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One in Four Credit Reports Bogus

We all have them. Credit reports, that is. You know, the ones that TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax keep on all of us.

One problem, though. Twenty five percent of them are wrong. So wrong, in fact, that one of four are so bad that they result in subprime classification by lenders, sufficient to either deny a credit application or justify imposing a very high interest rate.

This after a series of settlements totaling $2.5 million designed to correct these very problems. In 1996, Congress required Equifax, Experian and Trans Union to provide consumers with a toll-free telephone number and access to credit bureau personnel during normal business hours, with a view to helping people resolve mistakes in their credit reports.

In January 2000, the three credit bureaus paid a total $2.5 million to settle FTC allegations that they blocked calls from more than a million consumers who wanted to discuss their credit reports. Many people also were kept on hold for unreasonable amounts of time, the federal agency said.

The settlements required the bureaus to answer consumer calls within 3 1/2 minutes on average and ensure that 90 percent of callers don't get a busy signal. So, if you call and either get a busy signal or stay on hold too long, you have a right to complain. You don't have to take it.

Of the 197 credit reports collected from people in 30 states, 79 percent had some sort of error, while 54 percent included personal identifying information that was misspelled, outdated, belonged to someone else or was otherwise incorrect. Thirty percent contained credit accounts that consumers had closed but that remained listed as open. Nearly 8 percent were missing major credit, loan or mortgage accounts that indicate creditworthiness, said the Public Interest Research Group.

Beware. Check your credit. Cross-check well before you apply for a major loan. Get it fixed.

The real problem as I see it is that there really may not be any such thing as privacy. After all, if your personal information were truly private, the credit bureaus wouldn't be able to get your bank and loan information in the first place. That way, they couldn't screw it up if they tried.

Think about it.

Posted by J. Craig Williams on Wednesday, June 23, 2004

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