Equifax, one of the nation's largest credit bureaus, sent out inaccurate credit scores for millions of Americans between March and early April. Many were incorrectly increased or decreased by more than 20 points, affecting interest rates and, in some cases, prompting lenders to deny loans.
The error was due to a coding issue, Equifax said in an Aug 2. statement, and all scores have since been readjusted.
"Our data shows that less than 300,000 consumers experienced a score shift of 25 points or more," Equifax said. "While the score may have shifted, a score shift does not necessarily mean that a consumer's credit decision was negatively impacted."
The Consumer Data Industry Association -- which represents credit-reporting agencies like Equifax, Experian and TransUnion -- told the Washington Post that getting credit reports right is "paramount" to its mission.
But the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a government watchdog, has accused "America's credit reporting oligopoly" of a pattern of inadequately responding when consumers complained of errors. In January 2022, the CFPB warned of "serious harms stemming from their faulty financial surveillance business model."
How can you find out if you were turned down for credit because of Equifax's mistake? We'll explain below -- and tell you what steps to take if you were impacted.
Who was affected by Equifax's credit reporting error?
If you were denied a line of credit between March 17 and April 6, 2022 -- for a credit card, car loan, mortgage or another line of credit -- it may have been a result of Equifax's mistake.
Roughly 2.5 million credit scores were requested by mortgage lenders in that three-week window, according to The Wall Street Journal, but because they typically request reports from all three credit agencies, it's hard to know how much of an impact the error had.
Equifax maintains less than 300,000 accounts shifted 25 or more points in either direction, enough to influence a lender's decision.
If you think you were denied credit because of Equifax's mistake
Thomas Nitzsche, senior director of media and brand at Money Management International, a nonprofit credit counseling agency, said individuals who think they were unfairly denied credit should contact the lender to find out if they used Equifax to make a credit decision.
In an emailed statement to CNET, Equifax also encouraged borrowers who think they might be impacted to "reach out to their lender for more information."
If it's found that your score was incorrect because of the coding issue, you can file a complaint with the lender and the CFPB, Nitzsche said, as well as your state's Attorney General's office.
If you're still seeking a loan, you can also request that another credit bureau be used to make the decision.
"They should also document the incident, as I expect a class action suit could be forthcoming," Nitzsche said.
Financial institutions are also seeking more information from Equifax, the Journal reported, and considering solutions for loan seekers who were assigned artificially inflated interest rates or rejected for loans outright.
You might be able to get a lower interest rate
Individuals impacted by Equifax's mistake might not have been rejected for a line of credit, but their interest rate might have been incorrectly tabulated.
If you were approved for a line of credit between March 17 and April 6 -- "perhaps a little earlier to account for underwriting delay," said Nitzsche -- you could be eligible for an interest rate adjustment.
Contact your lender and see how they determined your rate. If it was using an incorrect Equifax score, ask if you can get retroactive credit for the interest you already paid based on your current rate.
"This is especially true for consumers who are made aware that they were impacted," Nitzsche said.
Check your credit score
Even if you didn't apply for a line of credit this spring, you should routinely check your credit report and credit score for any irregularities.
You can review your credit score through companies like Credit Karma and Mint, and often through your bank or credit card.
Americans are also eligible to receive free weekly credit reports from TransUnion, Equifax and Experian. Credit reports have information about your current credit situation, such as the status of your accounts, any collection items or judgments and your history of repaying loans.
Equifax credit reports also can be ordered by registering for a free myEquifax account.