NY gov: Protect Sandy victims' credit scores

NY gov: Credit rating agencies should make sure no unfair hit for Sandy victims' credit scores

Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) -- Credit scoring and rating bureaus should make sure Superstorm Sandy victims don't get their credit reports blemished unfairly because of financial issues from the storm, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Thursday.

He said Sandy put a massive financial strain on some victims, forcing them to miss mortgage or rent payments or use up their credit card limits, and they shouldn't be punished for an event outside of their control with lowered credit scores or blemishes on their reports. Having that kind of impact on their reports could affect them in the future, he said, making it harder to get loans or get better interest rates on loans.

"It would be a terrible injustice if a victim of Hurricane Sandy was then unfairly penalized by a lower credit score," he said.

"If a person was a victim of a hurricane, it has nothing to do with their future ability to pay their bills," he added.

The state Department of Financial Services on Thursday sent a letter to TransUnion, Experian, Equifax, FICO and the Consumer Data Industry Association. The letter asks the companies to make sure Sandy victims don't see their scores lowered or their reports damaged because their finances have been affected by the storm. It also asks for a meeting to resolve the issue.

"No Sandy victim should face a black mark on their credit history simply because they caught a bad break from Mother Nature and got caught in the path of this destructive storm," the letter said. "As any family or business owner knows, an unfair black mark on a person's credit history can have serious, long-term financial consequences."

Cuomo said the credit bureaus were being asked to reset any scores of Sandy victims that had been lowered.

The CDIA said it sent a notification to 8,000 credit card issuers and others that send data to the credit bureaus immediately after Sandy and again in January. The notification highlighted steps they could take, like using a special disaster code on a credit history so that future lenders could take that into account, and putting loans into forbearance.

Department Superintendent Benjamin Lawsky said his agency had received dozens of calls about the issue, and there were likely many more people affected who didn't yet know that their scores had been impacted.

Allison Puglisi of Staten Island said she was among those Sandy victims who had been affected. She said her credit report now reflected some delinquencies over mortgage payments that she has been trying to get a forbearance on, and that it's affected her finances in other areas, like when she tried to get a reduction in other interest rates.

"This has been just as stressful" as Sandy, she said.

FICO released a statement saying it "deeply sympathizes with victims of Hurricane Sandy."

"We would be happy to discuss with State Superintendent Lawsky, lenders and consumer reporting agencies how best to address the continuing financial challenges faced by victims of that disaster," FICO spokesman Anthony Sprauve said.

Transunion, Experian, and Equifax did not reply to emails seeking comment.

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