Spanish-language credit reports a big win for financial empowerment

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Being able to review a credit report in Spanish will be of great help to Rosalie Remarais in her work as the Community Development Mortgage Manager at Five Star Bank in Rochester, New York.

Remarais works with low to middle income families, many of whom are first time buyers, to help them buy a home. One of the first things she does when working with potential homeowners is to examine their credit rating and consult a credit report, which many have never done before.

For the clients she works with who speak Spanish, having the document in their native language will save her time translating the report for them and help clients themselves correct any errors they find.

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Equifax will now offer credit reports in Spanish

“It would give them the power to say, ‘I’m in control,’ she said. ‘Because when it’s in English, the only one in control of that credit report is me.”

Spanish Credit Reports Available Now

In September, Equifax began offering credit reports in Spanish.

“This is the first and only time that an office has been able to offer a fully translated Spanish report to consumers,” said Beverly Anderson, President of Global Consumer Solutions at Equifax. She added that people can request Spanish reports online as well as by mail, and the company also offers customer service in Spanish.

The move was long in coming for the Hispanic community in the United States, as Spanish is the second most spoken language after English. In the United States, approximately 62 million people are of Hispanic descent, and over 40 million speak Spanish as their first language.

“This is something that we have been asking for for a very long time,” said Chi Chi Wu, an attorney at the National Consumer Law Center, adding that some advocates have been working on it for decades. “It’s positive.”

Credit reports are an important financial tool

Building strong credit is important for many things from buying homes to cars.

“This is a big step not only for the immigrant community but also for Americans who are bilingual, and English is their second language, but Spanish is their first,” said Marlene Cortes, head of the CASH- project. Roc Your Refund and Language Access at Empire. Justice Center, a nonprofit law firm focused on social and economic justice in New York State. It will also help children whose parents do not speak English and therefore need to interpret and translate, she said.

Having access to your credit report – a compilation of the financial data on which your credit score is based – means you can better understand the score and correct errors. This is because if a consumer thinks there is a problem with their credit score – which could be lowered by incorrect information or identity theft – they cannot dispute it with FICO or VantageScore, another model of. credit score.

It’s something we’ve been asking for for a very long time

Chi chi wu

employee lawyer, National Center for Consumer Law

Instead, they should discuss any incorrect information with the credit reporting company – like Equifax, Experian, or TransUnion – and have them amend the credit report.

Without the ability to read and understand reports in Spanish, some consumers have no idea that they have errors on the report or that their identity may have been stolen.

Remarais saw limited bilingual and English-speaking clients paying thousands of dollars to have their credit reports cleaned, which they could do themselves for free.

“Since the credit report is in Spanish, it allows people to do it on their own,” Cortes said.

The schedule for the new Spanish-language reports will be useful to those who have been financially affected by the coronavirus pandemic, including many Spanish-speaking essential workers. Due to Covid, until April 2022, consumers can get one free credit report per week instead of having access to just one free report each year.

Now is a particularly good time for everyone to review their credit report, as document errors have increased during the pandemic.

In February and March 2021, Consumer Reports asked 6,000 volunteers to withdraw their credit reports and 34% found at least one error. And complaints about consumer credit reports containing incorrect information increased by nearly 120% from 2019 to 2020, according to data from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

And after

Certainly, there are other companies that offer other services for Spanish speakers. FICO has offered a Spanish credit score since 2012. Experian offers resources and instruction in Spanish, and TransUnion offers Spanish translations for credit reports over the phone.

Still, these offers are not the same as those offered by English speakers, which is a problem, according to Wu.

“What you really want is the full shebang just like an English speaker would get,” she said, adding that it is important to have access to both paper and digital reports in her mother tongue, because credit companies often experience long wait times for phone calls. .

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Other companies also serve the community, such as Crediverso, a Hispanic-owned personal finance company founded in 2020 that offers free bilingual products, including a credit report in Spanish, which was available before Equifax made its report. announcement.

“I think it all starts with identifying a need that has long been overlooked by financial institutions,” said Carlos Hernandez, founder of Crediverso. “We realized that for all financial products, the Hispanic community was very underserved compared to the general market. “

Advocates hope Equifax’s move prompts the other major credit reporting firms, TransUnion and Experian, to submit their own reports translated into Spanish, available online, by mail and by phone.

They also hope companies will consider offering reports in even more languages ​​in the future, including Chinese, Tagalog, Vietnamese, Arabic, and even American Sign Language.

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