Employers do not use credit scores.

Five years ago, the national credit bureaus all stated that they do not provide credit scores for employment purposes. But the biggest myth about credit scores just keeps on spreading.

In a July 26 editorial decrying how hard it is to simply get lousy credit report correction, the Tampa Bay Times (St. Petersburg Times until recently) clumsily makes the point that credit scores touch different aspects of citizens' lives. The opinion piece uses the oft-repeated (always false) lenders-employers-landlords litany to shock the reader into continuing. Then it says, "This is the reason that the three largest credit bureaus have so much power."

Power, indeed.

Tampa Bay Times

  • Founded 1884
  • Publisher: Pulitzer Prize board chairman
  • Owner: Renowned Poynter Institute for Media Studies
  • Maintains inaccurate claim by New York Times that credit scores are used to "even distinguish between job candidates."
  • States, inaccurately, "Employers will look up credit scores of potential employees."

  • Nonbelievers


    The "Standard of Accuracy" in St. Petersburg is "When this happens in the news report, our policy is to correct factual errors, promptly and prominently."

    However, that fails to mention what happens to editorials containing errors of fact.

    Mentioning the Columbus Dispatch three times (including in the first sentence and photo caption), the Times joins the Dispatch and others in maintaining a Kafkaesque New York Times (front page, no less) Christmas tale containing the credit-score/employers myth. The theme: Credit scores are (allegedly) now the fashion in passion; all the rage on the dating scene.

    Now, six months later, all the cool kids are re-hashing it (because Experian wants them to). Credit score expert, employers myth nonbeliever and indefatigable stalwart of fact John Ulzheimer keeps the conversation from getting out of control.

    Meanwhile, a Baltimore Sun item also on the same Tampa Bay Times website debunks the myth—but last month's bald-faced declarative sentence wasn't influenced even by that prescient in-house information. It's the same at the Dispatch. So much for continuity. And—to borrow a phrase—so much for the New York Times (who has the same internal argument).

    But who can hold the two two-timin' Times responsible when the credit companies and the FICO firm did that terribly tangled-up two-step, too? While there is enough blame to go around, there are serious consequences for this collective screw-up.

    [Updates on this topic are at Poynter.]