Recently, there have been several cases in which employers were requiring job applicants to give them access to their social media profiles to be considered for employment. This practice has been shut down by a few states already but not all of them and, in some states, the FTC has even backed the employers. While this is certainly one way social media could affect you financially, it is not in this way that this article is about.
What if banks started looking at your social media profiles to assess your credit-worthiness?
What if lenders started using your social media accounts to assist in deciding whether to approve your car loan?
What if credit card companies started changing your interest rates based on your social media use?
Well, these aren’t “what-ifs” anymore. According to a recent article by The Economist, these practices are already happening. “There is a start-up that assesses the credit worthiness of car-loan applicants” through social media presences including LinkedIn contacts under the theory that the character of the people you are connected with are an indicator of your character and can help predict how quickly you can get another job should you become unemployed.
Lenders are recording your Facebook data which is being used to secure loans overseas. They’re analyzing usage patterns of personal mobile phones. A Hong Kong start-up is even requiring “loan-seekers to ask their Facebook friends to vouch for them.”
An online bank in the U.S. “will use Facebook data to adjust account holders credit card interest rates” and, while most banks tend to avoid social media in analyzing a loan applicant, there are many “employees of small banks [who] often search social media or the web for the names of loan applicants.”
Lenders are using the social media data to find correlations between that data and an individual’s credit worthiness. For example, ZestFinance, an American lender, says that “Applicants who type only in lower-case letters, or entirely in upper case, are less likely to repay loans, other factors being equal.” and they are continuously using increasingly advanced algorithms to find more correlations. They claim that their default percentage is 40% lower than similar lenders.
An overseas lender of small loans has found that “An applicant whose friends appear to have well-paid jobs and live in nice neighborhoods is more likely to secure a loan. An applicant with a friend who has defaulted on a Kreditech loan is more likely to be rejected.”
I expect that banks in the U.S. are paying close attention to these activities. All of the actions above (save for the web and social media searches) are done with the permission of the applicant. It’s hard to believe that a US court would prohibit an opt-in component used to extend loans to individuals but that’s up in the air since my guess is that if you opt-out, you’d have no chance at getting approved. I would think that courts would find that it’s certainly up to the bank who they decide to loan money to (excluding certain exceptions for people in protected statuses).
This is another example of how social media is increasingly affecting not only our personal lives but those of businesses that rely on banks extending loans to consumers to make sales.. like car dealerships.