(NerdWallet) – Equifax, one of the Big Three credit reporting agencies, announced that a computer coding error caused consumers’ credit scores to be miscalculated over a three-week period between March 17 and April 6.
For 300,000 consumers, the error shifted creditworthiness by up to 25 points. The credit score changes did not appear on the credit reports, Equifax said in a press release.
While the bug caused ratings to shift in both positive and negative directions, a 25-point drop in your credit score could do major financial damage, especially if you’re on the cusp of one of the credit ranges. For some consumers, this could mean reduced access to financial services and products such as auto and mortgage loans, as well as credit cards with good terms.
We spoke to credit experts and consumer advocates to find out what to do after this Equifax error. From checking your credit score to contacting lenders, we’re here to help.
How to know if you are affected
It may not be easy to determine if you have been affected by this Equifax error. “With the naked eye, a consumer would never know they were affected, for better or for worse,” credit expert John Ulzheimer said in an email.
Equifax says it is “working with our customers to determine actual consumer impacts,” though it’s unclear how or when they will notify impacted customers, if at all.
“It’s not the consumer’s fault,” says Chi Chi Wu, an attorney at the National Consumer Law Center. “And it’s outrageous that a mistake by Equifax has hurt consumers and they now have to go back and fix it.”
Next steps for consumers
Follow these steps to protect your score after the Equifax error:
Review all notifications of rejected applications during this period
If you applied for a car loan, home loan, or credit card between March 17 and April 6 and your application was denied or you had to pay more — possibly because of that miscalculated score — you may be entitled to a recourse if you one of them will receive the following documents:
Note on side effects: If your application was denied, you should have received an Adverse Action Notice. Federal law requires creditors to tell you why your application was denied and which office they obtained their information from. Therefore, read this letter to better understand if you were affected by the coding error.
If you “were rejected because of things that came up on your credit report, if it’s related to your credit report in any way, then it’s worth going back and pulling out a copy of your credit report and your credit report,” says Bruce McClary, Senior Vice President of Communications for the National Foundation for Credit Counseling. It also pays to “find out what credit rating the creditor used to rate you,” he says.
Risk-based pricing notice: If you applied for a loan or credit card during this period and received less favorable terms (such as higher interest rates), you should have received a risk-based pricing notice.
If consumers applied for a credit card or a loan during this time and did not receive either of these two notifications, then, according to Ulzheimer, “they were not rejected and were not disadvantaged with disadvantaged conditions”.
Check your Equifax credit report
Checking your credit report should be your next step. This is where you’ll see if a hard request — or a request to check your credit — comes up. This “hard pull” is confirmation that you applied for credit within the three-week timeframe that the error went undetected by Equifax.
Disputing the error at Equifax is not an option as the miscalculated scores have not appeared on credit reports. “There was no error in their Equifax credit reports that required investigation and correction,” Ulzheimer said. “This was a programming error that was not affected by how a consumer traded or paid their bills.”
Contact your lender and Equifax
If you are impacted, contact your lender and ask them to reevaluate your application or loan terms.
According to Wu, getting interest rate changes on a credit card is easier than changing the terms of a mortgage or car loan.
If you think you may be affected, you can also try calling Equifax Customer Service at 1-888-378-4329.
Keep an eye out for a message from Equifax
Stay tuned for further communications from Equifax. “The credit bureau has an obligation to notify affected individuals and provide actions that individuals can take to resolve any issues that have arisen as a result of this mishap,” McClary said.
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