I’m sure you’ve seen and heard on American television the “Free Credit Report Dot Com” commercial and the insinuatingly craven melody of its accompanying jingle — and so you know how tempting and important it is for you to have access to what the credit reporting agencies say about you. FreeCreditReport.com is operated by Experian.
Experian is one of three monolithic credit reporting agencies in the USA. Equifax and TransUnion are the other two confounding giants. If you have a credit card, loan, or if you want credit or a loan — those three agencies dictate your life and your “credit worthiness” by giving you a “Credit Score” that decides for the banks and credit lending agencies how much Vigorish / vig / juice (interest rate) you’ll pay on a loan.
As an American, you are entitled by federal law to check your credit reports for free once a year — and to then challenge any discrepancies you might find. It is important for you to know what, exactly, is on your credit report because those three megalith reporting agencies do not always agree on what you owe, let alone, who you are.
If you find an error in your report, you need to be proactive and immediately report the problem . Triple AdvantageOn Friday I used Experian to get access to my credit report. The results were expected and I was unable to resist the further ability to check the other two credit agencies through Experian — for a price, of course– and to get some further protections as outlined in Experian’s “Triple Advantage” email to me below:
It is a smart idea to have credit monitoring. You are immediately alerted if anyone tries to get credit in your name or if someone messes with your identity.
You pay around $25 a month for the monitoring — all three credit agencies offer similar cross-checking programs — I prefer Experian because they appear to give a kinder credit score than the other two and Experian is the agency, in my experience, most used on the East Coast to check credit worthiness. Diana Boles
Yesterday I received the following email expressing sorrow that I had cancelled my Experian account:
It took me several moments to realize I was not “Diana Boles” and a few moments more to then figure out that, for some reason, “Diana Boles” was using an old email account of mine for communication with Experian. I do not know Diana Boles.
I was immediately alarmed because Experian was using one email address for two different people. Had my identity been compromised? Did Diana’s fingers misspell her email address? I could not know — no one but Diana could know — so I did the natural and Right Thing. I followed Experian’s instruction to Diana: Call the Toll Free Customer Service number. It was then that my nightmare began.
Janet I started talking with Janet in Experian customer service. She had a heavy Indian accent. I told her my Diana woe and concern and Janet — probably wrongly — told me Diana had no access to my credit report and that Diana had pulled her free account report on February 9 and cancelled her account the same day. I asked Janet if Diana had cancelled her account a month earlier, why was I getting email today for Diana on my email account?
Janet told me that Diana’s account was still considered “open” for 30 days even though Diana cancelled it a month ago. Janet told me not to worry because Diana’s account was inactive. I asked Janet what Experian planned to do concerning Diana’s use — intended or otherwise — of my email address. Janet said “nothing could be done” because the account was closed. I told Janet I wanted the false email address deleted from Diana’s account because that was my address, not Diana’s, and even though Diana’s account was closed it was obviously still active and obtainable in the Experian database. Janet put me on hold for 10 minutes so she could speak with a Supervisor.
When Janet came back to me she was colder and firmer and she said I had to write a fax and send it to the Security team “for investigation” and if the “investigators” found what I was claiming was true, they would remove my email address from Diana’s account. I asked Janet if she thought this was strange that I was doing Experian a favor and informing them of an error in their database, but Experian was then turning around and making me the one responsible to remedy the situation beyond a phone call notification — that Experian was recording — and making me into the enemy for doing the right thing?
I told Janet to send an email to Diana’s address and I would reply with proprietary information she could confirm and that would prove who owned the email address. Janet became even colder and repeated her fax mantra that it was up to me to prove my identity and not for Experian to prove Diana wrong. When I asked Janet how I even knew about “Diana Boles” and her use of my email address unless I was getting Diana’s email, Janet replied, “I have no idea.” I told Janet I had done my part and notified Experian of a possible security problem compromising my account and my identity and that I was reserving all my legal rights under the Fair Credit Reporting Act and that the responsibility for investigating and setting right this matter belonged to Experian and not me.
I hung up the phone as Janet repeated her fax mantra. What a conundrum this was! I knew Experian had incorrect information on file and they were not interested in fixing this for me even though I took the time to notify them!
Self-Protection I called an attorney friend of mine and — between gasps for air between his fits of laughter at the ridiculousness of Experian’s claim to protect identity for $50,000 via its “Triple Protection” offer and its refusal to protect mine via a free phone call notification — advised me to login to my Experian account and change my email address.
That, my friend said, would protect my current account and also isolate the Diana Boles’ infringement and make it easier to track any further Experian notifications and communication between Diana and Experian by quarantining those exchanges. My friend also told me to call Experian again and ask to speak to a Supervisor. I logged into my Experian account and changed my email address.
Vince I called Experian and was connected with Vince. He, too, had a heavy Indian accent and after I briefly told him the issue he instantly understood my concern and vowed to help me. Vince told me he couldn’t delete Diana’s email address but Account Security could and he offered to connect me.
Annasty I was grateful for Vince’s empathy and then I was connected to Annasty — who sounded like she was speaking under water — from the Experian Security team. Annasty was generally disinterested in my situation and interrupted me by telling me the email address I had on file was not the same as Diana Boles’, and so, my concern was unfounded.
I asked Annasty if I could please finish my story — and after a chilling 10 second pause she said, “go ahead” — and in my next breath I explained I changed my email address under the advice of counsel and I asked to speak to a Supervisor.
Brandy After a 10 minute wait, I was connected to a Supervisor named Brandy — who also sounded under water — and I told her my story. Brandy immediately deleted my email address from Diana’s account. Brandy said Diana probably just mistyped her email address. I told her that might be the case — or not — but that we can never know Diana Boles’ intent and to guess is to assume something neither one of us can prove.
Brandy also assured me none of my information was compromised or shared and that my account was still active and not cancelled. Ironically, the thing that concerned Brandy the most wasn’t my situation — that was a simple fix — but what Janet told me about Diana Boles’ timeframe relationship with Experian. Brandy spent most of her investigative time on the phone with me asking me questions about Janet and not me or Diana.
Brandy went on to explain no one in her office would have told me that information about Diana but there are two other call centers she can’t control. When I told Brandy about Janet and Vince’s heavy Indian accents, Brandy said it sounded like I had been connected to the Philippines call center and that she would take care of it. I thanked Brandy for helping me and for doing the right thing by me as I was trying to do the right thing by Experian.
It took an hour out of my Sunday life to set this matter straight — a matter I did not cause or initiate — and it goes to show how sometimes the worst thing isn’t the initial infraction, but rather the grievous errors made in denying responsibility for the problem in the first place. Several hours later I was presented with the following email informing me I had changed my email address with Experian.
There was also an invitation to call Customer Service if I needed further assistance.
I declined that offer.
Have you ever had any problems with credit reporting agencies? If so, how were you able to resolve the matter in your favor and how long did the process take to correct?