Credit scores available online to consumers may not be the same as those used by lenders, and the differences could cost consumers thousands of dollars. Creditors submit data, such as the payment status on a car loan, to the three big credit reporting agencies: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. The agencies compile the information into the consumer's credit report and run data points through various formulas to create a three-digit credit score. Becky Frost, senior manager of consumer education for freecreditscore.com, says, "Lenders and insurers use several different credit scoring models so don't be surprised if your lender gives you a score that's different from the [Experian] PLUS Score." Al Bingham, the author of "The Road to 850 — Proven Strategies for Increasing Your Credit Scores," warns that "free" credit scores have caused extensive harm and have an error margin of 30 to 40 points. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) released a study in September 2012 that analyzed 200,000 credit files and found that that different scoring models would keep consumers in the same credit-quality category 73 percent to 80 percent of the time, but the scores would place about 20 percent of consumers off by one category in credit quality. Consumers are unable to determine if the scores they purchase will be close to a score sold to creditors, the CFPB said. People can purchase the FICO score used by lenders at MyFICO.com, although they can only obtain two agency scores -- not all three -- and the FICO model may not be the same used by a particular bank.