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Home > Privacy Fundamentals > Book Reviews > Credit Scores & Credit Reports: How the System Really Works, What You Can Do

Book Review: Credit Scores & Credit Reports: How the System Really Works, What You Can Do, by Evan Hendricks, Cabin John, MD: Privacy Times, 342 pages

A book about credit reporting wouldn’t ordinarily belong on your shelf of privacy books. After all, the credit reporting system illustrates the substantial benefits that are gained from lacking privacy in key details about one’s financial life. It is for this reason, though – the benefits and problems of unprivacy – that Credit Scores & Credit Reports is a worthy read for students of privacy and related issues.

For more than 20 years, Evan Hendricks has worked as an observer, reporter, and advocate on information policy issues. He has never spared the credit reporting industry and he doesn’t in this book. Rather, he takes the reader through an array of key topics in credit scoring and reporting. Like so many, he lumps the many interests affected by data collection, retention, and use together as “privacy.”

Hendricks gives a firm, even-handed assessment of problems that exist – and in some cases persist after years of attention – in this rapidly evolving Information Age industry. Hendricks aligns with the “consumer” movement, which sometimes strays into reflexive anti-commercialism, but nothing in this book undermines one’s sense that he is faithfully reporting on real issues.

Aimed primarily at a lay audience, the book’s topics include credit scoring (both basic and advanced), disputing errors, identity theft, “Making & Mixing Credit Reports,” and many others. That lay audience may be surprised to learn that credit scoring may be used to price the policies issued by their auto and home insurers.

There are chapters for the policy wonk, of course. A chapter on the history of the Fair Credit Reporting Act reveals, surprisingly or not, that the Act was embraced by industry and passed as much to serve business interests as to protect consumers. Another chapter, on the recent legislation amending the FCRA, is also interesting, but it will quickly age as that relatively insignificant battle fades into history.

The book has warts, of course. There is the occasional typo and lack of polish to some of the writing and footnoting. The topics covered don’t always flow smoothly from one to another, but that reflects the wide array of subjects more than any flaw in organization.

The intelligent consumer can read this book and be satisfied that he or she knows better how to build and protect a good credit rating. The policy analyst will appreciate this book and hunger for more, knowing that credit reporting is only one segment of a large, growing, and growingly important consumer data industry. All parts of the industry deserve the same scrutiny Hendricks gives to credit reporting in Credit Scores & Credit Reports.


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[updated 10/26/04]

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