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credit_score_speedometer(MCT)—By now, most of us understand the importance of a credit score. Mortgage lenders, credit card issuers and, in some cases, insurance companies use this measure of creditworthiness to determine availability and cost of their products. Some employers factor credit scores into hiring decisions.

But the one aspect that has eluded even savvy consumers is how to get their credit scores. For advice, I contacted the woman known as the guru of credit scores, Linda Ferrari, author of “The Big Score: Getting it and Keeping it — Buying Power for Life,” (Consumer Power Press, $25).

In her book, she explains that while credit scoring has been around since the 1950’s, it only became mainstream in the 1980s. The three rulers of the industry — Experian, Equifax and TransUnion — are for-profit companies that make money by collecting information about you from your creditors and reselling it to anyone who may want it…including you.

In 1956, Fair Isaac & Co. created an objective scoring system to analyze consumer data. By 1991, all three credit reporting agencies were using a FICO model to generate a number between 300-850 that quantifies an individual’s ability to pay back money borrowed.

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