Are Credit Karma and other credit score providers legit, helpful?: Money Matters?

I'm wondering about Credit Karma, to get my credit scores. I read some reviews and decided to try it out, since it's

Q: I'm wondering about Credit Karma, to get my credit scores. I read some reviews and decided to try it out, since it's free. However, Credit Karma's scores did not correlate to the traditional scores, from what I could tell. Is Credit Karma legit?

C.T., Cleveland


A: Credit Karma is legit, meaning that it's not a scam. I still wouldn't be super-excited about sharing my Social Security number with anybody who didn't truly need it, like my bank, my employer, tax authorities, etc. That's a separate discussion for another day.

Third-party providers of credit scores, like Credit Karma, Quizzle and even credit card issuers like Chase or Citibank, can provide you with valuable information about your credit standing. But you're smart to realize the scores from Credit Karma and others may not be the same as your FICO scores, which companies actually use to evaluate you and your credit history. (Few credit issuers by comparison are going to use the scores you'll see from Credit Karma and others.)

The scores also very likely will be different than what you'd see if you requested your score yourself directly from one of the three credit bureaus, Equifax, TransUnion or Experian.Many third-party providers, including some credit card issuers, use VantageScore, which is a different model than FICO. For years and years, VantageScore used a scoring range of 501 to 990. So if you had an 800 credit score, you'd think you were awesome with A-plus credit. But in fact, an 800 on a 990 scale is is like a B credit rating.

Only recently has VantageScore (which was developed by the credit bureaus -- chew on that for a minute), changed its model so the score range is now 300 to 850. That's exactly what the general FICO range is. How special. Do you think they were trying to confuse you before?

Anyway, it's critical that if you're getting your scores from any third-party, you need to find out whether it's a true FICO score, or possibly a FICO Bankcard score, which is different and has a 250 to 900 scale, or a VantageScore, or some other model.

If your score provider isn't a true FICO, it can still be useful to monitor whether that score goes up or down month to month. If your FICO Bankcard Score typically runs about 890-900-910, you know that's not a true FICO. But it's still worth monitoring. If it suddenly drops to 800 and you don't know why, that's like dropping from A credit to B credit, and you should investigate whether there are errors or fraud on your credit file.It's important for you to realize that third parties like Credit Karma or Quizzle pay to get your credit information directly from the credit bureaus. They offset their costs with advertising and marketing revenue. Credit Karma, for example, sends targeted advertising to consumers who sign up. You should decide whether that's worth it to you in exchange for free credit scores.


Q: Your column of July 30 hit home with me as I had a very similar situation as your letter writer who got a pop-up computer message that seemed to be an alert from Microsoft about a virus.  I did not call anyone or click anything.  I shut off the computer and removed the battery.

After a few minutes I turned it on again and it was working as it always did.However, you scared the bejeebers out of me with your advice that the person should worry about passwords for banks or credit cards that could have been compromised if those sites were visited after the computer was infected. 

I did call my one financial institution and had my account flagged. Your suggestion that I have the computer checked by an expert who specialized in virus removal really scared me and makes me think that I have to do the same even though I shut the computer off immediately. I'm still considering that move.

D.E., Newbury


A: This is a reminder how important it is to have good anti-virus software on your computer.

The other thing you should do immediately is change all of your passwords that you've used on that laptop since you had that virus scare. This includes passwords for your email, financial accounts, Amazon, eBay and any other account you care about.

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Article Are Credit Karma and other credit score providers legit, helpful?: Money Matters? compiled by www.cleveland.com

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