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Finance and Economics Discussion Series Divisions of Research & Statistics and Monetary Affairs Federal Reserve Board, Washington, D.C. Credit Where None Is Due? Authorized User Account Status and ”Piggybacking Credit” Robert B. Avery, Kenneth P. Brevoort, and Glenn B. Canner 2010-23 NOTE: Staff working papers in the Finance and Economics Discussion Series (FEDS) are preliminary […]

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Fair Isaac Corporation (FICO) is the company which designs and implements the most universally accepted personal credit scoring model used today. It is commonly known as the FICO score. The three major credit reporting agencies, Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion, utilize a FICO model which considers “authorized user” accounts when generating a person’s credit score. This model is in compliance with the Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA). The legislative intent and stated purpose of the ECOA was and remains in force to protect consumers from discriminatory and unethical practices in lending.

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The Fair Isaac Corporation developed the FICO score to give credit issuers an analytical tool to determine a borrower’s likelihood of default. Since its development, has become the standard consumer credit score used by creditors to make more informed lending decisions. However, as the consumer finance market has evolved in recent years, the FICO score’s predictive power has suffered.

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Only a low credit score stood between Alipio Estruch and a mortgage to buy a $449,000 Spanish-style house in Weston, Fla., a few miles west of Fort Lauderdale. Instead of spending several years repairing his credit rating, which he said was marred by two forgotten cell phone bills and identity theft, the 37-year-old real estate agent paid $1,800 to an Internet-based company to bump up his score almost overnight.

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Piggybacking, a technique often used to build credit by paying to become an authorized user of a stranger's credit card account, has been under fire since it first gained widespread popularity in 2007. In practice, the loophole in the credit scoring system works great, which is perhaps why it's ruffled the feathers of so many people that find it unfair and sleazy.

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