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How your Secret Consumer Score could be hurting you

Posted at 10:39 PM, Nov 05, 2019
and last updated 2019-11-06 11:10:52-05

NORFOLK, Va. - Think about everything you do online in a day.

You may post on Facebook or even do a little shopping at your favorite store.

Now think about everything you do online in a month. Perhaps you leave a review for a restaurant you recently tried or book an Airbnb for an upcoming trip.

With every click and comment, you're being watched by businesses, and they're scoring what type of customer you are.

Sachin Shetty, the Associate Director in the Virginia Modeling, Analysis and Simulation Center at Old Dominion University, has been analyzing online security metrics for years.

He says the Secret Consumer Score that companies are giving you determine things like how long you wait on hold or what type of service you receive.

For example, if you leave a lot of negative comments, you may fall to the bottom of the list whereas someone who leaves a positive online presence may be given preferential treatment.

Shetty says other factors that are possibly taken into consideration are your age, income, neighborhood and any other information you've posted online.

All the information they're looking through is either public or the poster has consented to sharing it. Even though you likely have a score, companies won't reveal exactly how they came up with it.

"When you put information on social media - things that you like, things that you don't like, the products that you like - and that's all under some consented process that is made available," Shetty says.

Companies are also interested in learning whether or not you are a one-time customer or a lifetime customer.

It's reported that if they believe you are a one-time customer you would receive a lower score than a loyal consumer.

Shetty has been researching online security metrics for years and says people have been pushing for more transparency for years, but no major changes have come.

For many people in Norfolk, this is the first time they're hearing about their secret score.

Andy Garriola tells News 3, "I didn't know any of that. I'm glad I'm more aware of it now so now that I know, I'm probably not going to [be as vocal online]."

There are ways you can retrieve the data, though. Some companies will allow you to request the information from their website, but others may come with a price tag attached.

In 2014, the FTC reported that there are ways to opt out of these consumer scores.

"People don't even know this is being done, people don't even know the score and people don't even know the process, so all three are unknown and I think they have been impacted the whole decade," Shetty says.