Q&A: Here’s why you have many different credit scores

Dear Liz: Have you ever covered the fact that the credit score that a person receives from the reporting agencies is entirely different from the one provided to lenders? The difference I discovered was 819 vs. 710. I’m a retired lawyer who represented investors in securities arbitration for 20 years, so not easily shocked or surprised by financial fraud, but I was.

Answer: The fact that there are many different scoring formulas has come up frequently in this column. What you consider to be fraud is actually a manifestation of capitalism.

Credit bureaus are private, competing companies. So are the creators of scoring formulas. Lenders and other companies that use credit scores have many to choose from.

FICO is the leading credit scoring formula, but rival VantageScore has gained market share in recent years.

Both types of scores come in multiple versions. The latest version of the FICO is the FICO 10, although the FICO 8 continues to be the most-used score.

Meanwhile, mortgage lenders tend to use much older versions of the FICO formula. Scores also can be tweaked for different types of lending, such as auto loans or credit cards.

Credit bureaus have created their own proprietary scores, as well. What this means is that the same underlying data — what’s in your credit report at a given credit bureau — can create significantly different FICO scores, depending on which FICO formula was used.

Even the same type of score, such as a FICO 8, could vary depending on which credit bureau’s information was used and when the score was “pulled” or created. The credit bureaus typically don’t share information with one another. Plus the information in your credit reports is constantly changing as information is added or deleted.

So it isn’t shocking that the score your lender used was different from the one the credit bureau provided you. What would have been surprising is if the number had been the same.

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