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Sunday, April 7, 2013

A Little Off the Normal Topic: The Arrogance of Credit Reporting Agencies

In a foul, foul mood. I am doing my federal income taxes, and that does not make me happy. I always stall until almost the last minute and then get caught up trying to find this and that document before the dreaded deadline arrives. Anyhow, I will get around to it . . . I think, I hope, maybe . . . federal prisoners get internet access, don't they? Either way, then, I will still be blogging.

Doing my taxes coincided with the end of a two year battle to get the Big Three Credit Reporting Agencies here in the USA to correct an error on my credit report. First, I had to have an eight-month battle with the state of California, which, thanks to a mistake by the State Department payroll office, had for two years listed me as a resident of California when, in fact, I was a resident of Florida. This happened while I was overseas, and I failed to catch the CA vs. FL mistake. When I returned to the States, I went to live in Virginia, and paid their income and property taxes--which, I would note, ain't cheap. After my forced retirement by the Obamistas, I returned to Florida where I found a letter waiting for me from the California Franchise Tax Board telling me I owed many, many thousands of dollars for NOW some four years of California income taxes. I nearly had an attack of the vapors.

My battle with the CFTB is the stuff of legend. Not even the Norse Sagas can compare! Grendel and her mommy were nothing! Goliath, bah! St. George and his dragon? I laugh heartily! The battle went on for months while I tried to prove to the CFTB that I had not lived in California, had paid taxes in Virginia for two years, and that prior to that I had my home in Florida as my residence, and--Horrors!-- Florida does not have an income tax. The CFTB minions could not understand the concept of a state not having an income tax; they kept asking me for my Florida income tax returns. I sent them property tax receipts, copies of my homestead exemption, my Florida car registration, concealed carry permit, driving license, in-state tuition receipts for my kids' colleges. All went zooming over their heads until I got a very competent California-based CPA who scared them straight. The CFTB relented and sent me a letter saying the tax lien was lifted and, subsequently, sent me another letter saying the lien had been placed in error.

A tax lien is a terrible thing to have on your credit report. My credit score went from flying with the angels to digging with the earthworms. Ever tried to get one of three big credit agencies to correct an entry? Horrors await you. Transunion and Equifax were relatively easy; it took me only four to six months to get them to correct the entry in my credit report.

Dealing with Experian, however, was a Kafkaesque nightmare. Months of writing letters, sending emails, going to their website, only to be referred to their phone number which no human would answer, just a recording referring me back to their website. The sales pitch was amazing. I had to subscribe to their service before they would even deign to examine my credit report. I had to have a credit report file number which, they said, I could only get by becoming a subscriber.

I did my research and found that they were lying. The internet is full of websites dedicated to Experian and its highhandedness. I, fortunately, found on one such site, a phone number which Experian does not publicize. After much insistence and shouting "Agent! Agent!" I got a very rude human whose first question was, "Where did you get this phone number?" She tried to refer me back to the website which I refused to allow. She eventually gave me a PO Box in Allen, Texas to which I should send all my "evidence." She told me exactly what the letter should contain. I did as told, providing the exact book and page numbers in the Sacramento County Registrar office where the CFTM acknowledged that the lien was in error. I even sent copies of the letters from the CFTB. Five weeks later I got back one of the stupidest, most poorly written letters I ever have received. The crack investigators at Experian had "determined" that the letter I had sent, at their request, mind you, had not been sent by me; they declined to proceed any further and closed my case, letting the erroneous information stand.

Folks, I spent nearly 35 years in bureaucracy. I know what a letter like that means. It means, it's almost five o'clock on a Friday, and I can't be bothered to look into some complaint from a guy in Florida who is not even a subscriber to our service. I contacted the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) where a nice but clueless young man told me that the FTC had lots of complaints about Experian, and that I should send my "story" to the FTC. The FTC would not, however, do anything; they were just collecting statistical data. Right. I am going to waste my time doing that.

I called the Secret Bat Number at Experian, again, and had an even tougher time this go round getting somebody to talk to me. I demanded to know how their investigators had determined that the letter I had sent at Experian's request, with all the information and supporting evidence requested by Experian, had, in fact, not been sent by me. The rather rude woman on the other end of the line, said it was because, "You used a third party company in your effort to repair your credit score." My reply was, "You are making that up. There was no third party company, and you know it." She tried, once again, to sell me a subscription to their service. I refused and said, "You are costing me the ability to buy a house. You fix this, or I will file a lawsuit." I did not know at the time that, apparently, if you say you are trying to buy something and an erroneous credit score is preventing that, they have to act, including giving you a file number. She took all my information, trying repeatedly to get me to send it all again to the address in Allen, Texas--I refused--and warning me, "We can't correct something just because you say so." I kept my temper, gave her all the information on the Sacramento County Recorder, and had to listen to her tell me it would take 45 to 60 days for them to get back to me.

Two weeks later, I got an email deleting the lien info and restoring my score to its former stratospheric heights. The whole thing left me with a very bad taste in my mouth, and an unease over how we have allowed remote, arrogant, and, above all, anonymous bureaucrats, whether in government or large corporations, to have so much power over our lives.

OK, OK. Therapy session is over, I feel better now. Back to politics . . .


  1. That was a righteous battle.Little did they know how wise in the arcane ways you would be(finding the secret incantation must have much fear). Heh!

  2. Perhaps Experian headquarters sits next to the national I.R.S. headquarters and learned their treatment of the public from the very best?

    A frightening example of trying to fix a wrong! Imagine the poor suckers who don't have handy private numbers to call!


  3. Computers and databases are wonderful tools - until they're wielded in the lazy hands of a pre-fascist entity demanding recognition and authority, like any good NGO does. Hyper centralization is a house of cards - just wait for Obamacare and their medical records to take center stage in your life.

    Some fine Monday morning you'll go into the hospital to have a cyst removed from your neck and the doctor will start probing for that cancerous ovary (while you're under anesthetic)! His response to your question about all the scar tissue 'down there' will be...."But the records said''.

  4. Please... if only for grins, publish on your blog that super secret phone number.

  5. Diplomad, consider yourself lucky. Do you know what happens to people when they have had their identity stolen by some illegal who is using their Social Security number for all things nefarious?

    Number 1, if you have your SS# stolen, the SSA will not give you a new one, although your credit has been destroyed and you owe thousands of dollars in taxes on wages you did not earn. Let's say you are living, and working in Florida but you have earnings listed with the SSA in Arizona, the onus is on you to prove that you did not commute back and forth and that the Arizona earnings were not really yours. Meanwhile, the IRS is still billing you, racking up late fees and penalties for wages you did not earn but according to them, did not report.

    Credit agencies will not remove the bad credit from loans/accounts/etc that you did not take out, unless there is a current law suit against the theif.

    People are not aware how easy it is to have their SS# stolen. Hell, I could go to Trader's Village (a large flea market) in Houston and for a couple of hundred bucks buy your SS# and name, along with a South Carolina driver's license with someone else's picture on it.

    In all the cases of identity theft, I have only read of one recent conviction. An illegal from Mexico stole not only a woman's SS# but her teacher's certificate, as well. The illegal taught in a public school for years, bought a home, and lived the life of the woman she robbed. For that she will get a couple of years of three hots and a cot.


    1. My dad went through this--nearly every entity he had to deal with, ranging from law enforcement to pettifogging credit bureacracies, he was told "oh, it's your problem to fix this..."

      Which makes one wonder why any of those organizations exist, since fixing erroneous information appears to be beyond their interest and/or competence.

      It took over a year to straighten things out, along with more than a few threatening phone calls.

  6. Seems things are getting worse all over. Got any suggestions for a country to re-locate to?


    Costa Rica?

    Please read what Dear Usurper is doing now. Going after your 401K/IRA, because, you know, it's really not yours...


    1. well you can run for awhile but eventually all parts of the world will be affected.

    2. I had my identity stolen in 97' by what turned out to be a prison gang in Northern CA. The set up an address for me in Long Beach CA and opened an account for phone service. With that they charged a few thousand dollars of calls to Central America and domestic US.
      I didn't find out about it until I went to re-fi my home in NY with my same lender about 5 years later. When I asked why the loan was rejected they told me that I live in CA. I pointed out to them that I own a house in NY, my payments come from a NY bank and I was calling them from my home phone in NY. They didn't care.
      Turned out that a collection agency in CA had reported the phone bills to the credit agencies. I never once was notified by the agency that I was in collection. I too had to "prove a negative" by sending tons of bills, tax forms, etc. to the agency. And you are right, when I told the supervisor that I had been turned down for a loan it really got his attention and they ammended my credit report.
      5 years after that I was checking my credit reports and lo and behold the phoney address in Long Beach was still on one of the reports! I called them loaded for bear, and a couple of drinks, and read them the riot act! The clerk wanted me to jump through a bunch of hoops to "prove" I never lived in Long Beach. I countered "instead of my proving a negative, how about you prove that I did live in Long Beach." The address was taken off the report.
      So, that little nightmare went on for a decade...

  7. Yep - trying to argue with a bureaucracy is like trying to argue with a Dalek ...

    Phil B

  8. But THAT was politics .

    Politics of the "where the rubber hits the road" variety.

    Politics of the petty bureaucrat, the malicious "jobsworth", the "faceless megalomaniacs".

    If you don't kick the crap out of them, how do you expect to reef the "big kids" in Washington, Canberra, Whitehall etc. into line?

  9. Amazing how we have allowed these agencies so much control of our financial lives. We have zero say in how they operate and they have zero accountability to us. Yet we can't borrow a dime without their mysterious approval.

  10. " The crack investigators at Experian had determined that the letter I had sent, at their request, mind you, had not been sent by me”

    The wonder of the modern world is not that so many people go postal, but that so few do.

  11. Every normal man must be tempted at times to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin to slit throats. H.L. Mencken

    More and more of us are beginning to understand that Mencken quote at a visceral level. If, God forbid, we ever get pushed to act on it, things will be very messy, and for those who have pushed us to it, unpleasant.

    And in hunting up the exact wording of the quote I found this one from Mencken too: "Every decent man is ashamed of the government he lives under".

  12. I just went through something similar just to lift a security freeze temporarily. I couldn't get Experian's lift page to work, so I called. Could not get through to a person without a recent code number. Tried to get a copy of my credit report to get a recent number. Couldn't get a credit report because Experian (unlike the other two agencies) won't give me a credit report when I have a freeze on the account. Called ConsumerInfo.com. *They* don't have a phone number to call into Experian (which owns them). Fortunately, I was able to work with Experian by mail (oh, how modern), so after two or three weeks of working on this, I finally got what I needed.

    All I could think of while going through all this was, "CATCH-22".

    For the other two agencies, you just call them. They have actual live people answering their main number. Huh, what a concept. Positively ante-diluvian.

  13. I developed Michael's Theory of History about thirty years ago, even though I was still a Democrat. Societies grow in size and in complexity until they reach a point at which more than twenty five percent of the population will be required to operated the machinery of the society. That is the number of people with sufficient IQ to handle abstract concepts and complex structures. In modern America, it is the technology. In ancient Rome, it was what we now call "the sterner virtues." Although Rome was a military dictatorship for centuries, it functioned because people understood that they must do the right thing, even if no one else did. The earliest Romans learned this by plowing fields, even on cold days, when they'd have preferred to stay in the house making little Romans. Later Romans had philosophy to tell them what their illiterate ancestors knew quite well. However, over time, the schools where philosophy was taught, and military conscription for nearly everyone, faded. Lead poisoning may have been a factor, too. Diocletian tried to rule without virtue, freezing every one in place. It did not work, and the taxes to support bureaucratic micromanagement so cripple the economy, especially in the cities, where (by the way)the schools were, turned counter-productive in short order.

    Now, of course, we have not only the growth beyond the IQ bell curve, but also the Rousseavian assault on the "evil bourgeoisie". I am not saying, yet, that we are doomed. We are, however, in grave danger.When the very lives of honest respectable people are held in the palsied hands of people who can't read without moving their lips, indeed, they probably move their lips when they watch television, what are we to do? In some centuries, people developed alternative social structures, and the results were often spectacular. e.g., among many, when the economy of Europe was held by the throat by the Medieval upper classes, guilds in towns, for example, were the work-around. The eighteenth century Nonconformists in Britain, with their trust-networks established around the chapel, the shul, and the meeting house, created the Industrial Revolution.

    Nowadays, we are seeing some similar developments around Evangelical and Charismatic churches, business networks, especially in the electronics/computer industries, are creating a thriving economic sector, although the participants must still depend, to some degree, on the larger, Stupid-Managed, economy. One big downfall is education, held in the firm grasp of the education bureaucracy. Home-schooling is the answer for many, and is getting big enough to represent danger to the Control Group. (Yes, a new meaning for an old phrase, which I despise when the Lefties do it. Please, forgive me.)

    If we begin to think of politics as a concerted effort to limit the ability of the old ruling class to strangle these developments in their cribs, we might have some effect. In that sense, RINOs, as annoying as they may be, can thwart enough of the Control Group's efforts to allow the new society to grow in the plowed-over ground of the old economy.

    Michael Adams

  14. Sorry, the previous comment was submitted prematurely, lacking appropriate editorial correction. I hope some sens can be made of it.

    Michael Adams