John Oliver tries to give credit-reporting firms a taste of their own error-filled, life-wrecking medicine

John Oliver takes on credit reporting firms
(Image credit: Last Week Tonight)

Your credit score is probably the most important three-digit number in your whole life, John Oliver said on Sunday's Last Week Tonight. In fact, "you might be surprised just how many aspects of your life your credit report can affect," he said, noting, for example, that 47 percent of employers use credit scores when hiring. And the three major credit reporting agencies — Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion — all encourage those outside uses, arguing that good credit scores signify responsible employees. Oliver was skeptical. "Look at me," he said. "My credit is probably fine, but I routinely waste HBO's money on stupid costumes, pyrotechnic displays, and checkered dress shirts."

Tying credit scores to character and employment prospects doesn't make sense, in part because more than half of debt on credit reports is from medical expenses, "and it seems unfair to judge someone on that," Oliver said, but also because credit reports contain "a shocking number of errors." It would be bad enough if these errors — giving you somebody else's bad credit, for example, or misidentifying you as a terrorist, or dead — were contained to these three credit agencies, but now there are also hundreds of companies that offer some sort of background check.

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Peter Weber, The Week US

Peter has worked as a news and culture writer and editor at The Week since the site's launch in 2008. He covers politics, world affairs, religion and cultural currents. His journalism career began as a copy editor at a financial newswire and has included editorial positions at The New York Times Magazine, Facts on File, and Oregon State University.