How to protect your credit score during the economic crisis

With so many people out of work and struggling to pay credit card, mortgage, and loan payments, you may be worried it's damaging your credit score.

We sat down with Francis Creighton, President and CEO of the Consumer Data Industry Association, representing the three credit bureaus, Equifax, Experion, and TransUnion, to get advice on protecting and improving your credit score during the economic crisis.

HEATHER: We know millions of people have lost jobs and are struggling to make payments on credit cards, mortgages, and loans right now.  Talk to me about what you're seeing at credit bureaus about how consumers are being impacted and what the credit bureaus are doing to try to help people through this right now.

CREIGHTON:  While we thought at the beginning of this crisis people would be seeing their credit scores drop and impacted by it, that doesn't seem to be the case so far.  We think there are two things going on.  One is the banks really are helping people, and two, that help is being reflected on people's credit reports.


HEATHER:  Banks and creditors that offered consumers deferred payments this year were not supposed to report them as late payments to the credit bureaus.  But we are hearing about cases of that happening.  What should someone do in that situation?

CREIGHTON:  If you go back and you find out it was added on as late, you should dispute that charge, dispute that late charge.  And that's not our policy, that's not the bank's policy, that's the law now.  If you have an accommodation, it should be treated as current.

HEATHER:  What's your advice to help people either to protect or improve their credit score while they're going through this crisis?

CREIGHTON:  What we are encouraging people to do is go and look at their credit report.  It used to be credit reports were free to consumers once per year, but the three credit bureaus, Equifax, TransUnion, and Experion, have come together and said once a year just isn't enough.  Now we're going to do it once a week.  So we're encouraging people to do go to and take a look at that credit report.

HEATHER:  Francis Creighton with the Consumer Data Industry Association, thank you for being with us.