We were honored when President Barack Obama recognized State Employees’ Credit Union for providing our members with one of the best monitoring tools for spotting identity theft — free access to their FICO scores.
Our North Carolina credit union was among a handful of financial institutions the president acknowledged in a recent speech to the Federal Trade Commission on his comprehensive approach to enhancing consumer security by tackling identity theft and improving online privacy.
As a member-owned cooperative that strongly advocates for its members and their financial health, SECU wholeheartedly supports President Obama’s efforts to highlight the benefits of providing credit scores to consumers.
SECU contracted with Fair Isaac Corp. to begin providing free FICO scores last November and since then more than 500,000 of the more than 820,000 eligible members have viewed their scores in a secure section of our website. They are also shown the top factors negatively affecting their scores, and offered educational content explaining what they can do to help improve their credit.
FICO scores will be updated on a quarterly basis and, soon, we’ll begin providing our members with a chart to view their older scores — so they can track their progress over time.
Feedback so far has been very positive, validating our belief that members are truly seeing the benefit to having access to such valuable information.
While SECU does not engage in risk-based pricing, we acknowledge that many lenders approve and price loans based on FICO scores. We felt that by providing these scores to our members we could help increase their financial awareness, which hopefully helps them make better financial choices in the future.
SECU has contracted with Equifax to receive updated FICO scores for all of our borrowers on a quarterly basis. We felt the value the scores provide our members more than justifies the cost.
All consumers are entitled to one free credit report each year from each of the three main credit reporting agencies. That report provides detailed information about the consumer’s credit file (open/closed loan accounts, payment history, etc.). It does not, however, provide the credit score. The consumer usually has to pay the credit bureaus for that information.
Our program helps solve that issue. Just to be clear, our members don’t have access to their full credit report so they’d still need to go to www.annualcreditreport.com for that, but they shouldn’t be tempted to pay for their score since we now provide it to them for free!
Mark Kretzschmar is senior vice president for loan servicing at SECU.