Coronavirus pandemic has not only impacted the lives of millions of people but also impacted their financial health. It has resulted in salary cuts, work hour cuts and layoffs. Many people are struggling to pay their loans, credit card bills and even their daily expenses which will eventually lead to bad credit. This will have a huge impact on the credit score of consumers which is also a major concern of lenders, creditors and Credit Repair Agency.
The credit reporting company will treat this missed payment the same way they will treat late or unpaid bills, downgrading the creditworthiness of the consumer or are they taking any measures during these unprecedented times?
Let us understand the issues in hand.
- Due to the necessary social distancing in many countries, markets are massively impacted.
- Financial institutes, credit reporting agencies and creditors want to support the borrowers because of the current pandemic situation.
- Suspending negative credit reporting will lead to questions on the integrity of the nation’s credit data.
With these issues in hand, the International committee of Credit Reporting (ICCR) stepped in to resolve these issues that evolved during the pandemic. Regulators from G-20 countries were involved with the ICCR committee to issue guidance for nations on how to deal with the situation and help consumers in their Credit score improvement.
Below are the points which were part of the guidance –
- Protecting customer is the priority
The best approach proposed by ICCR was to protect the customer’s credit worthiness as well as maintaining the integrity of credit data. This was done by doing some modifications in the reporting rather than suppressing or deleting the data completely. The creditors and the banks have made some relaxation or relief to the borrowers and these modifications were shown under restructured tags as “paid as agreed”.
What kind of accomodation or relaxation are done by the lenders or financial institutes –
- Partial Payment
- Deferred payment
- Loan modification
- Suspension of payments for certain time period
- Any other relief or help
“If your credit score is affected because of covid situation and you have received any of the above accommodation from your lender or bank, discuss the same with them but don’t change anything on your own, until you have written agreement with the lender to do so “ says a Credit Repair Agency. “Many customers have fallen into this trap thinking the moratorium will be automatically applied on loan and they stopped paying their EMI. This was not the case leading to fall in credit scores. “
- Suppressing reporting or deleting data does not solve credit problems
Suppressing or deleting credit data will not solve the credit problem of customers. However, this will worsen the nation’s economy and slowdown its recovery. The problems can be only resolved by introducing relief or aid to people by the government or lenders.
Many nations have created aids to provide additional unemployment insurance extensions or funds. Students are getting relaxation on payment and interest rates rise. Small businesses are getting paycheck protection which helps them get some temporary income so it can pay bills and operate without fear of bankruptcy or foreclosure.
Many small businesses and students are getting extended time period facilities as well from creditors and banks so they can recover and repay within the grace period and their credit score remains intact during this period.
Apart from this, banks and mobile service providers are also waiving late fee and lowering interest rate to help the customer sail through the current situation. Many credit card companies are also creating financial hardship programs for borrowers.
- Data integrity is important for the recovery
Let us assume if the negative credit reporting is implemented in the system for a certain time frame, say 3 months or more. This suppression shifts from a short term measure to a part of the problem itself. These will cripple the credit tools of credit underwriting which is crucial for recovery ultimately leading to a slowdown of economy.
Credit reporting Agency
Credit bureaus such as CIBIL, Equifax, CRISIL etc are trying to help customers on credit score improvement during this tough time. Agencies are offering free weekly access to credit card reports, updated monthly credit scores, credit freezes and fraud prevention alerts.
It is important to keep in mind that different lenders use different credit scores including scores they build and manage themselves. So it is important to keep your credit health good at all times and even if you are opting for any accommodation or services, you shouldn’t become complacent with paying your bills.
How to protect your credit score during corona times
Obtaining credit fraud protection is one of the best ways to protect your credit report. You can request free copies of your credit reports from these agencies. This will allow you to track your accounts, identify errors and note other fraudulent activities.
Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, there has been an increase in cyber security hacks and financial fraud. Enabling credit locks, credit freezes and fraud alerts could help protect you.
- Stay up to date on your credit report.
- Check and report for any fraudulent activity in your account
- Apply a credit lock or fraud alerts to protect your account from malicious activities or hackers.
- Frequently change your passwords for banks and emails.
- Block any unknown calls or messages.
- Pay at least the minimum amount on your account or what you have agreed with your lender.
- Stay updated on national news.
- Contact your bank or credit card lenders on accommodation available at the time of Covid 19. Many creditors are forbearing or aiding borrowers or providing grace periods for payment and helping them during pandemic situations.
- Confirm the agreement in writing with your lender and comply with the agreement and make the payment accordingly. Check the credit report after that to confirm it is complying with the agreement. Report any error if you find it in the credit report.
- Add any consumer statement in your credit report. You can add around 100 words explaining your current situation
The integrity of the national credit reporting system must be maintained in all situations. Failure to do so will hamper the recovery and weaken the health of the financial system. Negative data suppression will quickly become a growing liability after short-term and therefore is not a good solution for any nation. It is imperative that we should plan our finances wisely and work on ways to improve our credit scores.