What steps can consumers take to protect their credit during the pandemic? The question is likely on many minds as economic fallout from COVID-19 continues to plague pocketbooks and force tough decisions about which bills to pay, says UCI anthropologist and social sciences dean Bill Maurer.

“The impact of COVID-19 on credit scores is only beginning to be appreciated,” he says. As the lead research fellow at UCI’s Filene Center of Excellence for Emerging Technology, Maurer will continue his work on how technology impacts credit unions and their members. In July, the Filene Research Institute granted Maurer a renewed 3-year funding commitment of $240,000. Given the pandemic, Maurer’s research agenda includes topics related to the shift to digital service delivery that has been accelerated by COVID-19.

“The way we do money has shifted as a result of COVID-19 and put a spotlight on the real time risks credit unions and consumers face when so much of our lives are conducted virtually,” says Maurer who also serves as dean of the School of Social Sciences and directs the UCI Institute for Money, Technology & Financial Inclusion. “Cybersecurity, credit equity and access, customer experience and even physical banking are all very critical issues that take on a sense of urgency when you consider the importance of money in our everyday lives and how many of our practices have been upended due to the pandemic.”

Over the next three years, Maurer and researchers at the center will explore:

  • Digital Credit Scoring and Digital Redlining Post-Covid19: Equitably Repairing in the Recovery
  • Customer Experiences with AI Virtual Assistants: Intimacy, Empathy, and Necessity
  • Reimagining Bank ATM Machines, from Cash-Out to Curbside Banking
  • Security for A Tele-Everything World: Cybersecurity Risks and Needs Assessments as More Consumers Continue to Work, Live, Buy, and Bank Remotely

Research will be distributed directly to consumers and credit unions via webinars, forums and digestible briefs on the topics – including a one-pager to be released soon aimed at helping consumers understand and protect their credit during the pandemic.

“Monitor your credit, request accommodations, watch out for scams, and talk to your credit union about getting through if you’re running into financial difficulty,” he says. “We are in for rough waters, but credit unions have always been trusted partners. Our work will help them navigate the tech and consumer behavior trends ahead.”

Funding for the projects began in July and runs through June 2023.

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