Your FICO credit score has a huge impact on your life. If you pay a bill late, inquire about your current credit score, or even use your credit card on a regular basis, it becomes part of your score. There are many things that don’t factor in, though, and Alternet author Lynn Parramore explored what she called the way banks turn people into “half-baked statistics,” and how the process evolved.

Credit reporting began at the start of the 19th century when lenders wanted to know more about the people who were borrowing from them. Factors like character were actually considered at the time. At the start of the 20th century, as it became easier to communicate, the credit bureaus became national organizations. FICO was founded in 1956. In 1971, the Fair Credit Reporting Act gave customers the right to see and dispute the reports FICO issued.

Parramore argues that credit scores today aren’t quite as reliable as many people imagine. They’re based on numbers that are inexpensive to examine, but that don’t really determine a person’s true credit worthiness. They are, however, the industry standard, and mistakes are often made.