In a surprising allegation, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has ordered personal finance company Credit Karma to pay $3 million to customers who were duped into applying for cash back credit cards they weren’t eligible for.
The FTC claims that Credit Karma used so-called dark patterns to deceive consumers into believing they were pre-approved for financial products they would usually not qualify for.
Known for its robust advertising, Credit Karma has over 120 million users in the U.S. market alone. Here’s what you need to know about the Credit Karma settlement and how to determine if you’re eligible to receive a payment.
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What is Credit Karma?
Credit Karma is a consumer finance company that offers free credit report monitoring to consumers through credit scores, credit reports, and financial health alerts.
The service is free to users as Credit Karma makes money through affiliate marketing. The firm gets paid to recommend financial products such as auto loans and credit cards to users. The company earns a referral fee or commission when a user signs up through Credit Karma.
In 2020, Intuit Inc., known for its suite of popular office software products TurboTax, QuickBooks, and MailChimp, acquired Credit Karma for $8.1 billion. The FTC settlement does not impact other Intuit companies.
What exactly did Credit Karma do?
According to the FTC, Credit Karma used “dark patterns” to dupe consumers into applying for credit cards and other products they were not eligible for.
Dark patterns are practices used to manipulate consumers into completing an unwanted action, such as misleading wording or a coercive user interface design.
In the case of Credit Karma, the company allegedly falsely stated customers were “pre-approved” or had “90% odds” of approval for financial products featured on their platform.
How did this harm customers?
Denied customers who applied for financial products wasted time, released sensitive data, and, in many instances, lowered their credit scores, harming their future ability to secure loans and financial products.
These rejections were based on the subsequent underwriting review or outright disqualifying characteristics, such as bankruptcies or insufficient credit history — markers that ostensibly should have precluded any notice of “pre-approval.”
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How much is the settlement?
Credit Karma reached an agreement of $3 million to settle charges that it deceived ineligible creditors into applying for its promoted financial products and services.
The order also prohibits Credit Karma from making further misleading claims about customers' likelihood of being approved for loans. Credit Karma has agreed to stop running pre-approved credit card offers.
How many people are impacted?
Nearly 500,000 consumers may be eligible for a payment, says the FTC.
These are customers who received a “pre-approved” loan offer from Credit Karma between 2018 and 2021 and subsequently applied and were denied.
How do I know if I qualify for a settlement?
Credit Karma is sending notices to 497,425 consumers who may be eligible for payment. Consumers will be contacted by email or mail if there's no email address on file. Letters will contain a claims number.
If you believe you qualify for a settlement but havedidn't received a claims notice, call 1-866-848-0871 or email info@CreditKarmaSettlement.com.
Consumers who now belong or have belonged to Credit Karma can inquire. Additionally, members of consumer rewards sites like Swagbucks or PrizeRebel should consider inquiring.
Credit Karma is known for partnering with rewards platforms like these to incentivize consumers to join by offering cash sign-up bonuses.
How do I apply for a payment?
Consumers can apply online at secure.creditkarmasettlement.com. You will need to have your claims number.
If you need assistance obtaining a claim number or filing online, call the claims administrator at 1-866-848-0871.
How much money will I get?
Your payment will depend on many factors, including the number of consumers who file a claim. The FTC has not yet set a date for when payments will be issued.
The deadline for making a claim
Claims must be filed by March 4, 2024. We recommend claiming as soon as possible so you don’t forget about it.
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If all estimated eligible parties apply for the settlement by the March 4 deadline, your settlement payment would likely be around $6. This sounds meager, but a $6 payment for five minutes of work translates into $72 an hour.
Beyond any monetary relief, however, the real takeaway is that advertisers and consumers need to be more careful when advertising "pre-qualified" financial products.
Advertisers must consider consumer perceptions when making representations and can't throw around wild, exaggerated claims as long as they drop in a "see details" pro format.
And consumers should be far more cautious if they want to get ahead financially — an ounce of prevention far outweighs any $6 cure.