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?

16 Comments

  1. Wow, all that only took an hour?
    Try six with a Verizon billing error. I finally figured out if you want anything done with that company you have to talk to a supervisor. Luckily I had the day off that day. By the end of it though, I was getting a bit hysterical. My roommates ended up talking to them too so I could have a break.
    I hate customer service on phones.

  2. Hi Stacy!
    Ha! Yeah, only an hour! Harr! I guess they were slow on a Sunday. If Janet had just said, “Gee, that doesn’t sound right, we’ll check into it for you,” I would have been happy and satisfied.
    It’s fascinating to me that you can dispute inaccuracies with your credit report online, but you can’t dispute someone using your email address online — or very easily — even over the phone!
    I’m with you on Verizon. They have great service on the East Coast, but I ran from them as soon as my contract was up. Both Sprint and Cingular provide better customer service.
    Getting to a Supervisor anywhere is hard because the “first rank” are instructed to never pass you up and to always frustrate your every effort and they make you re-explain everything so they can put you off again. It’s frustrating!

  3. David,
    Janet’s reaction to your situation has got to be the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard.
    I am with your lawyer friend–why would they offer $50000 of Identity Theft Protection but refuse to let YOU assist THEM in keeping your own, personal email address secure? Preposterous!
    I noticed you were away from Urban Semiotic last night for a good hour or so, not responding to comments. Perhaps this was during your little adventure? 😀

  4. Hello Emily!
    Thank you for confirming I am not insane. I was sitting there going around and around with Janet and getting quietly angrier and angrier as she became more and more ridiculous! It was a carousel without a finish.
    The fact that Experian, via Janet, was not interested in investigating their possible role in a possible identity theft situation still confounds me. Vince told me quite plainly that, “it was obvious Janet didn’t understand you,” and that was a welcoming, if damning, admission on his part.
    It’s sometimes hard to concentrate on the fun here when I’m in the midst of fighting elsewhere. 😀

  5. Hi David,
    For domains where I have email accounts set up, I have one of the accounts set up to be a catch all account. That way, if someone sends mail to a nonexistant account, it ends up in the catch all account.
    I once got an email from a major airline with an e-ticket confirmation from someone who used an email address that ended with one of my domains. It was very strange and I saved the email. I wonder if someone misspelled their email address?
    I didn’t notify the airline because I figured I’d get myself stuck on a phone with someone who didn’t care.

  6. Chris!
    Don’t you get a ton of Spam in your catch all account? Do you actually read the mail in that catch all?
    Do you use that scheme with your GAYD account? If so, do you use a nickname or do you create an entirely different email account that you check?
    I think people misspell their email addresses a lot — that’s why many sites now require you to type it in twice for forms submissions.

  7. David,
    For Janet to not have understood the seriousness of your situation is even worse!
    I am glad you kept at it until you were given a solution. A lot of people would have given up with Janet which, I fear, is precisely what she wanted you to do.
    Good job sticking to your guns!

  8. Hi David,
    It was lost in Yahoo somewhere … or I might have accidently deleted it.
    I use GMail now with my GAYD account. Most of the spam is non-English because I have the .be extension. It makes it easy to quickly scan and do a mass delete. I do have to admit that I usually don’t spend more than a second or two looking at the spam box before I mass-delete everything.
    I have another GMail account, but I have it forward everything to my GAYD account to make it easy to keep up with everything.

  9. Emilys —
    I know! Janet was a broken hope.
    I did want to quit after Janet. Then I thought about it a little bit and realized Janet wasn’t going to do ANYTHING to help me so I was no better off than before I called and spent 15 minutes with her. Then I called a friend and wasted the next 35 minutes…

  10. Chris!
    Ah-ha! Yahoo strikes again! I never could figure out how to find an old message in that folder system.
    Chris — so your GAYD catchall address is your regular email address or did you create a nickname for it that you then filter into a label for checking later?
    I, too, have all my original Gmail mail forwarded on to my GAYD account. Works great and invisibly.
    There’s a rumor GAYD-PE folk will be able to POP3 into outside email accounts via their GAYD Gmail interface by Friday. That feature has been appearing on and off on some accounts for the last couple of weeks now!

  11. Hi David,
    My catch all is my regular email address. I didn’t even think to create an alias to keep everything separated.
    I’ll have to keep an eye open for the POP3 access. 🙂

  12. Hi Chris!
    Yes, if you create a nickname in GAYD and then tell the system to forward all that catchall mail to that address, you can then create a label and filter all that possible junk — telling the filter to mark it all Read, too — into one area where you can pick and choose to look at it as you wish. I use a lot of nicknames that way!
    Let me know if POP3 shows up for you. I haven’t seen it at all yet.

  13. Wow, that was a trying experience but it shows it pays to keep on at them until someone gets things sorted.
    Whenever I call the tech support for our phone service provider it always sounds like a call center in India, despite the English sounding names, the accents and background noise gives me the impression it is. They are trying bless them, but I keep on at them.
    Maybe I am destined to never get their DSL modem working with the second PC with Vista and get it online!

  14. Hiya Michael!
    Yes. You must never “give in” to them until you are satisfied. I should’ve just hung up on Janet and called right back and my experience probably would’ve been better.
    It is difficult when American Tech Support is farmed out to the lowest overseas bidder. There is a cultural phenomenon in each country that should be honored in manners and form and we are not yet “one world, single nation.”