Magazine article American Banker

Credit Bureau Tries Teaching Teens to Handle Debt

Magazine article American Banker

Credit Bureau Tries Teaching Teens to Handle Debt

Article excerpt

Equifax Inc. is tired of being called the bad guy.

Every year the credit bureau gets four million calls from consumers who were denied credit.

"They don't understand what has happened to them," said Thomas F. Chapman, executive vice president, Equifax Financial Services Group, "and they look to us to fix it. They see us as the company that created their problem."

The company has made a stab at trying to win over a new generation of consumers by teaching them to be responsible for their credit histories.

During the past year the Atlanta-based credit bureau has been testing an educational program called Youth Enlightenment Series in 11 high schools in its hometown.

The curriculum, which focuses on how to manage a credit card properly, is being tested at a time when credit card delinquency rates and personal bankruptcy filings are at a record high.

Mr. Chapman said the economic environment had no bearing on Equifax's decision to start the program. Nevertheless, materials used in classrooms point to the ease with which students are approved for credit cards and get into trouble.

The five-part lesson plan features two former students, Alvin and Alyssa, now in their 20s, who racked up big card bills that they were unable to pay.

Alvin eventually filed for bankruptcy, and Alyssa was turned down for credit numerous times after accumulating 12 credit cards.

The lessons teach students how to avoid Alvin and Alyssa's mistakes and how to "navigate the waters in today's easy credit environment. …

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