincial bodies. Credit bureaus do not make recommendations
          about credit worthiness, though it may seem like they do. Instead,
          they compile a log of your borrowing history. Every time you apply for
          a loan or open a credit card, that’s an input on your credit report. A
          credit bureau analyzes this history and distills your likelihood of
          meeting financial obligations to a single number. It’s then up to each
          lender to interpret that number.
       
          According to Borrowell, a company that works with Equifax to help
          Canadians get copies of their credit reports, the average credit score
          in Canada is 667. It differs from province to province, but that’s
          generally considered a “good” score, though the ranges of scores are
          broad and vary depending on who is doing the lending. One lender might
          consider 750 to be a “very good” score while another might lower that
          bar to 725. A higher score—anything close to 900, say—indicates more
          trust in you as a consumer, and that means better access. You can
          borrow more money or borrow it at a lower interest rate. A higher
          score can increase the mortgage you can take out or help you set up
          utilities. It can also look better to potential employers.
       
          A credit score, at its most basic, is a predictive model of behaviour.
       
          The precise computations for the scores are proprietary. This is
          partly to stay ahead of competitors. But it’s also because credit
          bureaus have developed multiple scoring systems. A credit score, at
          its most basic, is a predictive model of behaviour. Each credit bureau
          offers different models, and lenders can choose the one that fits
          their needs. The term “credit score,” in other words, is misleading:
          it’s actually credit scores, plural. In some cases, they can number in
          the hundreds.
       
          Think of it like a software program. The credit bureau might release
          their first version of the program, which calculates a credit score by
          heavily weighting whether a borrower has a lot of credit products,
          like several credit cards, a mortgage, and a car loan. For some
          lenders, that might be the most important factor in their decision to
          lend to a customer, so they use this original version of the software.
          But, in version two, the bureau might weight another factor more
          heavily—for instance, whether the borrower often misses payments. A
          second lender might prefer that calculation and choose to use version
          two of the program. This is why you can apply for a credit card and a
          car loan on the same day and get two different credit scores reported.
          Credit bureaus have revamped their algorithms so many times that
          there’s no way of knowing how many scores are currently floating out
          there under your name.
       
          Credit report data also moves both ways. Lenders take your credit
          score into account when deciding whether to issue a loan, but they
          also report information about you back to one or both of the main
          credit bureaus, typically on a monthly basis. So, if you miss a loan
          payment, bounce a cheque, or forget to pay a credit card bill, that
          information gets transferred back to the credit bureaus, and your
          report is revised. When credit bureaus look to make a new version of
          the credit score calculation (an update of the software, to continue
          the metaphor above), statisticians will pull millions of credit
          reports from a wide spectrum of consumers, trying to see how their
          predictive equations worked over a set period of time and what they
          can improve on.
       
          If it sounds complicated, that’s because it is. It’s also up to
          individual consumers to find mistakes. For Mervin Smith, that mistake
          was his own name. In 2011, Smith told the CBC that he learned of an
          unpaid Rogers bill that had been on his report for four years, but the
          bill was issued to a Marvin Smith. Because of the mistaken debt, he
          was denied a credit card, a line of credit, and an overdraft on his
          bank account. For Barbara Hewitt, who teaches at the University of
          Manitoba, the mistake came from information reported by her bank. In
          2020, when the federal government paused student loan payments during
          the pandemic, her bank erroneously reported that she was delinquent
          even though it was the bank that had paused her automated payments. As
          Hewitt told the CBC, her “near perfect” credit score sank immediately.
       
          In fact, you can have an impeccable credit history and still find your
          score plummeting. In 2019, Robin Harvey made a large purchase on her
          credit card, close to $15,000. The Toronto resident told Global News
          that she had recently received an inheritance and had decided to use
          some of that money on a one-time splurge. She always paid her bills in
          full every month, and this big purchase was no exception. But her
          credit score still fell nearly 100 points. Why? The $15,000 charge put
          her too close to her borrowing limit for the bank’s comfort.
       
          A credit score is not a set figure but an ever-shifting number, and
          relatively minor mistakes can punish consumers in unforgiving ways.
          Gabriel Frano checked his credit score regularly, and it always
          hovered around 750—a very good rating. But, in 2020, when Frano tried
          to get preapproved for a mortgage on a condo near Woodbridge, Ontario,
          he was turned down. At the time, Frano told CTV News he was shocked to
          discover that his credit score had dropped nearly 160 points. After
          some digging, Frano found the reason: an old credit card he was
          convinced he had closed had an outstanding balance of ninety-five
          cents. Even paying off the card wouldn’t help, Frano learned, because
          his credit report would still list delinquent payments.
       
          Outcomes like these can affect Canadians differently depending on
          which province or territory they live in. Because credit bureaus are
          mainly regulated at the provincial level, delinquent payments will
          stay on your credit report for a different period of time in Prince
          Edward Island than in Alberta. There are a few consistent policies
          across provincial lines, mostly to do with who can access your
          information and for what purpose. But, because complaints about credit
          report mistakes are made to provincial bodies, there is no federal
          database compiling them, making it hard to accurately gauge the scale
          of the problem.
       
          Even credit bureaus struggle to quantify how often mistakes happen in
          their reports. As Julie Kuzmic, the senior compliance officer of
          consumer advocacy at Equifax, explains, it’s difficult for the agency
          to track errors on its own. For one, credit bureaus are dependent on
          the information they receive from lenders. “It’s not like there is
          some grand spreadsheet of all the correct names and addresses in
          Canada, where every time we receive new information, we can check
          against something.” The other issue is that it can be nearly
          impossible to know where or how the error crept in. “Somebody might
          call to get something corrected on their credit report, but whose
          error was it?” In other words, was it actually an error, such as the
          teller misspelling your name when opening a line of credit at a bank,
          or was it fraud—someone using your name illegally? “We can’t really
          take all the calls that we receive and divide by all the lines of data
          we have on people’s credit reports and say, ‘Okay, that’s our error
          rate,’ because you don’t necessarily know what caused the error.” This
          means credit bureaus roll with the data they get until they’re told
          otherwise.
       
          The defects of such a system mean that risk assessments—and the social
          profiling they lead to—can be punitive in ways that are
          disproportionate to any insight they provide into borrowers. To
          illustrate this, think of the body mass index calculation. For years,
          the BMI was seen as a way of using body fat, based on weight and
          height, to determine health. But, in the last few years, the BMI’s
          flaws have come to light. The weight ranges have shifted with industry
          influence, not medical research. The original tests were mainly
          conducted on white men. And there’s no distinction between fat and
          muscle mass, leading to super-muscular people (famously, actor Dwayne
          Johnson) being categorized as obese when they’re plainly not.
       
          The BMI is not an absolute measure of health: it’s just one input a
          physician can take into account. Yet, for decades, it was trusted
          nearly implicitly. Despite the wonky science at its core, it helped
          determine legislation and set insurance premiums. And credit scores?
          They’re not the sole test of how financially healthy you are. They are
          just one input, albeit one that’s intrinsically linked with how we see
          ourselves—and how others see us.
       
          A man has a long document with the number 731 at the bottom across from a woman with a short document and the number 525 at the bottom.
       
          Perhaps the biggest issue with credit scores—more than credit report
          mistakes, more than the inscrutable way the scores are calculated,
          even more than the inconsistent way they are applied across lenders—is
          that they have conditioned us to accept the routine collection and
          sharing of our private information. While credit scores may not stand
          out among the algorithms we’re surrounded by, they are one of the
          oldest forms of consumer surveillance. Surveillance algorithms are
          everywhere now, tracking how long we watch a video on TikTok or how
          far we get into reading an e-book. Algorithms on Instagram, for
          example, don’t even have to trawl for our demographic information and
          behaviour: we hand it over when we sign up, in exchange for use of the
          platform. Similarly, Equifax and TransUnion have access to your
          financial history because your bank, your phone company, and your
          car-lease provider give it to them. In turn, those same companies buy
          the aggregate data credit bureaus amass. You are not a credit bureau’s
          customer—you’re its product.
       
          This raises questions about how effectively credit bureaus safeguard
          all that information. In January, for example, a $425 million
          settlement from Equifax was finalized after a 2017 data breach leaked
          the private information of about 147 million people, leading to surges
          in identity theft. Companies can also take advantage of consumer data
          in worrying ways. In 2021, legal firm Wadell Phillips launched a
          proposed $20 million class action lawsuit against Rogers
          Communications, alleging that the company regularly performed “soft
          checks” of customers’ credit information. A soft check isn’t connected
          to an application for a product, like a cellphone, so it has no effect
          on the credit score itself. But, according to this suit—which could
          have millions of claimants—Rogers wasn’t performing these soft checks
          to investigate legitimate payment queries. Instead, the company is
          said to have used the information to find other products to market to
          the customers—which, if true, is a direct contravention of the
          Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act. The
          argument hinges on a section of PIPEDA specifying that customers need
          to give “meaningful consent” for these types of checks. It can’t be
          some legalese buried in a contract you may never read.
       
          According to Margaret Waddell, the senior lawyer on the lawsuit, the
          claim alleges that credit bureaus have a habit of giving companies
          “backdoor access” to all sorts of data. She says that customers have a
          right to a zone of privacy and that, even if they consent to having
          their credit checked initially—to start a phone contract, for
          instance—that doesn’t necessarily mean they consent to ongoing checks
          for completely different purposes.
       
          Like any consumer surveillance, credit reports also reproduce systemic
          inequalities. “Even the best consumer algorithm out there still has
          people who have been historically disadvantaged and are still being
          punished through algorithms that privilege certain kinds of behaviour
          and payment history,” says Lauer.
       
          In the United States, a long history of redlining—the practice of
          banks denying loans to residents of poor, often racialized
          neighbourhoods—has prevented Black Americans from building up the same
          generational wealth as white Americans, and on the whole, credit
          scores reflect that. According to a survey by Credit Sesame, a US
          credit-monitoring service, more than half of Black Americans have poor
          credit scores, compared with 37 percent of white Americans. Even more
          damningly, 30 percent of Black Americans and 25 percent of Latino
          Americans said that the credit system was stacked against them,
          preventing them from building good credit, and nearly a third of Black
          Americans reported that financial providers had misinformed or misled
          them about how credit worked.
       
          These biases also exist in Canada. Keith Martell, CEO of the First
          Nations Bank of Canada, says there are several reasons an Indigenous
          person is more likely to have a lower credit score than a
          non-Indigenous person. First and foremost, Indigenous people are more
          likely to experience poverty or have low incomes. Data from the 2016
          census shows that 44 percent of people living on reserves have low
          incomes, compared with just 14 percent of the total population of the
          country. With a lower overall income, Martell says, it’s not uncommon
          for poor credit scores to follow—a person who struggles to pay their
          bills will have those late payments reflected on their credit report.
          If you have to choose between “eating or paying your power bill,”
          Martell says, “those things are significant, and they haunt you for a
          long time.”
       
          According to Martell, physical access to banks or accredited lenders
          can be more difficult for people in northern or remote areas, which
          means it’s harder to build up a history of using credit products.
          Another key piece of the equation, Martell says, is home ownership.
          “In many First Nations communities, there’s no private home ownership.
          Often, it’s community housing,” Martell says, noting that, for many
          living on reserves, the First Nation actually owns their home.
          Residents may pay the First Nation, but it’s not a traditional
          mortgage. “Most people get a credit rating when they buy a home.
          That’s one of the biggest reasons you take a loan.” No mortgage, no
          input on your credit report.
       
          Without good credit, each step of the financial system becomes more
          difficult. Giovanni Gallipoli, a professor of economics at the
          University of British Columbia, believes that access to short-term
          credit—especially when things go wrong—is crucial to one’s well-being.
          With certain credit calculations, people living paycheque to
          paycheque, or people who can’t work, or people with multiple
          dependents, are often the very group denied money. “If something
          happens, what are they going to do?” says Gallipoli. “Go back to their
          family? And if they can’t? It would be horrible.” And, if the
          government can’t or won’t step in to help people in these dire
          situations, they are forced to turn to private companies. With low
          credit scores, their options can be limited to payday loan companies,
          often described as predatory, or other credit sources with inescapably
          high interest rates.
       
          No system is perfect, of course, but then, few systems have such
          disproportionate control over our lives. Despite credit scores
          resulting from a convoluted scheme of inputs and outputs that requires
          careful parsing by both algorithms and humans, many people are
          embarrassed to admit they can’t make sense of their reports—a feeling
          amplified by a broader culture in which people are reluctant to talk
          about debt and finances. Being “good” with money is not just a measure
          of financial credit; it’s tied to social credit as well. A bad score
          can be downright shameful.
       
          Stacy Yanchuk Oleksy, the CEO of Credit Counselling Canada, a
          nonprofit that helps dig people out of debt, has seen that shame up
          close. In her sessions, she tells people that there’s no magic formula
          to building up a credit score. It takes time and consistent
          behaviours. Make a payment on your credit card every month, no matter
          if it’s the minimum balance or the whole bill, as long as it’s
          consistent. Try not to use more than 50 percent of your available
          credit on a card at any given time, as your debt-to-credit ratio is a
          factor in your score. Hold on to credit products for a while; a credit
          card that you’ve had for years is a stronger element in the
          calculations than one you opened six months ago. Somehow, customers
          believe that this knowledge should be innate, something they just
          absorb intuitively. “If we weren’t born with it, and no one’s taught
          us, then how are we to know how to do this? And then we get
          embarrassed because we attach net worth with self-worth.”
       
          The shame of debt, of seeming financial ruin, can “drive people to
          kill themselves,” says Oleksy, who as a counsellor often had to pull
          people from the brink. Trained in suicide intervention, she used those
          skills regularly when speaking with clients. She remembers one man who
          came in for a session distraught. “He said, ‘If I commit suicide, will
          my life insurance cover off all my debt?’ So I asked, ‘How much is
          your debt?’ And he said, ‘$5,000.’ He was willing to kill himself for
          $5,000.”
       
          Is there a better system? You could pay for everything in cash. But
          then you would forgo any access to credit in an emergency. The UK has
          a credit-scoring system similar to that of the US and Canada, but
          there are actions that citizens can take to improve their credit
          scores, such as registering to vote. Neither France nor Japan has a
          formal credit-reporting agency. Instead, credit is mostly dealt with
          through local banks, with customers showing pay stubs and developing
          relationships with lenders. The risk of being trapped in cycles of
          debt and repayment is why some believe access to credit should be a
          basic human right. In the 1970s, Muhammad Yunus began offering small
          interest-free loans to people in impoverished areas of Bangladesh, a
          microcredit system that has since been copied in other developing
          countries.
       
          In 2019, US Democratic leadership candidate Bernie Sanders proposed
          abolishing privately run credit bureaus and replacing them with a free
          government-run registry devoted to the accuracy of consumer data.
          Brenda Spotton Visano, a professor of economics and public policy at
          York University, says there could be a middle ground between a fully
          privatized credit system and a fully public one. Perhaps there are
          products that credit scores shouldn’t influence, like a basic bank
          account with overdraft protection. Spotton Visano argues that
          overdraft service should be available to all Canadians, regardless of
          credit score. In this hypothetical system, that basic bank account
          would be a federal guarantee, with the credit score kicking in for
          bigger purchases and loans. “Your credit score affects your ability to
          buy a house. Is that something you want regulated? What about
          rentals?” Spotton Visano asks. Should your credit score affect your
          ability to get housing at all? How should federal regulation come into
          play there? “If it affects your ability to even get basic
          accommodation, then yes, I would want some sort of oversight on those
          industries.”
       
          After years of waging battle with TransUnion, Angela Monaghan is still
          opting in to the system. She deliberately holds a small mortgage on
          her house and still shops with a credit card. She says that, despite
          what she’s been through, she still wants to keep the credit score
          she’s worked hard to restore at its excellent rating. And, really,
          what alternative does she have? There’s no good way around it.
          Participation in the credit system is essentially mandatory, and
          consumers are at its mercy.
       
          [48]Emily Baron Cadloff[48]Emily Baron CadloffEmily Baron Cadloff ([54]@emilybat)
          is a writer and reporter based in Halifax. Her work often focuses on
          the intersection between women and pop culture. When she’s not
          working, you can find her scrolling through TikTok.[49]Jeannie Phan[49]Jeannie PhanJeannie
          Phan ([55]jeanniephan.com) draws for Quill & Quire and the New York
          Times.
       
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