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Be afraid….be truly afraid

by Peary Perry
Peary Perry

One of the most frightening statements any of us could ever hear is this:

“Hi, I’m from the government and I’m here to help.”

Be afraid….be truly afraid….in fact run if you can.

Let’s look an example of how we are being ‘helped’ by the good old US government.

Suppose you want to buy something and they run a credit check on you. You get turned down. The results show some kind of an error which you don’t understand. These can be fairly simple; sometimes they have you confused with another person, perhaps the store made a mistake, maybe the account was entered twice or you could be the victim of identity theft.

In any event you decide to check it out for yourself, since the company doesn’t give you the exact nature of the reason you were turned down. You log onto annualcreditreport.com and then try to navigate you way through all of their on line instructions to obtain your annual free report….The first agency (TransUnion) doesn’t allow me to see my report due to the fact that at one time or another I had a credit alert reporting account with them that has since expired…so they have me blocked. The other two agencies are fairly straight forward and I print out all of the information without any hassle. Now it’s up to me to sort through everything and make some sense of it.

This is the hard part. I find a number of duplicate accounts that should not be included. No one (at least no one I know of) has three Sears accounts. I also find that some of the accounts have reported me in the good guy, no problem section along with another reporting of me in the “He was late one month back in 2002” bad guy section…for this same account. How can I be both? It appears this information stays with me forever or until I die, perhaps even after that. With my luck the funeral home won’t take me as a customer due to some error on my credit score. I suppose you have to have a decent average and be in good standing with the credit bureaus before you can get a funeral. I don’t know this to be a fact, but would not be surprised. Not that it will bother me, but I’d like to think of my wife and kids not having to explain why I was late paying for some unwanted magazines in the years past. So, as I am writing this, I am also printing out the two reports I was able to access on line. I will get started working on the resolution of these issues before I depart the earth since I tend to believe things of this nature might produce unwarranted stress in times of grief. I might be wrong, but that’s what I believe.

I finally get the reports printed out. One is 17 pages and the other is 36. Why anyone needs to know about accounts that I closed years ago is beyond me, but there they are. So, what good does this do for me or anyone else?

When I checked the internet to find out if anyone was having problems such as this, I found that my ability to print the reports at all was somewhat of a miracle. It seems lots of folks are having a very difficult time even getting this far. Then here comes the best part.

The agency in charge of investigating the credit bureaus for mistakes or delays is the Federal Trade Commission ( www.ftc.gov or 1-877-382-4357) but they can’t really help you since they can’t tell you if they are investigating any complaints about any of the agencies. A spokesperson stated that ‘all FTC investigations are non-public” so there you go. This means they can’t advise you if they are checking for issues with any of the three major agencies. And, they can’t tell you if they are trying to resolve any of these issues as well.

They do recommend that you log onto their web site and file a complaint if you aren’t happy with your experience with either getting your free report or correcting any errors in your report. Having said that, then they tell you they aren’t able to tell you what will happen to your complaint since it’s ‘confidential’.

So, if you complain, but you can’t check on your complaint, then how do you know anyone is doing anything about your complaint or that they ever will? Especially when you go for months and see no action or get the results you are looking for? Sound like the old runaround to me, doesn’t it to you? How much money is spent on this dismal effort?

Our government in action….ain’t it great?

© Peary Perry
Letters From North America

July 11, 2007 column
Syndicated weekly in 80 newspapers

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