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Sunday, June 14, 2009

Article about yet another case where Equifax mixed two consumers' files together

Yesterday in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, there was an article about yet another case where Equifax's faulty matching logic caused two people's credit files to be merged together, creating a mixed file where the bad credit history of one person lands on the good credit report of another person. The case in the article involves twins, where Equifax places the brother's bad credit on his twin sister's credit report and refuses to fix the errors despite numerous disputes and proof provided by the sister.

Here's a quote from the article:

"For more than two years Robyn Mueller has been battling credit reporting giant Equifax, which mixed her twin brother’s data into her file, then failed to correct the errors, records show.
Mueller sent Equifax repeated dispute letters beginning in 2006 — and even copies of each sibling’s driver’s licenses, pay stubs and other records — to prove they are different people. But the problem wasn’t fixed until last summer when she sued the Atlanta-based credit bureau.

For two years the errors saddled Mueller with an Equifax credit report so troubled she had no credit score, according to Mueller and records she’s assembled as part of a federal lawsuit.
'You don’t understand how much torture I went through,' said Mueller, 39, who lives in Sugar Hill. 'All the credit bureaus, they control your life. … It’s not fair for them to steal your identity.'

...

Federal law is supposed to protect consumers from such problems, mandating that credit reporting agencies investigate and promptly correct any errors consumers report to them.
But consumer watchdog groups say the system for disputing credit report errors is badly broken and can have a devastating impact on an individual’s ability to get loans, housing, insurance and jobs. They say credit bureaus do little to investigate alleged errors and use an automated system that reduces a consumer’s complex dispute letter and supporting documents to a two- or three-digit code.

When credit bureaus refuse to correct errors, the Fair Credit Reporting Act allows consumers to bring suit to enforce the law and collect damages and attorneys fees if they prevail.

The Consumer Data Industry Association, a trade group for the credit bureaus, said the dispute system, with its electronic coding, quickly corrects errors most of the time. Serious, lingering problems are rare, said Stuart Pratt, the association’s CEO."

FYI - the CDIA is an organization that is comprised of the credit bureaus and major furnishers of credit information (credit card companies, mortgage companies, etc.). The CDIA is actually responsible for coming up with the credit bureaus' terrible procedures for "investigating" consumer disputes by merely asking the company that provided the wrong information to begin with whether it was right or not, and then, no matter what the answer, going with the answer of the furnisher and never siding with the consumer if the consumer's position contradicts that of the furnisher.

First of all, Mr. Pratt, serious, lingering problems with Equifax and the other CRAs Experian and Trans Union are not only not "rare" but are common place. I see them every day.

And, in Ms. Mueller's case, the problem is not only Equifax's complete failure to properly investigate her disputes, but also Equifax's matching logic, which fails to require an exact match of a Social Security number on an account to the consumer before placing the account on the consumer's credit report. This caused the brother's bad credit, reported to Equifax with the brother's name and Social Security number, to land on the sister's credit report under her name and Social Security number.

This is a problem that Equifax has known about since the early 1990s and has even promised to fix in order to extricate itself from a lawsuit filed against it by 18 States and again when it was sued for this same mixed file problem by the FTC. Both times, Equifax agreed to fix its matching logic to use full identifying information, including full Social Security number, but both times Equifax failed to do what it promised, to the detriment to consumers like Ms. Mueller. Good luck in your lawsuit.

Here's a link to the full article - http://www.ajc.com/feeds/content/metro/stories/2009/06/14/spotlight_credit.html?cxtype=rss&cxsvc=7&cxcat=13.

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