Your Facebook Profile Might Be Affecting Your Credit Score

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Many people are guilty of over-sharing on Facebook — whether they realize it or not — and the potential consequences of what people post on social media are getting even worse.

There once was a time when the only thing at stake was your reputation, but those days are long gone. Most people are well aware of the potential risks of social media these days, and it’s no secret that a Facebook post can get you fired from a job or prevent you from getting a job in the future.

But your Facebook profile now poses a new threat — to your credit score.

According to a report by the Financial Times, some of the top credit rating companies are now using people’s social media accounts to assess their ability to repay debt. So if you want to be able to qualify for a loan and borrow money, this is just another reason to avoid saying certain things on Facebook.

“If you look at how many times a person says ‘wasted’ in their profile, it has some value in predicting whether they’re going to repay their debt,” Will Lansing, chief executive at credit rating company FICO, told the FT. “It’s not much, but it’s more than zero.”

Lansing said FICO is working with credit card companies to use several different methods for deciding what size loans people can handle, and using non-traditional sources like social media allows them to collect information on people who don’t have an in-depth credit history. According to the FT, both FICO and TransUnion have had to find alternative ways to assess people who don’t have a traditional credit profile — including people who haven’t borrowed enough to give creditors an idea of what kind of risk they pose.

According to Lansing, FICO is “increasingly looking at data on a spectrum” to determine an individual’s credit-worthiness — with credit card repayment history being the most important factor on one end and information volunteered via social media on the other end.

And social media isn’t the only alternative source factoring in to people’s credit-worthiness. Credit rating companies are also using individuals’ payment history on phone bills, utility bills and even movie rentals. One good sign to creditors is if someone hasn’t moved a lot — which could suggest they’ve had problems paying rent.

“We can now score the previously un-scoreable,” said Jim Wehmann, executive vice-president for scores at FICO.

And while this may be a great way for more people to get access to loans, it’s also a wake-up call for those “previously un-scoreable” people to clean up their digital footprint — and fast.

Social Media Week

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Facebook Finally Getting Rid of Stupid "Other" Message Folder, But the Replacement Might Be Equally Terrible

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facebook message request

antb / Shutterstock.com

Via Facebook, and several other news outlets reporting the info, Facebook is finally getting rid of one of its most annoying features that you might not have even been aware actually existed. And it is replacing it with something that might be even worse.

What Facebook is getting rid of is the “Other” folder in the Messages section of your profile. Originally a sub-folder that few people even knew was there, the ‘Other’ folder was meant for spam message or missives from people not in your friends circle. The problem being that it wasn’t always good at filtering the right messages, which lead to a lot of people discovering their Other folder one day filled with messages they actually wanted to receive.

Eventually Facebook made the Other folder more visible to users, but the filtering issue was still there, along with the fact that some people still didn’t know about it, or know they should check it occasionally.

So now Facebook is getting rid of it, and replacing it with “Message Requests.” If someone not among your friends list attempts to message you, their missive will go to this new folder. You can then either ignore the message, or reply to them. The person who sent the message won’t know if you’ve read the message or not.

But here’s the problem. Now literally all anyone on Facebook needs to message anyone else is their name. That’s not an exaggeration. Let’s take a look at what Facebook VP of messaging products David Marcus had to say about it: “We truly want to make Messenger the place where you can find and privately connect with anyone you need to reach, but only be reached by the people you want to communicate with … Now, the only thing you need to talk to virtually anyone in the world, is their name.”

Does he not see the contradiction there? You can’t “only be reached by the people you want to communicate with” when anyone can reach you. Sure, people sending messages don’t know if you’ve opened them or not, but that’s not really the point. If your name is in any way public, if you write about or are involved in a controversial topic, if your name gets out in an embarrassing way or in a manner that you are not comfortable with, Message Requests just becomes yet another avenue for people you don’t know to harass and threaten you.

The possibility of any of this happening may seem remote, but it is still there. Facebook users still have to go through their Message Requests folder to separate the useful stuff from the spam and other unwanted attempts at contact. So if someone wants to threaten another person they know there is a new way to do it now.

TechCrunch takes a more charitable view to the change than I do, noting that users now have more control over things and some anonymity in the fact that senders don’t know if the receiver has actually read anything, but what about people who simply don’t want to be able to be contacted that way? What if you think someone simply having your name shouldn’t be enough for someone to be able to try to contact you?

The risk this poses might not seem important, and I know most people won’t need to worry about it at all. But to me it feels like yet another inexorable step in Facebook’s interminable quest to make everyone’s information available at all times to everyone else. I guess having any kind of power over who gets to contact you is quickly becoming a thing of the past.

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