MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Many people whose credit took a dive during the recession, or others who haven’t had time to build a solid financial history, have found it difficult to secure a loan.
Now, however, their luck may have changed thanks to sites like Facebook and Twitter.
Some financial companies are using social media to connect to their customers, even using it to evaluate if they’re credit worthy.
BMX biking is a passion and a business for Adam Grandmaison. He sells cycling t-shirts, hats and stickers on his Web site.
When his company started to really take off, he applied for a small business loan to launch a new smartphone app. The only problem was that the loan company was concerned about the fact that he had really bad credit, according to Grandmaison.
So the lender hit the brakes on his application.
That was until Grandmaison showed them his company’s Facebook page with more than 100,000 “likes” and his Twitter account with more than 20,000 followers.
The loan company then decided Grandmaison’s BMX business was worth the risk.
“A strong social networking presence is that, it really kind of acts as your currency in terms of, it represents who you are online,” said Grandmaison.
So can your online reputation really mean money in your pocket? Possibly.
A number of new financial companies use social media as one way to evaluate applicants.
Startup company Lendup still reviews a loan applicant’s credit reports just like a traditional bank. They will also check, on request, the applicant’s Facebook and Twitter profiles to get a sense of who they are.
“How long have people had their account? How strong is their network? How diverse is their network? How much do they interact,” said Sasha Orloff of Lendup.
Lendup said it doesn’t review pictures people post or groups someone “liked”.
“We don’t look at anything that could be construed as discriminating against somebody for things, like race or religion or color or marital status or age,” said Orloff.
On Deck Lending uses review sites like Google and Yelp to check out small business loan applicants as well.
Some consumer experts worry that this trend could hurt people who don’t use social media, want to keep their accounts private or post fake info online.
“There’s a lot of potential for consumers to game that system and potentially for people who may not be creditworthy to appear credit worthy,” said John Bryeault of the National Consumer’s League.
The FTC is equally concerned and is watching the trend closely. They feel that credit reports, the traditional gauge of “credit worthiness”, could potentially becoming passé.
Ninety percent of top U.S. lenders still rely mainly on a person’s FICO or credit score to make decisions, but social media could be factored into a future FICO formula.
“We are always looking at different things, social media will fall into that, but right now it’s still too early,” said Anthony Sprauve of FICO.
Grandmaison said his social media rep was very predictive of his success and the loan got his company’s wheels spinning.
“It’s going super well, I mean, we’re making payments on it, and it should be paid off in six months,” said Grandmaison.
The FTC said it’s important that anyone who is turned down for a loan is told exactly what information the lender used to make that decision, whether it’s a credit report, employment history or even information from a social media page. This gives loan applicants the change to correct any information that may be listed incorrectly.