that black man, on the other hand, well..." Machines don't care and provably don't care.Many forms of invidious discrimination are presently illegal in the US, and if a bank is questioned about their underwriting decisions, it is much easier to say "We only make decisions on the basis of FICO scores, which are solely based on credit histories and not on race, zip code, or anything you could say is a proxy for race." Many advocates say that credit histories covertly encode race because poverty tends to cause you to not pay back debts and poverty is not equally distributed, but be that as it may, FICO scores are one of the best technologies for wholesale justice ever.

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(There exist steps related to the below to help improve one’s situation in the circumstance where your problem is that you’ve not paid debts you legitimately owed, but that problem is out of scope here.) There are three big credit reporting agencies (CRAs) in the US: Equifax, Trans Union, and Experian.

Their business model is keeping records, organized on a per-person basis, about debts.

The overwhelming majority was due to a series of errors, some dating to before I was born.

Resolving that took a few months, and in the end, I had a clean credit report with one minor ding (a $100 doctor copay that I thought my parents had paid when I was in school).

They sell this information to banks for the banks to use in underwriting processes.

They also sell credit scoring, a product which gives the bank a single number (or small set of numbers) to evaluate your creditworthiness.Do not use the following advice to correct a problem with an account which is factually yours.If someone has stolen and used it to buy things, you should not send letters. For reasons beyond the scope of this post, that is a really well-understood scenario that banks are very customer-friendly about. Was an account opened in your name without your consent? The rest of this article assumes that you’ve either checked a credit report or been told by a bank that an account exists in your name which you didn’t open.In the process, I got pretty good at working some regulatory machines.(Programmer dad joke: what do you call a series of conditions and flowcharts administered by a regulatory agency?A state machine.) I also found a forum or two with other people who had problems with their credit reports (some they were innocent of, and some where the general shape of the problem was "poor choices were made").