Every consumer has a credit score, a three-digit number that is based on your credit history and behavior. That number can have a profound impact on the way that you live as mortgages, personal loans and even apartments and a new job may depend on your score. The higher your credit score, the more likely creditors, landlords and hiring personnel will view you more favorably.
The insurance industry values your credit score too, but it is only part of a larger or more comprehensive measuring tool. That tool is your insurance score, a number that few people outside of the insurance industry are aware of.
The Insurance Information Institute describes an insurance score as “a numerical ranking based on a person’s credit history.” These scores help insurers assess risk and are also considered “a good predictor of insurance claims.”
An insurance score is based on actuarial studies that indicate whether a person is more likely to file a claim or not. Consumers with a lower insurance score are more likely to file a claim and will, therefore, be charged higher premiums.
As you might guess there is a parallel between credit scores and insurance scores. The former is used to predict credit delinquency, the latter is for predicting insurance losses. Both scoring methods are based on information gleaned from your three credit reports, data that is collected by the three credit reporting bureaus: Experian, Equifax and TransUnion.
One problem here is that some consumers may have very little credit, choosing to pay cash for their purchases. Employing wise money management may cost you financially as a lower credit score can result in higher auto and homeowners premiums, with no consideration given to what your earn. This isn’t fair, of course, but we do live in a world of credit.
Just as credit scores serve up a three-digit number, your insurance score does the same thing. That scoring range extends from 200 to 997, with 776 on up representing a good score. Scores of 500 or below put you in the poor score range with both your car insurance and your homeowners insurance premiums most likely coming in double reports the New York Times.
Insurers have another way of calculating risk. Two databases contain claim information: the Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange (CLUE) and the Automated Property Loss Underwriting System (A-PLUS). Anything that insurers want to know about your claim history can be easily found.
With your credit reports playing such a significant role in determining two very important scores, the information found in each report should be correct, right? Unfortunately, facts tell us otherwise.
The Federal Trade Commission in a December 2012 report to Congress found that 26 percent of the 1,001 participants in an FTC study reported finding errors in at least one of their credit reports. These consumers reviewed 2,968 credit reports with 19 percent or 572 reports disputed.
Of the reports disputed, 399 had a modification made by the respective credit reporting bureau with 195 consumers reporting a credit score increase following the adjustment. Of the 195, two thirds reported an increase of 10 points or more — what might seem like a small number, but one that could have far reaching consequences for some insurance shopping consumers.
Reports and Scores
By law, consumers are entitled to receive one free copy of each credit report annually. Your free reports are available at AnnualCreditReport.com, a website that was set up by TransUnion, Equifax and Experian. Obtain copies of all three reports and if errors are found, following the reporting bureau’s instructions on how to file a dispute.
You can also obtain your credit score for a fee. A visit to MyFico.com will give you that score.
What about your insurance score? Is that information available to consumers too? Yes it it is. If you visit the Lexis Nexis site, you can obtain separate home insurance and auto insurance scores. Moreover, you can also obtain free CLUE reports that offer a seven-year history of the losses associated with your personal property or automobiles.