Secret consumer scores can be a big threat to ID theft victims

Industries such as financial services, insurance and retail maintain secret scores on each of us to predict our behaviors, determine risks and how and what they market to us.

Unfortunately, ID theft and secret scores intersect because the user of our stolen identity may affect our secret scores. Unlike credit scores, these are hidden, untouchable and with little regulatory protection. The results are higher fees, interest and limited offerings – not to mention the opportunities we won’t qualify for.

Given that ID theft is a key influencer, consumers need to learn more about their “secret consumer scores.”

Consumer scoring, while not new, has increased in size and scope because of big data and technology. In a recent report, the World Privacy Forum characterized the field as “largely unregulated, where thousands of pieces of information about consumers’ pasts predict how they will behave in the future.” Secret consumer scores can include an individual or a household.

Consumer scoring can provide benefits. Examples include consumer modeling, in which retailers and creditors identify and separate profitable customers from unprofitable – along with predicting purchasing patterns and loyalty. This can help consumers save money through discounts and targeted sales.

Another example is the transaction score used to identify fraudulent credit/debit card use based on regular buying habits. If your transaction amount, type and/or location triggers a flag, such as using your card in an unusual place or business, your debit card company might stop activity until they confirm it’s you.

But the potential for danger is real.

WPF’s report advises, “The existence of the score itself, its uses, the underlying factors, data sources, or even the score range may be hidden. Consumer scores with secret factors, secret sources, and secret algorithms (formulas to determine pricing, offerings, etc.) can be obnoxious, unaccountable, untrustworthy, and unauditable (sic). Secret scores can be wrong, but no one may be able to find out that they are wrong or what the truth is.”

Actions in our name by an ID-theft criminal can hurt us in more ways. “Victims of identity theft may be at particular risk for harm because of inaccurate consumer scores,” according to the report.

Secret consumer scores that can be influenced by ID theft include:

• Bankruptcy score. It measures the likelihood of declaring bankruptcy.

• Behavior score. Good or bad behavior motivates a retailer or creditor to take a specific action.

• Churn score-companies create scores that predict how likely you are to take your business to a competitor.

• A collection score suggests which delinquent customers will pay off their past due amounts.

• A consumer profitability score predicts how quickly you will pay your debts.

• Job-security score. Employment and unemployment data, economic trends and forecasts predict the probability that you will lose your job.

• Medication adherence score. Predicts your likelihood of following a prescription plan and your doctor’s orders

• Response model score. It helps retailers anticipate purchasing patterns, enhance the customer experience and sell new products/services.

• Revenue score. Predicts how much revenue and profit will be generated through each customer.

Mark’s Most Important: Secret consumer scores, which can be influenced by ID theft, are profiling us. And we have no recourse. It’s time for added secret score consumer protection.

Mark Pribish is vice president and ID-theft practice leader at Merchants Information Solutions Inc., a national ID-theft and background-screening provider based in Phoenix. Contact him at

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