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Home > Influence > Media > Newspapers > Tribune > Los Angeles Times

Los Angeles Times on employers using credit scores

When asked for its source, Tribune Company's Los Angeles Times cites


From: Greg Fisher
To: Robin Abcarian, national correspondent, Los Angeles Times
Sent: Fri Sep 24 22:40:22 2010
Subject: credit score, employers, Los Angeles Times

You wrote, "That and his ruined credit score, which prospective employers often check."

Who is your source regarding credit score use by employers?

From: Abcarian, Robin
Sent: Saturday, September 25, 2010 12:54 AM
To: ''
Subject: Re: credit score, employers, Los Angeles Times

It's a fact that's been reported on ad nauseum.

From: Abcarian, Robin
Sent: Saturday, September 25, 2010 1:13 AM
To: ''
Subject: Re: credit score, employers, Los Angeles Times

Ah...I see why you are asking: the credit score vs the credit report. I'll look into running a correction.

From: Greg Fisher
Sent: Saturday, September 25, 2010 8:17 AM
To: Robin Abcarian, national correspondent, Los Angeles Times
Cc: Deirdre Edgar, readers' representative, Los Angeles Times
Subject: RE: credit score, employers, Los Angeles Times, presumptuousness

That is not why I am asking. The question is this: Where did you get that information?

Further, if you can't name a source for what you believed was a fact, then did you just make it up? In other words, how did it happen?

The bigger question (not for you): How did members of Congress, the Federal Reserve and the U.S. Department of the Treasury conclude that employers use credit scores, and what caused the nauseating media trend?

Citizens looking for jobs have enough to worry about, already. They deserve an explanation.

From: Abcarian, Robin
Sent: Saturday, September 25, 2010 11:02 AM
To: ''
Cc: Readers Rep
Subject: RE: credit score, employers, Los Angeles Times, presumptuousness

I am not sure whether you are objecting to the word "score" as opposed to "report." In any case, the overall meaning does not change. Employers and prospective employers check people's credit.

Here is a story about it, in which employers SAY they do it, according to the survey quoted:
Relevant portion: Recent statistics are scarce, but when the Society for Human Resource Management polled its members in 2006, 43% of their companies ran credit checks on some or all potential hires. That was up from 25% in 1998.

Here is another:

And from the Privacy Rights Clearing House:
Relevant portion: Do I have a right to know when a background check is requested?
Yes. Amendments to the FCRA, in effect September 30, 1997, increase the disclosure and consent requirements of employers who use "consumer reports." Such reports might consist only of a credit check. (See Part 7) More extensive reports might include criminal histories, driving records, and interviews with neighbors, friends and associates.

From: Greg Fisher
Sent: Wednesday, September 29, 2010 12:19 PM
To: Robin Abcarian, national correspondent, Los Angeles Times
Cc: Deirdre Edgar, readers' representative, Los Angeles Times; Russ Stanton, editor, Los Angeles Times
Subject: RE: credit score, employers, Los Angeles Times, anonymous sources

If those are your sources, you blew it.

The first item you cite does not include the word score. Just to be sure that SHRM was not referring to credit scores, I did something, apparently, unheard of in journalism: I asked them. I know—I know—it's CRAZY, but, I'm experimenting with the practice, you see. If you've never thought of using the principle, just try it! It works! If you get into trouble for spending too much time verifying the facts, blame it on me. Just have your boss contact me. We have a lot to hash out.

The second piece (from eHow) you cite states, ambiguously, "Find out your credit score, and embark on a job search realistically."

So, does that mean that employers use credit scores? Likewise, you could say: "Research little green men from Mars, and explore new worlds in the space program!"

To resolve the ambiguity, we are in luck: eHow is a subsidiary of a company just down the road from you! Together, we can get right down to the bottom of this, but you'll have to do the legwork. I can only spend so much money trying to track down sources. So, what is your policy on anonymous sources?

Regarding the third item, in your frenzy of copy/paste journalism, you left out this from Part 7 of the same Privacy Rights Clearinghouse document: "An employment report provides everything a standard credit report would provide. However it doesn't include your credit score or date of birth."

You quoted that source saying "See Part 7." Didn't you see Part 7? Part 7 is really the relevant part, isn't it? The relevant portion isn't all that other stuff you copied and pasted. Come on. Admit it.

A credit score is not a credit report. A credit report (a consumer report) is a list of debt account payment histories, collections, public records and other items spanning, in some cases, decades. A credit report is a document, and it can be quite extensive—pages and pages. A credit score is just a number.

Since your story, your publication made a correction regarding characters in a fictional television series. I know that it is fictional because it is based on a comic book. Well, OK, the comic book could be based on something real, I suppose, and I don't have any proof that zombies (or little green men) don't exist, but I'm going with fictional. So, your publication ran the zombies correction, but you didn't run a correction about employers and credit scores. Could we argue about zombies, instead? They are, obviously, more important to your company. And, in a world of fantasy, anything can happen, so no sources are needed. If we need a fact that suits our narrative, we just make one up, or use an anonymous crackpot as a source. You seem to have that down pat.

So who cares if one reporter carelessly reports that employers use credit scores? It's just one story—whoop-de-do!

Other items on

"Employers commonly check a potential employees credit scores."

"Virtually every bank, mortgage lender and credit card company--plus landlords, employers and even insurance companies--routinely has had access to consumers' scores."

"Utilities, landlords and employers also are increasingly checking credit scores."

A few years with your paper and a few other previously respected publications repeating that and you have something that just won't die, and, indeed, continues to grow. The irresponsible use of your power in tiny doses is awesome. Maybe that slippery slope is how it has always been. Only now, small media can expose big media as it truly is.

For your follow-up story assignment, as you'll be doing with your other source at eHow, put on your shoes and socks and drive over to Experian's office (you have to ask yourself: What in the world is going on in Southern California?) and interview them. The agency claims that it does not provide credit scores for employment purposes. On its credit myths page, Experian says: "Experian's Employment Insight report includes similar information about loans and credit cards that is listed in the credit report. It does not include year of birth, spouse reference, account number or credit score, which are irrelevant to hiring decisions."

The consumer reporting agency, itself, thinks that the overall meaning needed some clarification. Maybe you could try to change the company's position on that overall meaning thing. On the other hand, on a page for ordering a Fake-O credit score, Experian also says, "By checking your credit report and score you will see the same type of information lenders, landlords and employers see."

Oh, no!

Greg Fisher
The Credit Scoring Site
PO Box 342
Dayton, Ohio 45409-0342

Also, see

National Financial Literacy Month, 2011 (video),
Myth: Employers use credit scores

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Do employers use credit scores?

Don't believe it.

April, 1997: "Information on how to obtain one's credit score is suspiciously absent from your site. How do I get mine?"

"And we're not running a game show. I mean, we're evaluating risk. We're not trying to have people get--achieve the highest score."

"Fisher is a fan of going by the book and then beyond it."

"He beat the scoring proponents to the punch by scooping up the web address, from which he launches often strident, sometimes wacky, but usually well-documented attacks on the credit-scoring concept and the industries that support it."

Realty Consumers Empowered By Online "Peoples" Court - "His Web site helped him-- and millions of other consumers-- extend fair credit reporting rights to credit scoring information."

"Fisher operates the Web site, which skewers the secrecy of the credit bureaus and Fair, Isaac." - The Detroit News

" is an exceptionally-interesting site that offers news and information regarding credit scoring and-- really-- the entire credit process."

"'Garbage in, garbage out,' says Greg Fisher of Dayton, Ohio, who runs two Web sites on the subject, and"