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The Tightening Net: Part One 374

Posted by JonKatz
from the outrunning-your-database dept.
Rack up a debt or crime, no matter how minor or how many years ago, and you're tagged for life, sometimes unfairly, sometimes erroneously, in mushrooming, linked databases used by credit and collection agencies, banks, governments, insurers and employers. In recent months, I've been getting a ton of e-mail offering fresh horror stories from people -- many of them students -- snared by information-tracking programs disgorging past debts and misdemeanors to unaccountable, indiscriminate business entities. This is just a taste of how privacy (and dignity) are being eroded by technology. (Note: First of a two-part series.)

JD got a letter in the mail just before Christmas, telling him his student loan application had been denied because an independent credit search agency had uncovered a $120 debt he'd allegedly incurred four years ago -- when he would have been a teenager. The bank said it wasn't responsible for the credit information, and the collection agency that listed his debt wasn't responsible for the loan denial.

With his University of Minnesota tuition money held up, he couldn't register for classes, access his grades or eat at the cafeteria. When he called the bank loan officer (it took three days to reach her), she told him a computer credit agency in Arkansas had red-flagged his loan. All she could tell JD was that the debt had showed up in an online collection agency's files; she didn't know the details. "We don't really have anything to do with it," he remembers her telling him in an odd farewell. If the bank didn't have any responsibility, he wondered, who did?

When JD called the number for the credit firm listed on his loan rejection form, he got a recording: the firm didn't take telephone calls about credit information, supposedly for security reasons (but probably to evade enraged callers.)

The message instructed those people questioning their credit problems (JD had no debts, so far as he knew; he was too young at the time of the alleged problem to have credit cards) to write registered letters, then submit the overdue payments by mail. In the meantime, there was no way he could learn the details of the alleged delinquency, or even how to pay up.

JD wrote the letter -- his tuition payment was past due by this point, and desperation was setting in -- only to get a form saying he owed the $120 for music ordered by mail. He could challenge or appeal the debt, but that would take at least another 30 days, by which time, he'd be suspended, a "ghost" student, allowed to stay in his dorm and attend classes, but not to register or get grades.

I've gotten a number of e-mails like this in recent months, raising serious questions about growing databases, the way financial firms share personal information and use tracking software, and the impact these factors have on privacy, personal dignity and consumer's rights.

We've heard some public discussion about "identity theft," and about credit ratings damaged by thieves and crackers, but there may be an more widespread problem: privacy invasions of people who have minor legal or financial problems -- all now collected and instantly reported by credit and collection agencies using high-powered tracking software -- and institutions' often disproportionate responses. Sophisticated software and growing computer networks and databases mean that no transgressions of any sort are private, or truly past. Rack up a debt or commit a crime, no matter how minor or long ago, and you're tagged for years, perhaps for life.

Suddenly, we all seem to live at the mercy of credit-tracking companies. Companies and organizations -- especially those, like insurance firms, that rely on stats and formulas -- are no longer able to make sensible or humane judgements about what these agencies uncover. Instead, software seems to be making the calls on consumers' reliability and integrity.

For instance, JP56 at earthlink writes that she was denied a teaching job because of a drunk driving arrest that occurred a few weeks after she'd turned eighteen (she's now twenty-eight). She had gotten drunk at a high school graduation party, and drove afterward. Dumb behavior, for sure, but she says she isn't a regular drinker, has had no other violations, and that her penalty was a 60-day license suspension.

Dan was denied car insurance after he hit two deer in Pennsylvania within a six-month period. "Because of mild winters, there are tons of deer around," he wrote me. "I was doing a lot of driving -- I was working two jobs to pay for school -- late at night. One time a deer ran into the side of the car, another I hit it straight on. Then I moved to San Francisco. Three years later, I get a letter from my insurance company referring me to this credit tracking company. My insurance is denied, says the insurance company. It was years ago, and it wasn't my fault. But there wasn't anything I could do. I had to get into this state pool and pay three times the going rate. And I've never had a traffic ticket in my life."

Peter agreed to buy some vintage comic books from a phone-order firm on a monthly payment plan. He says he didn't realize how elaborate a procedure was required to stop getting the comics. He went off to college, not realizing the bills were still piling up (plus his family had moved), until he applied for a car loan and got turned down because a collection agency had red-flagged him in a computer database. No car. "First off, this comic place took advantage of kids like me. I did order the comics, but didn't understand the complexity of the arrangement. Then I moved and didn't get any more bills or comics. I had no idea this was building up, and no way of straightening it out that wouldn't cost a fortune and take months and months. Now my name is in some computer and I owe a lot of money. And the original company has changed hands a dozen times. Nobody there wants to hear about this. It's a nightmare."

AndyP wrote two months ago that he'd been arrested for vandalism after one Halloween mischief night when he was sixteen. An online tracking agency dug up the arrest -- even though it was a misdeanor offense, was supposed to be kept sealed, and had happened a decade earlier. "I was turned down because my company was working on a government project and we all needed a moderate security clearance. I never got it sorted out, because it was technically true. But jeez, it was a spray-painting incident. I guess in certain quarters, I'm unemployable for the rest of my life."

My e-mailers complain that even though appeals and application procedures exist, there are few checks on these agencies devoted to rummaging through people's pasts. Most of us have messed up a bit at one point or another, and now those incidents can be dredged up and used against us without much in the way of due process. Some are in blatant defiance of supposed federal consumer-protection laws, laws which seem porous, to say the least. Do people have the right to own the details of their own lives?

Students in particular have sent me a stream of stories like JD's, but the issue is getting much broader than student loans. Credit and collection companies run down past traffic tickets, immigration problems, child support payment histories, arrests and debts, all being fed into rapidly expanding databases as records are digitalized. Banks, insurers, employers and government agencies can hire these companies to run credit and security checks, then claim they have nothing to do with the resulting decisions. For the people trapped in this tightening net, it's a procedural nightmare.

Under the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act, consumers have the right to contact these companies and get some details of their supposed crimes or debts. But since almost any financial agency can enter information into these growing and increasingly-linked data banks, it can take weeks or months to figure out exactly what the alleged problems are.

You might be surprised to know what your credit "rights" are under the U.S. Fair Credit Reporting Act, especially considering how often they seem to be ignored. You can find the complete text of the FCRA 15 U.S.C. 1681-1681u at the Federal Trade Commission's web site. Among the protections provided to you by law:

  • You can dispute inaccurate information with the consumer reporting agency (CRA) involved. Anyone who uses information from a CRA to take action against you -- denying an application for credit, insurance or employment -- must give you the name, address and phone number of the CRA.
  • Inaccurate information must be corrected or deleted, assuming you can prove it's inaccurate and the CRA agrees it's inaccurate, but the CRA is not required to remove accurate data from your file unless it is outdated.
  • You can dispute inaccurate items with the source of the information (if you can reach them).
  • Outdated information may not be reported. In most, but not all cases, a CRA may not report negative information that is more than seven years old; ten years for bankruptices. (My e-mail suggests this is wantonly ignored. Some institutions don't always have to say precisely why they took an action, and in many cases, you'll never know).
  • Your consent is required for reports that are provided to employers, or reports that contain medical information. And you may choose to exclude your name from CRA lists for unsolicted credit and insurance offers, assuming you know where the CRA is and what it's doing and can reach them.

(Note: Credit rights are also covered by the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act; thanks to reader William Lockwood for the reminder.)

It doesn't sound half bad, but trying reaching a CRA for yourself to test how easy it is or how responsive they are. Notice also that there are no restrictions on selling information or passing it along to agencies the CRA deems appropriate.

And where there are disputes, people often have no recourse but time-consuming and expensive legal action. Even then, there are no clear guidelines for resolving disputes. Simply because a consumer says he never incurred that debt, banks and other institutions aren't required to accept his word. There are no uniform national laws requiring credit companies to respond in a particular way. Although I have no hard statistics, many of the people e-mailing me said they paid these debts rather than fight or challenge them, simply because they couldn't afford not to and were afraid of a time-consuming process. "It's an unconscious kind of extortion," write Jan, a student from the University of Florida. "They don't threaten you, but they don't have to. How can you prove you didn't owe $100 bucks five years ago, and can you afford to have your loan held up in the meantime? Not me."

There's scant protection for people who might have been victims of theft or simple error, or who made a minor mistake earlier in their lives, or who need issues resolved quickly. Only perfect people, it appears, are safe.


Next: Technology is eroding some rights, as the reasons for collecting data on citizens grows. Is privacy worth keeping in the country that invented the idea? Some other countries think so.

This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Part One: The Tightening Net

Comments Filter:
  • by kroymen (242910) on Thursday January 11, 2001 @05:19AM (#514145)
    Dignity and privacy are not being eroded by technology. They're being eroded by people. The technology is simply "how" they're doing it. Take the technology away, and as long as the people are still determined to violate each other, they will find a way to do it.
  • by pb (1020) on Thursday January 11, 2001 @05:20AM (#514146)
    So you're describing a dysfunctional organization of disconnected entities that claim no responsibility for the system as a whole, and make no sense together...

    ...much like the latest Katz article. Is this deconstructionism? Katz, are you getting literate on us? :)

    Seriously, though, I'm not surprised; this is the logical extension of bureaucracy and outsourcing, two horrible recent trends. Not only does everyone give you the runaround, but since they're all independent companies, they all claim no responsibility for their actions, and give you no customer service.

    In fact, it sounds like there should be a niche market for people who know what the procedure is here, and help you cut through red tape for a fee. That would help a lot more than, say, home equity loans...
    ---
    pb Reply or e-mail; don't vaguely moderate [ncsu.edu].
  • It seems to me as if Katz's ranting is misplaced. He argues about the evils of collected information, showing why the collection is a bad thing by showing what is done with the information. Can't information be used in good ways?

    My point is that information isn't necessarily bad; what's bad is how it's put to use. Katz complaines about how the information is used; instead of ranting against the information itself, why not criticize those who misuse information?
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I have two friends who work for collection agencies. You should hear the other side of the story, the millions of people who accumulate debt and try to run away from it.

  • Its not so much that the net is eroding privacy, but that it is making it easier for you to discover how little privacy you have had most of your life. Anyone born after 1970 certainly has had permanent computerized records all of their adult lives.

    Ironically some of the people who seem to bitch the most about privacy seem to be the same ones listing every detail about themselves on their personal web page.

    There's no way around it - you have no privacy, deal with it.

  • These stories are all sad and all, but it is part of the dual-edged sword of technology. If people want the convenience of getting a nice email telling them the new CD from ... is out, and you get a 10% discount because our records show you bought 10 CDs in the last 12 months, then those people are also subjected to the risk that the system will get screwed up, and you'll get emails about some other artist, or no discount. This is really just one tiny part of the larger problem, that technology is being introduced for the sake of it, without thought to the social and privacy implications. I mean if these credit checks worked perfectly and it was easy to find out who originally collected the information and say "but I paid that on the right date, here's my receipt" and get the loan etc. approved, are the credit checks still a bad thing? Are they a better of two evils as opposed to having to walk into a bank manager's office and conjure up paperwork of the last few years to prove you are a good credit risk?
    --
    Never try to teach a pig to sing. It wastes your time and annoys the pig.
  • by wiredog (43288) on Thursday January 11, 2001 @05:28AM (#514154) Journal
    Hell, read Database Nation [oreilly.com] for a much better overview of these types of problems.
  • by dfenstrate (202098) <dfenstrate&gmail,com> on Thursday January 11, 2001 @05:29AM (#514155)
    Through coporate beuacracy and risk reduction. It seems to me nowadays that few entities like risk... most avoid it like the plauge, and those that don't charge a ridiculous interest rate.

    Trouble is, I wonder how they can show that even accurate information ten years ago leads to a bad customer today. They seem to be going overboard, where the risk vs reward calculation is falling out of their favor.

    Sure, if someone did something two or three years ago, they might not have learned much, and may be liable to do it again.... but I find it hard to believe that actions that haven't been repeated in the past ten years (like the would-be teachers drunk driving conviction) show any correlation to the likeliness of them doing it today.

    In the meantime, my fellow young people, keep your nose clean. incidentally, does Katz get paid by the word?

  • In the UK I had great credit, I had a credit card with a limit of 2000 quid (about 1/3 of my annual pay).

    Now I moved to the US, earning 10 times as much and I have to *plead* with my bank to get a measily 700$ limit card.The cards are both Visa cards, you'd think that this web of knowledge would show me up as having a good record in the UK... But no they only want to use this extra research when it benefits them.

  • by Golias (176380) on Thursday January 11, 2001 @05:33AM (#514158)
    Most kids going in to college have a "red flag" or two in their credit report. If you can get a parent to co-sign the loan, what you did or did not do with a CD-of-the-month club bill several years ago becomes meaningless.

    As for this particular kid's problem... what the hell was he doing signing up for classes before his loans cleared? How would he have handled it if the loan was rejected for a legitimate reason?

    A credit card of mine was stolen during a break-in once, and clearing the charges on the stolen card took me almost a year... so I know how frustrating the stituation can be, but a lot of people make things worse by actually relying on credit. Every financial advisor in the world will tell you the same thing: Live within your means. You should not carry an ongoing balance on your cards, and should only borrow long-term for a house, education, and maybe your car. As spiffy as the new Apple G4 may be, you should try to get along with your P133 Linux box unless you have the cash to buy something new.

    If people did not overextend themselves on credit, debtor errors would be less of a personal tragedy, and more of a mere inconvenience.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 11, 2001 @05:37AM (#514162)
    I am about to begin looking to buy a townhouse, and started doing some research, and all of the books point out that you should check your credit reports for mistakes (obviously). I filed to get copies from the 3 major companies (Trans Union Credit [tuc.com], Experian [experian.com], and Equifax [equifax.com]) and discovered that 2 of the 3 had "minor" mistakes on them. One had an old drivers license number, and another had my last name mispelled AND had that I still owed $30 on a student loan (paid off 2 years ago, but the $30 would not have been due for probably another 5+ years) but it still was a mistake. Even these minor problems could possibly cause problems when applying for a mortgage. Anway, people should check their credit reports from ALL 3 of these major credit report agenceies to verify mistakes. I know that Mass residents are entitled to one free copy/year from each, as well as a few other states, but even if you are not, it is probably worth spending the $8/report on all three of these at least one time, and probably keep up every so often as well.
  • I'm completely unable to get a credit card, even the ones that you pay $500 for to get $500 in credit. I own a successful business, I have employees, I pay my vendors. I pay all of my monthly bills: telephone, health insurance, cable, bank loan, etc., etc. Yet I'm always turned down for credit, because I have no credit. A catch-22.

    Out of curiousity, I ordered a copy of my credit report about a year ago. It reported that I still owe on a house that I bought when I was 12, a car when I was 14, and some rather-pricey jewelry that I got when I was 15. I must have been one hell of a precocious youth.

    Of course, I called the credit agency. They told me that it was a "computer error," and removed all of those from my record. At least that part was easy. What I want to know is how many of those credit checks brought up the same result. And if this information has propagated to other databases.

    Credit baffles me. I hate it.

    -Waldo
  • Bad information is all that's propagated - when I was living in the UK I had a VISA card with a 2000 pound limit, about 1/3 of my annoula pay. Now I move out to california all my credit dissapears, I had to plead with the company to get a debit card with a lousy 700$ limit - despite that fact that It's also a VISA card and my salary is 10 times what I was getting in my PhD. You'd think that VISA would be able to base my application on my UK history... but that doesn't count...

    These databases only deal in bad news.
  • I moved from the US to the UK and It was awful, I had no credit or employment history. I got turned down by every bank on the High st for a checking accoung. (Except Lloyds, they wanted me to make an appointment before they turned me down).

    Royal Bank of Scotland was the most pleasent, they spend a few minutes trying to figure out a way to get me an accound and explained exactly why they were not able to do so.


    The cure of the ills of Democracy is more Democracy.

  • The peopel and examples listed clearly showed that these people had indeed made a mistake in their past (drinking and driving, and being delinquint with BMG when he thought he was too young for it to matter)....

    And Katz is saying that these people shouldn't be held reponsible for their actions, or that credit agencies and banks are somehow intruding on our privacy by finding this out? I can't beleive this!

    Being followed around for life by a minor misdeed from years ago is a bit too much; the punishment should fit the crime. At some point, one has paid one's debt to society and should be free to move on.

  • by sterno (16320) on Thursday January 11, 2001 @05:44AM (#514169) Homepage
    The biggest problem I see with this whole system is the built in assumption that the credit reporting agencies are correct. They are prone to error at rates that I don't recall exactly but I remember being disturbing. If you call up the credit agency to deal with a mistake, they should immediately remove details of the mistake from the report (merely listing that it's being contested), and then give the reporting agency a period of time to proove their claim. If they cannot proove that you did it, then it should be expunged permanently.

    Another problem with the system is that there are three major credit reporting agencies. So, you may have a clean slate at one, but the other has red flags all over the place. So you might get your credit checked through one agency and discover everything is fine, but the same check through another agency could turn up problems. In theory the agencies share info but not always.

    Personally I recommend that everybody make a point of getting a copy of their credit report on a routine basis. If there is a problem it is much better to see it early on rather than get an unpleasant surprise when you are trying to buy a house, a car, or an education. There's several services out there that offer credit monitoring services that will report problems and give you quarterly updates of your information.

    ---

  • This is a very important point that he didn't mention at all. The result of all these databases being joined together has been, at least topically, a great convenience to consumers. Credit reports can be had almost instantaneously, etc.

    Whether we (personally) feel that this is an invasion of privacy doesn't matter. The consumer (as a whole) has accepted the tradeoff of convenience versus privacy.

    I'd like to see some hard statistics (not anecdotal evidence from emails that Katz gets) about how often there are mistakes in credit files like this. I know about five years ago there was a big push to make it easier for consumers to get access and change their personal information.

    It's a simple fact that when you have a system that supports several hundred million consumers, there are going to be errors. Should we throw the whole thing out and go back to doing everything with paper and pencil? I don't think anyone would want that.

    LL
  • It's an issue of responsibility.

    The Credit Reporting Agency("CRA") is blaming it on the reporter. The company that refuses a loan/job/rental blames it on the CRA, but not the particular item on the report. But, they ask for an explaination of everything.

    A lawsuit for libel is impossible here. Not that you can show that it's libel, but how do you show damages? That you didn't get the loan/rental/job? They will argue that it's not just their report.

  • by budcub (92165) on Thursday January 11, 2001 @05:52AM (#514179) Homepage
    But all these things take time, and if you're waiting on a student loan to come in, you might not have it.

    I used to work for a small consumer finance agency, where I'd review credit applications, look at credit bureau reports, and did telephone collections. Unless things have changed, and they either have for the case of student loans, these kids dont' know all their rights or options.

    "They don't threaten you, but they don't have to. How can you prove you didn't owe $100 bucks five years ago, and can you afford to have your loan held up in the meantime? Not me."

    You don't have to prove you didn't owe $100 five years ago, they should prove it. At the very least they need to provide a signed piece of paper (promissary note) saying "I owe you $xxx.xx" If they can't produce this, or some other evidence then you don't owe them anything. But in your case you probably don't have much time for all this fighting. All I can suggest is contact your state banking commission and file a complaint.

    If you've ever been turned down for credit, you're entitled to a free credit report. Two credit reporting agencies are Equifax [equifax.com] and Experian [experian.com] Contact them, and get a copy of your report. Its kind of tricky to read if you've never seen one, but they include instructions and everyone should check their credit report once a year.

    If something doesn't look right on your credit report, challenge it. The lending institution has to respond within a certain amount of time (30-45 days?), or it will be wiped out of your credit report. That is, unless the law about this has changed since I've worked in the collections field.

  • Come on. You're responsible for looking out for yourself in this world. You have plenty of rights granted by the FCRA [ftc.gov]. Use them.

    That means, you do go out and get a copy of your credit report [experian.com] every year, right? (Depending on which state you live, it might be even free.)

    Make sure everything inside of it is what you expect. If not, call them up can fix it. Fix possible problems before they become real ones. You will need to do this before you buy a house, or car, so learn now while everything is still okay.

    You won't believe what you see: my wife had credit charges from her mother, just because their names are similar (not even the same!). We had to call up and have these removed.

    Additionally, you will see lots of bottom-feeding banks pinging your report for "pre-approved" offers. There were literally hundreds of credit checks by people that had no fucking business looking in there. Thankfully, you can call 1-888-5OPTOUT to stop this insanity. Do it now. They will mail you a form which you need to sign, but do it! Watch your "pre-approved" credit card snailmail spam drop to zero.

  • This is sort of like test scores. The College Board (SAT) and ACT say that the test scores shouldn't be used as a number that acts as the sole qualifier or disqualifier for college admission, knowing full well that much of the time they are.

    Credit bureaus play the same game with credit scores (which, incidentally, the FCRA does not require be disclosed to the consumer). They know that creditors use a cutoff score, but they maintain the pleasant fiction in their written documents that this isn't done, skirting the harsher government regulation they so richly deserve. Until regulations tighten, this wink-wink, nudge-nudge arrangement will only get worse.

  • It's called filing for bankruptcy.

    Since we're talking about an actual debt here, and not just a "debt to society", the people in question should make a good-faith effort to pay that debt. Then they can start building credit.

    I mean, really, what happens when you steal money normally? Of course we're not going to give you more money to steal if we can absolutely help it!
    ---
    pb Reply or e-mail; don't vaguely moderate [ncsu.edu].
  • by beefjerky_com (302825) on Thursday January 11, 2001 @06:03AM (#514192)
    There are some poeple who could make it their mission to work against these credit agencies, some are hackers, some are more extreme.

    One small thing everyone can do to create change is take those pre-paid envelopes that regularly come in junk snailmail, stuff them with blank forms or paper, and return them to the junk mailer.

    This causes the junkmailer to pay twice for their junk, once to send it, and once to get it back. Plus all the time it takes for their staff to open and discard the blank returns. It not much more than a raised middle finger, but at least it is something, and it hits them where it hurts, the bottom line.

    To the Moon!
    http://www.beefjerky.com
  • Inaccurate information must be corrected or deleted, assuming you can prove it's inaccurate and the CRA agrees it's inaccurate, but the CRA is not required to remove accurate data from your file unless it is outdated.

    Nice Law, Guilty until proven innocent. Every person is a criminal if accused by some Corporate accuser - niiiiceeee.

  • I moved from the US to the UK and It was awful, I had no credit or employment history. I got turned down by every bank on the High st for a checking accoung. (Except Lloyds, they wanted me to make an appointment before they turned me down).

    The UK is a disaster for immigrants who hope to lead any sort of normal financial life. I know, I've recently moved here myself, and obviously my 9 years of adulthood with perfect credit history in Australia are worthless. I did eventually get a cheque account (with Barclays). Nobody else would give me one, or a debit card. As for a credit card - no way. They all demand your address history for the last 3 years, and if you haven't been in the UK that long - instant rejection.

    So in a desperate attempt to drag this back on-topic, I'll say that these credit stories of Jon's are bad, but the credit checking agencies are just flat out arseholes, with or without a privacy-violating database.

  • Here in the Netherlands (and more generally in the whole of Europe) these things are much beter controlled. There are very strict rules about what information a company is allowed to keep about you and what they are allowed to do with it. They are obligated to tell you on request what information they have about you and they must ask your permission to give the information to anyone else.

    Also, there is exactly _one_ credit history agency in the Netherlands. They only know how much you owed and when, but not to whom or what for. Records of debts are destroyed after five years, so after five years there is no way anyone can know you ever had any debts unless you tell them about it.
  • But the punishment should fit the crime! Is it just that you should be turned down for a certain type of job (possibly for life) because of a misdemeanour you made when you were 18?

    Sure - people SHOULD be responsible for their actions (and it seems more and more people feel they shouldn't - witness silly lawsuits after accidents because people always feel "it's never my fault, it's someone elses fault") but there has to be limits. Being denied for a job ten or fifteen years after a minor misdemeanour you made as a teenager is hardly just. Most teenagers exhibit horrible judgement - it's the nature of being one. I'd wager that most people out of their teenage years who don't have a record for some kind of minor misdemeanour or offense do so only because they weren't caught.

  • by imadork (226897) on Thursday January 11, 2001 @06:10AM (#514200) Homepage
    My wife and I both have excellent credit records, we checked them (and fixed the minor errors) before we bought our house. We pull down decent salaries, as well.
    Yet, when we went to get a car loan from our Credit Union, we were told we couldn't get the "A" rate because our credit wasn't good enough. Those "scores" that pop up on bankers' screens really, really baffle me. I asked for an explanation for why the score was what it was, and the standard reply was "You must have something bad in your report, but the Computer figures out your score and I have no clue how it does it." I knew that our reports were clean...
    Morons! I would have pushed the issue and figured out exactly how that score got computed, but I shopped around and got a great rate from the dealer, and promptly forgot about the whole affair until now.

    Lessons learned:

    Get all your credit reports BEFORE getting loans on your own.
    If that's not possible, definitely ask for more information if you get declined for a loan and get your report then!

    If you know your credit is good, shop around!

  • I'll give you the same advice I would give a teenager. Go to Sears or Target and get one of their in-store credit cards. Use it occationally for stuff you would have bought from them anyway, and pay off the bill comepletely at the end of each month. Since you will not be carrying a balance, you won't get rocked with a lot of interest charges.

    After a year or two of doing that, you will have established a history that shows you pay your credit bills, and getting a Visa or Discover card will be no problem.

  • This guy's got it right. It's never been a good idea to assume that you can keep your stupid actions secret ... just pick up a history book sometime, they're full of people's dumb mistakes. The only way to keep these things private is, unfortunately, to refrain from doing them.
  • As for this particular kid's problem... what the hell was he doing signing up for classes before his loans cleared? How would he have handled it if the loan was rejected for a legitimate reason?

    It has been a long time since I was a student and I wasn't too clear on these things even back then, however: my impression is that situations like that are common, and forced by various deadlines -- usually the schools' deadlines, but for international students, it can be their visas. All sorts of wierd-ass catch-22 situations result from policies like "you must be a registered student to qualify (for this thing you need to register)".

    I went to a private institution (not a state school, where they don't seem to give a rats ass) and I have heard many horror stories from the nice Financial Aid people about what various students have had to go through (generally in the context of the nice FinAid people trying desperately to rescue some kid's education). There are only several thousand ways to be fucked over (wrt paying tuition); a fluke credit report is only one of them, and not necessarily any less just than some of the other reasons you can be turned down for a loan or grant.

    Your best strategy is always to keep on Being A Student to the extent you can, right up to the moment they throw you out. If you can't register officially, talk to the profs and sit in the classes anyways so that when/if the money clears up, you won't be behind in your studies. Stay on campus if at all possible -- going home (unless home is very nearby) makes it damn hard to walk into the FinAid office and fill out forms. Etc.

    Most kids going in to college have a "red flag" or two in their credit report.

    You're kidding right? Is that actually true? Most kids don't have credit, right? If you're under 18, you basically can't have credit in your name, because (unless an emancipated minor) your signature is legally worthless.

  • by Royster (16042) on Thursday January 11, 2001 @06:16AM (#514205) Homepage
    I was the victim of an inaccurate background check. Five years ago, I was hired for a job in NYC for which a background check was required. I had to give my notice to my old company before the check could be begun. I did so. Two weeks later, after my last day at my old company and as I was about to leave Chicago with my stuff packed up in my car, I got a phone call that there was a problem with the background check -- there was a bench warrent for my arrest for failure to appear to answer a drug charge. This was a Thursday and I was scheduled to begin work on Monday.

    Now I've never been arrested and I've never failed to appear before a judge when summoned. The company was going to check into it further, but they wanted me to bring proof that there *wasn't* a warrant out for my address.

    I called the local police who said "Come on down and we'll work it out." I wasn't stupid enough for that one. I called the office of the State's Attorney and asked them to look up the warrant. At first they said that they couldn't tell me anything. After explaining my story the guy said he shouldn't tell me this, but there were no warrents out for my arrest.

    I felt more confident, but still had nothing to show my new employer. I went to the local police station and they took my ID and ran a warrant check. They said there were no warrants, but they couldn't give me anything in writing.

    I left the next morning and called the company from the halfway point. They said that Equifax (a credit reporting company) had to send someone to the courthouse. Don't bother reporting for work on Monday.

    I drove the rest of the way to New York not having a job. In the end it worked out alright. The warrant was for someone with the same name but different address and date of birth. I started the new job on Wednesday (and was paid for the two days that I didn't work while they were checking out the report.)

    But it could have been much worse. Equifax sent me a copy of the report listing the warrant for my address, but it had disclaimers all over it that they are not responsible for the accuracy of the information. If I had lost that job because of a slanderous background check, would I have had any recourse?
  • These things are usually tracked by SS number.
    Illegal aliens and identity shifters just pull
    a number out of thin air (perhaps yours) for
    their purposes.
  • Some employers now check your credit report
    for employment. Now it is mainly to root out
    thieves. but is the job market softens in a
    recession, they may use any anomaly as an excuse
    not to hire.
  • by Mr. Slippery (47854) <tms.infamous@net> on Thursday January 11, 2001 @06:19AM (#514211) Homepage
    They're being eroded by people. The technology is simply "how" they're doing it.

    It's not just a how - it's sometimes a why.

    "We need your social security number. Our computer won't take a new record without it."

    "Well, the computer says you owe $120. No, sir, our computers system doesn't have any bugs."

    "Well, you seem like a good credit risk to me, but I'm afraid our computer program says we can't give you the loan."

    Using computers often removes any opportunity for people to apply their own judgement, because the model of events that the software is based on is too limited.

    Tom Swiss | the infamous tms | http://www.infamous.net/

  • by rkent (73434) <rkent@@@post...harvard...edu> on Thursday January 11, 2001 @06:20AM (#514213)
    I don't think you even have to screw up to get lousy credit these days. In my previous apartment, I lived with my brother during his summer break and right before I moved away for a job. Because I had to leave before he did, I left the utilities on, but asked that the bills be forwarded to my new address.

    Everything seems to have worked out fine, except that it inexplicably took over a month to get 3 of the bills forwarded, at which point some nasty letters had been sent. Consumers Energy sent my name to a collections agency (I'm still less than 2 months overdue, here), and the next time I applied for a credit card I got rejected for "excessive debt" and "failure to pay" some bills.

    Excessive? The bill was $109. And I was making $48,000 per year at the time. AND the whole reason I didn't pay on time was because I was busy moving and the mail forwarded so slowly.

  • by rho (6063) on Thursday January 11, 2001 @06:22AM (#514217) Homepage Journal
    "[...] But jeez, it was a spray-painting incident. I guess in certain quarters, I'm unemployable for the rest of my life."

    Not to sound like a complete shit, but what about those of us who DIDN'T vandalize somebody else's property?

    If there are enough people who didn't do such a thing when they were young to pick from, why take even a minimal risk with somebody who did? I spent my teenage years quietly doing what I was supposed to do, obeying my parents, trying to work hard, and learning everything I could. Why SHOULDN'T I be preffered over somebody who spray painted "SuX0R my B4LLz" on the side of a building?

    Now, the point that he was a minor and the record should have been sealed is a different matter. (of course, it could depend on the state as to whether the record is sealed or not, or to the amount of damage the vandalism caused) If that is the case, then the guy shouldn't have any problems, and should count himself lucky for that fact.

    But to wave the "wild and crazy youth" flag and expect everybody to salute it is poor thinking. There are enough people who were mature enough at 16 to understand that other people's property is to be respected, not trashed. And they SHOULD be preffered over a reformed hooligan.

    Course, that's just my opinion

  • Credit and driving record databases are now being
    used to screen car rentals at some locations.
    Since it costs a couple dollars each check,
    you don't find out at reservation time, but at
    a rental counter in an alien city. The rental
    companies have decided its worth screwing a few
    precent of their customers at savings of the
    bad apples.

    Driving record databases are sold by states mainly
    for insurance company purposes. But now their is
    a secondary market in car rental screening and
    general credit screening.
  • by kettch (40676) on Thursday January 11, 2001 @06:27AM (#514222) Homepage
    I don't have any credit cards yet, but one thing that i do with my ATM card and Debit card is to sign the back like your supposed too. I always leave enough room on that writing strip so that i can write "See Drivers License" (yes it can be done. you can fit two lines of writing on that strip) This makes it so that when you are in a store, when they check your signature, they will usually ask for your ID, and you can show them your picture.

    While this doesn't help any for online transactions, it does help if your card gets stolen. Anyway most cards have a policy of non liability for fraudulent transactions.
  • Not that you can show that it's libel, but how do you show damages? That you didn't get the loan/rental/job? They will argue that it's not just their report.

    Not that I think it's necessarily practical to take on major credit reporting agencies in this kind of suit, but you can show damages, and the fact that other people have it in their report does not free them from liability. Plaintiffs in racial discrimination suits use not getting a loan/rental/job as a source of damages. Moreover, by your reasoning, if three people kill one person, all three would never be found guilty because no single one of them was wholly responsible.

    I think your biggest problem would be that you couldn't show libel. Libel requires that the other party be publishing information that the party knew to be false. Since they're taking the information in good faith, they don't have an immediate reason to be false. I am curious about what the law says they must do if you dispute the claims on the report, and the person who made the claim cannot confirm it.

  • I somewhat disagree:

    A few years ago, I had a collection agent hounding me for a SprintPCS bill that was past due. (I did have an account with them, and it was current. The account they had in question was absolutely not mine.)

    Even though I patently stated that the account was not mine, and the account I actually had was current and paid, and had been for the 6 months I had it. It did not matter to them. I eventually got it sorted out, but it took sending alot of paperwork back and fourth, and sending a notarized letter both to Sprint and the collection company to get it cleaned up. Thanfully, none of the reporting agents had it yet.

    I strongly believe that things like this, left unchecked, can get very much out of control.

    On mistakes made in the past as a teenager:

    Why should this haunt you for the rest of your life? I understand accountability, and personal responsibility, but-- how is something you did when you were 18 and just out of highschool a reflection on the kind of person you are when you are almost 30? I certainly don't thing something you did 10 years ago should cost you your job when you have demonstrated that it was just simply youthful recklessness ...

    ---

  • by Steve B (42864) on Thursday January 11, 2001 @06:44AM (#514237)
    Equifax sent me a copy of the report listing the warrant for my address, but it had disclaimers all over it that they are not responsible for the accuracy of the information. If I had lost that job because of a slanderous background check, would I have had any recourse?

    And therein lies the problem -- according to the laws which are supposed to apply to everybody, a disclaimer is not a magic shield against a slander action. (That is, you can't just assert any old thing and CYA by inserting weasel words like "alleged".)

    Apparently, credit agencies have gotten themselves a special loophole based on the rationalization that they'd otherwise be unable to risk reporting any negative information. This is nonsense -- they can buy liability insurance just like anyone else in a similarly exposed position, and have the cost thereof rise and fall with their error rate -- presented as a fig leaf to cover a political special favor.
    /.

  • One day, I had invented the thing which we will refer to as IT... the greatest revolution of our time, greater than the Internet, sliced bread, and Larry Ellison combined. So I took a stroll down to the local bank so I could get financing to create prototypes of IT, so I could pitch IT to filthy rich computer billionaires, so I could have a book written about IT, so I could get on the cover of Wired and Time Magazine, knocking off that loser boy Shawn Fanning...

    But then I went down there and found out I once had an unlicensed copy of Windows 3.1 on my old 486 in the closet, and I owed Microsoft $350 or else I wouldn't get the loan to create IT.

    The funny thing is, I installed Slackware on that box years ago!

    Unfortunately, Microsoft themselves didn't remember me owing them $350... when I sent them the money, they thought it was for something else, and send me pictures back of a hot naked sweaty Steve Ballmer. As such I'm scarred for life, and all the proceeds from IT now must go toward my therapy.

    Reportedly I'll be seeing the same shrink as that kook Jeff "Hemos" Bates.
  • by Boiner (58993) on Thursday January 11, 2001 @06:48AM (#514242)
    I'm in the habit of making up random SS numbers when people ask for them -- so much easier than the old 'Do I *have* to supply it?' routine.

    Anyway, I'm in the process of getting an AT&T cell, and they ask for the last 4 digits, which I promply made up. You know what? The sales droid told me "Sorry sir, that's not what I have here in the computer". WTF?

    Of course, I went straight to the head-droid-in-charge and asked what the deal was. She told me that they bought my SS# from a credit agency, which didn't make me too pleased.

    Anyway, when I told her that I made up SS numbers all the time, she got real upset. Told me I could screw up my credit reports, etc.

    I was happy to remind her that it's a credit world, I don't need credit, I don't want credit, and I've got people lining up begging me to take it. The only thing I might screw up was the AT&T database, and that really didn't keep me up at night.

    We went round & round for almost 10 minutes -- it was a *lot* of fun.

    call att.tweek("garbage keys") //

  • > There are enough people who were mature enough at 16 to understand that other people's property is to be respected, not trashed. And they SHOULD be preffered over a reformed hooligan.

    > Course, that's just my opinion

    I would be happy if it was just *your* opinion. If someone did stupid at age of 16, then paid its tribute to society, he should get out clean. Your way of thinking make me sick. Who are you ? A uber-citizen because you never get caught ?

    You said:

    "If there are enough people [...] to pick from, why take even a minimal risk [...]" ?

    Statistically, black people are more likely to commit crimes in the US (or at least, they are more likely to get caught). I guess, it segregastion is good business practice after all...

    Cheers,

    --fred
  • by MarkCC (40181) on Thursday January 11, 2001 @06:54AM (#514246)

    The problem isn't so much that these agencies are stockpiling information; it's that they are *not* careful about ensuring that it's correct, and that they hide behind layers of subcontractors and bureaucracy to make it impossible to determine what the facts are, and how to correct them.

    To give a personal example: 11 years ago, when I was an undergraduate at Rutgers University, I worked for the university as a programmer. The university made an error my first month on the job, and overpayed me by $500. Next month, they deducted the overpayment from my paychecks, and I assumed everything was straightened out.

    Two years later, the University sent me a bill demanding repayment of the overpayment. I argued with them, including producing the pay stubs showing this, and they "cleared" the record.

    One year after that, they came after me again. I again showed them the pay stubs, and this time they refused to even look at them, and sent it to a collection agency. At this point, I gave in, and repayed them - again.

    Now, 10 years later, I'm supposed to get a refund from my NJ income taxes. I don't get it, because a different office at the University noticed the overpayment at some time in the last ten years, and filed it with the state as a delinquency.

    It's over 10 years later. I no longer have the pay stubs, or the cancelled checks to show that I've payed this stuff *twice*. I need to pay it *again*, and I've got a delinquency on my credit record.

    Who's responsible? I *can't* find out. It's all carefully hidden behind an elaborate web of agencies and offices, all of which deny both responsibility and authority to correct it. There is simply *no way* that I can get this straightened out, except by paying it *again*, and in all likelyhood, even if I pay it again, it will reappear a few years from now.

    That's the problem: the tangled web of information providers, none of whom take any responsibility, none of whom can correct an error. Any time you try to correct an error, it gets deleted from one source - and almost instantly reappears in that source because they exchange information with all of the others.
  • Why do adult websites consider you an adult ONLY if you have a credit card?(Just citing an example). So having a credit card = adult, but not having a credit card != juvenile.
  • by The-Bus (138060) on Thursday January 11, 2001 @06:56AM (#514248)
    I worked at one of the largest credit card banks, and I looked at people's credit everyday. The score you are referring to is a 'FICO' score, which is computed, as the teller told you "by a computer" ... It takes in an impossible amount of data, not only payments made to other creditors but even WHAT you charged: I guess charging $400 for a new DVD player is less risky than charging $400 for your taxes.

    The point is these scores are not the end-all to-be-all. Next time tell the teller that if they want your business, they should give you the 'A' credit regardless of what some obscure and obfuscated algorithm developed by a bank says.

  • Is it fair for a man who rapes a 13 year old girl walking home from school to get 1.5 years in prison, while some guy caught with cocaine for personal use gets 5 or more? Or a pot grower with a room full of bud to get 40 years no parole?

    No, the laws in this country are fucked, so before you go whining about just punishment, take a look around at the major discrepancies occuring.
  • by OmegaDan (101255) on Thursday January 11, 2001 @06:59AM (#514251) Homepage
    Thats not always possible ... sometimes dumb mistakes find you.

    Identity theft -- theres almost no way to protect against it ...

    And then theres totally weird shit... my brother was arrested for hit and run for an accident he was never in because some scam artist decided he looked like a good mark that day ... (Person gets you arrested for felony hit and run and says, -- um, -- if you pay us, 1000$ we won't file these charges against you (in CA they have the option sometimes) ... you can probably prove you weren't there but then you have to go to criminal court, hire a lawyer ... ).

  • Everyone of Katz's stories were submitted by people that need to learn responsibility. The one exception being the 16 year old who was charged with a misdemeanor, that record should have been sealed and destroyed when he turned 18 (since 16 is a minor). The rest are stories of people who don't want to claim responsibility for their lack of (or bad) judgement.

    The only thing that the speed of getting these reports hurts is the people that don't pay their bills or get into arrangements they didn't read over... at least know how to get out of a monthly payment scheme... come on!

    As far as erroneous entries, I'm sure these are few and far between, and while it may be a pain to get cleared up, they will get cleared up... just cite quotes from the Consumer Credit Rights Act and the companies will most likely aide you in any erroneous entries.

    Just my opinion... I could be wrong...

    P.S. I've had one missed payment in my credit card history, luckily it was on a student card and it hasn't affected my credit rating so far... I've gotten car loans, new cards, etc since then... One missed payment won't kill you, but repeatedly missing bills does... and that is something you should be responsible for keeping up with.
  • by jhein (194635) on Thursday January 11, 2001 @07:00AM (#514254) Homepage
    1-888-5OPT-OUT
    Call them, then listen to the options:
    "Press 1 to be removed from marketing lists for 2 years"
    (forgot what 2 was)
    "Press 3 to be removed from marketing lists *permanently*"

    Isn't it funny how they hide the "permanent" option?

    From http://www.transunion.com/General/MarketingOptOut. asp

    "If you want your name and address removed from all mailing lists offered by the
    main consumer credit reporting agencies: Trans Union, Experian, Equifax and
    Innovis, call 888-5OPTOUT (888-567-8688), or write to the following address:

    Trans Union LLC's Name Removal Option
    P.O. Box 97328
    Jackson, MS 39288-7328

    Requests should include the following information:

    First, middle, and last names (including Jr., Sr., III)
    Current address
    Previous address (if you've moved in the last six months)
    Social Security Number
    Date of birth
    Signature

    If you opt-out, you will no longer appear on direct marketing lists offered by
    these four credit reporting agencies. However, you may continue to receive
    commercial mailings based on lists from other sources. "
  • I'm with rho on this one...sort of. Employers and creditors have a right to know about this kind of stuff. I don't think privacy extends to the covering up of criminal acts. As for how much weight they give it, well, that's a different issue. Personally, I'd probably be pretty forgiving of many "youthful indiscretions", and I wouldn't want to be dealing with anyone who wasn't at least willing to hear an explanation of the circumstances. But that's just me. Others may view things differently, and I don't think we solve anything by allowing people to hide arbitrary amounts of past misbehavior behind dubious claims of privacy. Let people have the information, but hold them accountable for how they use it. What seems to be missing in the current picture is accountability.

  • You can get turned down for credit in the UK due to credit problems with the previous occupier of the property.

    I've had great problems getting credit due to the previous occupier of my flat owing a great deal of money. I still don't own a credit card (not that I particularly want one, but some on-line retailers will not accept my debit card).

    The odd thing is that I get 2-3 credit card applicaition forms sent as snail-spam every week.

  • by JCCyC (179760) on Thursday January 11, 2001 @07:06AM (#514265) Journal
    Correct. That's why such "tightening" can work in ways other than intended. For instance, let's see one of the cases:

    AndyP wrote two months ago that he'd been arrested for vandalism after one Halloween mischief night when he was sixteen. An online tracking agency dug up the arrest -- even though it was a misdeanor offense, was supposed to be kept sealed, and had happened a decade earlier. "I was turned down because my company was working on a government project and we all needed a moderate security clearance. I never got it sorted out, because it was technically true. But jeez, it was a spray-painting incident. I guess in certain quarters, I'm unemployable for the rest of my life."

    I tell you, any place that does hire AndyP -- either because they don't run paranoid checks on people or because they don't mind such a minor, ancient offense -- earns karma points in my book. Think of it this way: not only employers select employees; it works the other way around too.

    Of course, there might be some areas in which the demand/offer balance is in a way that people get truly screwed. IT, however, isn't one of them.

  • by DunbarTheInept (764) on Thursday January 11, 2001 @07:08AM (#514266) Homepage
    People aren't complaining about the consequenses of their actions. They're complaining about being saddled with the consequences of OTHER people's actions: other people with the same name who get mistaken for you, other people who don't bother to tell you that you owe them money, other people in the post office who screw up your mail (This has happened to me - for some dumbass reason about half the mail sent to me gets rejected saying "Doesn't live here anymore", even though I *do* live here, and *some* mail does reach me. I've asked the post office to fix it and they don't. I'm at the point now where I just call the phone company and power company every so often and ask them what I owe them, since I don't always receive the bills.)

    The problem is that these credit reporting agencies have NO accountability. If they lie about you, YOU have to prove them wrong. You are guilty until proven innocent.

    Corporation is the idea that you can treat a company like a person in the eyes of the law, but unfortunately there is no accountability that goes with this. If a PERSON slanders you, they owe you damages. If a PERSON murders someone, they go to prison. If a Credit Reporting Agency screws you, they aren't taken to task on it.

  • Background: I worked as a programmer on the Royal Bank of Scotland's credit system for 3 years

    In the UK we have the Data Protection Act. It allows anyone to request any company to give them a copy of ALL data held about them for a nominal fee (under US$20).

    The best bit, however, is that you can legally demand that they correct any inaccuracies- be they factually incorrect, or merely misleading.

    Once you track down the company giving you a dodgy credit rating, you do a DPA request on them and if they're telling porkies, demand that they correct it.

    If they company can prove that their data is correct they can continue supplying it, but in that case you have the option of demanding that they supply a short written statement prepared by you every time they supply the data you believe to be misleading (eg. mitigating circumstances).

    I actually had to code a program that would display "bad" creditors' prepared statements- the bank was legally obliged to display these statements on-screen to whoever requested credit data about such people.

    Okay so it doesn't solve every problem but it definitely does help.

    --

  • This is true, and I have my own story to prove it:

    About 2 years ago I applied to rent an apartment. They ran a credit check, and said my credit wasn't "perfect" and therefore I could not move in. It was the only apartment available in the area and I HAD to move immediately. The leasing office wouldn't give me a copy of the report, but told me about it. I got a copy from the agency, Equifax.

    Stated at the top: Birthdate - xx/xx/1975

    One credit item stated:
    Creditor: Macy's
    Amount: $xxx.xx
    Date issued: xx/xx/1968

    Apparently I was issued a credit card before I was born, and since I used to work for MasterCard, I know that this was before credit cards were even invented! I called Equifax, they wouldn't remove it even though it's impossible. After a dozen phone calls to Macy's, someone there sent a letter to Equifax and they removed it.

    Point being: the CRA was able to publisize my "bad" credit when the supposed credit problem isn't even feasable! Infuriated doesn't express how I felt. This one had nothing to do with technology; only lack of compassion, lack of caring, and hunger for money.
  • Not everyone who has a bad credit record has actually done something wrong. The credit reporting agencies have no accountability to keep their information correct at all. When they screw up and claim you owe something you don't, you are assumed guilty until proven innocent, and as anyone who has had basic debate logic training can tell you, you often can't prove that something *didn't* happen.

    The burden of proof should be on the credit reporting agency, and it isn't.

  • by Shotgun (30919) on Thursday January 11, 2001 @07:17AM (#514277)
    Why, oh why, can't the credit reporting agencies be sued for slander?

    They will continue the current practice for as long as it is profitable to do so. Their system now is to take whatever information companies pay them to take and dump it into a database. Proof and error checking be damned. They just say, "We're not responsible."

    Well, if I go around spreading lies, I am responsible, doubly so if I do it without even attempting to verify any facts.

    Unfortunately, those denied credit are generally those who can't afford to launch a legal attack against a well funded opponent.

  • by tbo (35008) on Thursday January 11, 2001 @07:27AM (#514285) Journal
    The system, as is, works fairly well. Yes, there are problems, and I'll address those. First, I'll deal with the Katzian whining:

    Everyone knows that mail-order CD/comic warehouses try to rip you off. If you were stupid or greedy enough to think you could get 12 CDs for $1 or whatever and never be obligated for more, you deserve the hassle (especially since artists generally don't get royalties for CDs sold at a discount like that).

    The deer guy? I lived somewhere with shitloads of deer, too (there were 19 on my lawn once), and I never hit any. To some degree, it's luck, but it's also a test of reflexes. The insurance company sees two claims in six months, and figures that either a) you suck at driving, b) you like hitting deer, or c) you drive at risky times in risky places. Consequently, you end up having to pay more for insurance. You still got insurance, it just cost more.

    All the other people are being nailed for offenses they actually did commit. Drunk driving, and she only got a 60-day suspension? What the fuck? She could easily have killed someone. I wasn't that stupid when I was 16 or 18. Personally, I don't think she should be allowed to drive until she's 30. Getting turned down for a job seems like a small price to pay. Funny how everyone went nuts over Bush's DWI conviction, but it's somehow OK if you're just Joe Citizen.

    The real problem here is not that these agencies exist and do what they do, but that it isn't easy enough for people to check and correct their own records. People should be notified whenever an "incident" is added to their record, and given the opportunity to dispute it. Jon Katz should be complaining about the errors, not the actual collection of the data. If you fuck up, there are consequences. Learn that, and everyone will be better off.
  • You can get it here [freecreditreport.com], although I haven't checked it out myself. I'm too afraid of the massive credit problems associated with my name and don't want to tip them to the fact that I'm not dead as I have claimed.

  • by Tau Zero (75868) on Thursday January 11, 2001 @07:32AM (#514292) Journal
    Everyone of Katz's stories were submitted by people that need to learn responsibility. The one exception being the 16 year old who was charged with a misdemeanor...
    Are you saying the 16-yr-old wasn't responsible for what he did? What about Dan, who got hit by the deer (one from the side, where it may very well have come at him from outside the spread of his headlights)? What about JD, whose student loan was denied for a debt he was legally too young to incur?

    Your attitude amounts to "The system is perfect, it's the people who screwed up even if they were not personally to blame." But people made the system, how can it be perfect? How can anything that needs a registered letter to get any information about a so-called bad debt be called anything but deliberately obstructive?

    You need an attitude adjustment.

    "
    / \ ASCII ribbon against e-mail
    \ / in HTML and M$ proprietary formats.
    X
    / \

  • Do you share your name with your father, by any chance?

    My father has the same first name as I. This has caused the IRS to mistakenly attribute his income to me when I was 18 (and then threaten to audit me if I didn't pay an extra 3 grand in taxes). His houses has shown up on my credit report (which has been a good thing, as the mortgages are paid.)

    Some of these agencies don't look at middle names or SSNs. Not much you can do except be vigilant and correct errors when you find them.

    What we need is technology to help us fight back. I would love to own sort of credit-agency-crawling AI that will monitor my credit and fix mistakes when humans make them.
  • rho's bang-on. I didn't go around vandalizing stuff and ripping people off when I was a kid. Why? Because I'm a really honest person. Maybe those teen vandals have reformed to the point where they no longer trash other people's property for fun, but the character defect that led to that behaviour is probably still present. At 16, I was old enough to understand the concepts of consequences and responsibility. Pretty much everyone is--some just choose not to.

    Why do people have this idea that there shouldn't be serious consequences for reckless, destructive behaviour?
  • by exploder (196936) on Thursday January 11, 2001 @07:38AM (#514300) Homepage
    A close relative of the CRA's is an agency called ChexSystems. ChexSystems is supposed to keep information on people who have defrauded banks, but often all it takes to get on their list is one bounced check, or forgetting to move an automatic debit to your new account after closing the old one. A ChexSystems record is the KISS OF DEATH financially speaking.

    I was reported to them for a car payment which was auto-debitted from my checking account. After cancelling my old account, I informed my bank that I wanted the payments to come from the new checking account. They didn't do it for three months (during which time I was calling them regularly to try to get the auto-debit moved), and the ensuing confusion was cause enough for this bank to report me to ChexSystems. Not that I knew anything about it at the time. It was only a year later, when I moved to another city and attempted to start a checking account there, that I found out what had happened. After looking all around town for a bank that did not use ChexSystems (and in a town like Dallas, there are a lot of banks to look at), I finally concluded that the only way for me to get a checking account would be to get rid of the ChexSystems record.

    After some research, I determined that a ChexSystems entry stays on file for FIVE YEARS, and that it is almost impossible to either get the record removed before then (whether or not the information is valid) or to get an account with any institution despite the entry. After a week or so of trying to contact ChexSystems, it became obvious that if I was going to get anything done, it would be through the bank, not through them. ChexSystems said that the only way they would update their information would be at the request of the bank who reported me. Fine. I called the bank and it wasn't hard to get them to fax documentation to ChexSystems saying that all amounts were paid in full and that no outstanding debt existed. Thinking I had the problem taken care of, I attempted again to open a checking account.

    No luck. It turns out that even if all amounts are paid, the mere presence of a ChexSystems record of the event is enough to be denied for any sort of account. I had to climb the bank's chain of command all the way to the director for the southwest region before getting any action. After spending a half hour of her (no doubt very expensive) time explaining what had happened to me, I was able to convince her to request that ChexSystems remove the record entirely. She told me that this essentially is never done, and that it was an enormous exception to their policies. I don't doubt it.

    I consider myself very lucky. That was a year ago. The incident in question was a year before that. If I had not been able to convince this woman to purge my record, It would still be three years from now before I could have any hope of getting a basic checking account. During the time while I was sorting this stuff out, I was paying my apartment rent with money orders, cashing my paychecks at the local branch of the bank my company uses, and paying cash for everything I bought. No check card. No credit cards at that time. Can you imagine living that way for five years, because of either a screwup that wasn't your fault, or for one small mistake? It's appalling.

    Here [bankrate.com]'s an article that gives a fairly objective overview of the situation. And here [tripod.com]'s a site that takes a move combative stance.
  • Since About the 30's there has been a viscious trend in corprate america, that they want all the rights and privileges americans have but don't want to pay for it. Since the roughly after the great depression corparations in America have slowly been paying less and less taxes, thus making citizens pay more in place of thier greed. You Can Make All The New Tax Laws But all corparations are gonna do is just pass the bill and the buck always stops at consumer. Or if they decide somehow not to pass the buck on they will move to some 3rd world contry and get slave labor to do thier deeds and still keep extremely high prices.

    Corpratations are doing nothing really but accelerating thier own end. Eventually the way things are going now, the world is gonna be off balance a few rich business men who control everything and have no accountability for thier actions and the majority just will snap and when someone decides to snap and convinces the majoprity of people that he is right, they are wrong, and that then leads to a revolution is at hand. This should be of no surprise history repeats itself end of story.

    With All That Said, Personally i think the American Goverment is pussy whipped by American Corparations, by a combination of greed, ignorance, and fear. because they are doing nothing to protect the civil liberites and privacies that are being threatened now. The End Result is alot of people are going suffer.
  • RBS said "well we would love to help but there are these rules that the Bank Of England put on all banks..." and then explained them to me. Everyone else just said "NO". They still didn't get me the acount but I walked out with an understanding of why.

    I ended up with Barclays after getting a job and they set me up with their bank.

    And for the record I am a citizen of the UK.

    The cure of the ills of Democracy is more Democracy.

  • It would be way too much of a coincidence to typo "%0D" at the end of an URL more than once.

    Here [freecreditreport.com] is the right link.
  • (Person gets you arrested for felony hit and run and says, -- um, -- if you pay us, 1000$ we won't file these charges against you (in CA they have the option sometimes)

    Now THAT is criminal!!

    If the police were about upholding the law then this would not be an option. Fuck with a system like that the cops would be making their own money. "Um yeah we'll just write up this guy. That takes care of our Christmas party!"

  • Using computers often removes any opportunity for people to apply their own judgement
    True; but it's not the whole story. You've got to remember that people are fundamentally lazy. Even if there were an 'override' key (presumably beside the 'any' key) on the keyboard, no-one in a credit agency would use it after the first month. You can tell people that they're allowed use their own judgement, but unless they know the applicant (or subject; whatever), they're not going to bother. They'll look at their big inbox, and process everything as fast as possible.
    Does this make them assholes? Nimrods? Nah. Just human. This doesn't make the behaviour acceptable - I don't want to imply that - but it's pervasive. The only way out of this is for a conscientious credit agency to drum into their employees the significance of their work, and the vital importance of their reports to every subject. hands up who thinks that's going to happen?
  • by d_pirolo (150996) on Thursday January 11, 2001 @08:21AM (#514323)
    1. Everybody here agrees, I'm sure, that something needs to be done to prevent errors in this type of database. Credit agencies need to be doing redundant cross checking on their data, rather than just entering it and forgeting it.

    2. There needs to be some kind of coherent scheme to decide what kind of information credit agencies should have access to. If I'm 55, a vandalism conviction from my teens clearly shouldn't prevent me from getting a home improvement loan. In fact, the agency probably shouldn't even have that data. However, there has to be some sort of resource to allow reasonable background checks. Banks need to know if their customers have declared bankruptcy in the past before they are approved for a new loan, for example.

    3. Once rules have been created to decide what information is allowable, there needs to be a system in place to enforce these rules. If a juvenile conviction should be sealed, it's out. If the information is more than seven years old, it's out. And so on. Unfortunately, that doesn't seem to be happening.

    4. Lastly, banks, employers, and others who use to data from the credit agencies need to use that information responsibly. They shouldn't be able to reject you out of hand as soon as some blip shows up on your record. First, the users of the data need to check the information for accuracy. Second, the information should be used fairly, and only when rationally acceptable.

    In summary, banks, employers, and insurance providers have to right to rationally reject an applicant based on their past. They should have some access to information and should be able to turn you down based on appropriate criteria. However, some information shouldn't be available at all, and the information that is available should be examined by a real person who can make a reasonable decision about the importance of that information.
  • Imagine that you could get your employer to pay you "under the table" in cash - they wouldn't have to take out taxes (and thus, you wouldn't have to file - but if you have been filing all along, continue to file as a "below the poverty line" type deal, then slowly stop filing - because if you don't make any [reported] money, you don't have to file). Then, figure out a way to fake your own death - and become a "non-person".

    True - it would be tough living this way (very tough) - but legally, you wouldn't exist anymore as a person! And in today's society, this is rapidly becoming something worth pursuing...

    Worldcom [worldcom.com] - Generation Duh!
  • The burden of proof is on the companies that made the report to begin with That's the way it *should* be, and innocent-until-proven guilty is the way it works for other aspects of the law, but not this one. Read the law quoted in the article. The individual has to prove that he *didn't* purchase the disputed item or service, in order to clear the credit record. This is blatantly wrong of course, and it should work the way you claim, but it doesn't.
  • Absolutley. Thank god we live in a country where a youthful indescretion like being arrested for cocaine posession (allegedly) can be overlooked and that person can wipe his slate clean and someday become the leader of the free world.

  • you can't build credit without borrowing, so you could never get that car or house loan.

    That is a dangerous myth. When you apply for a house loan, the house is held as collateral, and you often pay lender's insurance, so unless you have BAD credit, the loan will fly through. Even if you have never had a credit card in your life, a record of paying your apartment rent and utility bills on time is usually strong enough for approval.

    Also, you should avoid borrowing when you buy your first car. Get a POS car that you can afford. Not only will you save a lot of money, but you will learn a lot about cars in the process of keeping it running. The car-loan payments that you are not making can build up into an impressive savings towards the car you buy when you are older (and presumably will have a better job and longer credit history). Some truly frugal people go their whole lives without ever getting a car loan... and there is nothing like the feeling of buying a new BMW or Mercedes with cash!

    the better your credit, and the more money you borrow, the better rates you get, so your money goes further.

    Again, not true. What matters is your HISTORY of good credit, not the ammount that you have borrowed. If you use your credit cards almost like debit cards (spending only when you already have the money in the bank, and paying the whole balance off at the end of each month), and and are ultra-conservative about using your cards, your credit will be just as good (and your available borrowing rate just as low) as it would be for carrying a $3000 credit balance and making the "required" monthly payments.

  • by Pfhreakaz0id (82141) on Thursday January 11, 2001 @08:42AM (#514342)
    ... is why in criminal matters (at least here in the U.S.) you are presumed innocent but all someone has to do is SAY I owe them money and I have to go to great lengths to prove I don't in order to get it off my credit card company.
    ---
  • Then you've been well-trained into the correct instincts by the corporate thought-police, for whom litigation is the only real effective means of stopping reprehensible (albeit profitable) behaviour.

    So much of the "populism" of the recent era - including the knee-jerk hostility to remedy by litigation (which has spawned a whole slow of legislation meant to restrict litigation, which has generally made it harder for the poor to sue) is so in the corporate interest that it is difficult to see it as anything except constructed.

  • People aren't complaining about the consequenses of their actions. They're complaining about being saddled with the consequences of OTHER people's actions

    You didn't read katz post. The teacher WAS a drunk driver, the spray painter WAS a vandal, and the college kid DID screw over the music company.

    The bigger question which katz should be posing is wether the consequences of their actions are just.

    Should a drunk driver never be allowed to teach?

    Does a spary painting have anything to do with your qualifications for a security clearance?
  • Equifax is the big one, me thinks.
  • This has been quite effective for me. Barclays Bank (UK clearing bank) sends quite extreme quantities of junk mail. One day I was so fed up that I took their unsolicited home loan application form and filled it out all the way through, until I got to the signature box, where I just wrote I'VE WASTED YOUR TIME TOO, NOW STOP SENDING ME JUNK MAIL.

    I figured some happless employee would have entered all the info on the form and then got to the end and realised it was a wasted effort.

    After that, I didn't get any more junk mail from Barclays at all - but it started up again as soon as I moved house.

  • > if you're working in the US, you DO have a social security number.

    FALSE.

    You _CAN_ work, live, without a social slave number.

    There is _NO_ law that requires a person to have one.
  • by Kingfox (149377) on Thursday January 11, 2001 @09:55AM (#514371) Homepage Journal
    My roommate my sophomore year at college had a full ride to our school. Every semester he ended up being withdrawn because one of his scholarships always sent the check too late for the university's books. Every semester he had to walk down to the Business Office, get cleared, re-register, and explain that it happened every semester. He just graduated last year, and sure enough, the same thing happened all eight semesters.

    You're required to sign up for classes two thirds into the semester before at our school, which is well before loans or such are taken care of. My sophomore year, I attempted to get a promisary note for the loan I was getting in order to get cleared before classes started. Financial Aid couldn't do that until I was re-registered. Couldn't register until the Business Office cleared me. Couldn't get cleared at the Business Office until... sure enough... I had to get the promisary note. After explaining this neverending circle of miscommunication and red tape to the director of the Business Office, she merely said, "I don't care." Luckily the Financial Aid office broke the rules and got me taken care of, a week after classes began.

    I don't think this situation was created by technology or computers, forming some sort of 'Tightening Net' as Katz speaks of. These were three different backwards departments, in the same building, on two floors of said building. These people saw each other every day, and shared the same vending machines and bathroom. When the circle formed, they had each other on the phone instantly. This is a human thing - human blunders, human red tape, human stupidity. While I can see how technology would make it that much harder to get taken care of, a good dose of human misunderstanding can go just as far if not further.
  • by d.valued (150022) on Thursday January 11, 2001 @10:11AM (#514378) Journal
    All right.

    When I was a teenager, I slipped a disk in my spine after practice (because I lifted my 50 lb. plus bookbag the wrong way) and had to see a doctor. I filled the forms and thought my insurance would pay for the procedure needed to jolt my disk back into place.

    Boy, was I wrong.

    The insurer started a credit file on me with all the agencies and, when I wanted credit at 18, I got no,no,no,no,no,no,NO!

    I requested my files and saw this item.

    I got in touch with the dispute resolution and told them that it was simply impossible for me to owe money before the age of majority. I mailed them a notarized affidavit with a xerographic copy of my passport and a few weeks later, it's gone.

    Now, tips...

    1. Very few people ever need your SSN. Basically, your employer, your bank (if you have an interest-bearing account), and your brokerage need it for tax purposes. Now, IANAL, but restricting access provides a level of protection.

    1a. You don't need to give your SSN to a doctor, school, testing firm, grocery store, or anyone else who wants it for "identification." If they demand a 9-digit number, you can create an instant null SSN by replacing one 'field' of the number with 9's or 0's. (Eg: 999-00-9999: The 3,2,4 are the 'fields.')

    2. You can pull your credit file from each of the major credit agencies at least once annually. They all have toll-free numbers for this use. Also, if you are declined you can request another personal pull.

    NOTE: The 'gimme' pull they provide is much less detailed than a proper credit report given to a firm. Some firms will be able to give you a full pull, for a fee.

    NOTE: It's worth mentioning that the number of pulls within 30 days, six months, and two years are factors in credit approval/denial. The more pulls, the more likely that you've been denied.

    3. If you are denied for something which happened before the age of majority in your state, be it 18, 19, or 21, (check with a lawyer if you're not sure) you've got every right to contest until hell freezes over. As in my case, persistance pays off.

    4. Check when you DON'T need it. Time is your friend; the more time you have, the more you can fix and rescind.

    Later, when I'm less sleep-deprived, I'll follow up with phone numbers.

    Joy.

  • If someone did stupid at age of 16, then paid its tribute to society, he should get out clean. Your way of thinking make me sick. Who are you ? A uber-citizen because you never get caught ?

    What are you, a psychic? What makes you say I "never got caught"? I never got caught because I never did anything illegal!

    Know what I was doing when I was 16? Playing with BBS's, reading, playing music, swimming. I never even so much as egged a car or TP'ed a yard. Why? Because I have respect for people's property, a value instilled in me by my religion and my parents.

    Being a colossal prick doesn't add weight to your argument -- first, you put words into my mouth with a poor strawman argument, i.e.

    Statistically, black people are more likely to commit crimes in the US (or at least, they are more likely to get caught). I guess, it segregastion is good business practice after all...

    Please study my original post carefully and tell me where I say that segregation is good? (Oh, and segregation means "separation". The word you're looking for is prejudice) This is such a weak-ass strawman I don't even have to knock it over but I will.

    Are you a business owner? I am. I run a small design/technology business in what most of the USA would consider "the hood" -- i.e. mostly black, mostly poor. Do I have a problem with it? No. We're neighbors. Would I hire any of my neighbors? Sure -- if they can do the work. Would I hire a punk kid who's got a few arrests on his record? Not if there's an equally qualified kid who doesn't. Why? Cause I'm not in the business of reforming "troubled kids". I'm in the business to make a living for me and my employees.

    Your way of thinking make me sick.

    Your way of thinking is compassionate and heartful, but unrealistic in the real world. When you start your own business, you can hire every reformed convict you want. But don't tell me that I have to out of some mealy-mouthed sentimentality.

  • Having an entire class of people denied these opportunities, rules by people who manage to pass the required background checks, is the negation of the democratic ideal.

    No, when that class of people is composed of people who joined that class by their willful actions (e.g. vandalism, not paying debts, committing felonies), what we have isn't a negation of the democratic ideal, it is accountability.

  • Everyone knows that mail-order CD/comic warehouses try to rip you off. If you were stupid or greedy enough to think you could get 12 CDs for $1 or whatever and never be obligated for more, you deserve the hassle (especially since artists generally don't get royalties for CDs sold at a discount like that).

    Artists not getting royalties from cds sould like that? I'm pretty sure that's wrong. I think you just made that up.

    The deer guy? I lived somewhere with shitloads of deer, too (there were 19 on my lawn once), and I never hit any. To some degree, it's luck, but it's also a test of reflexes. The insurance company sees two claims in six months, and figures that either a) you suck at driving, b) you like hitting deer, or c) you drive at risky times in risky places. Consequently, you end up having to pay more for insurance. You still got insurance, it just cost more.

    No, the point was that he DID NOT get insurance. He was denied. Maybe he can try again somewhere else and then get insurance while just paying more, but what does he do in the meantime? I'd also point out that one of the deers (and I find this part rather amusing) hit him, ran into the side of his car.

    All the other people are being nailed for offenses they actually did commit. Drunk driving, and she only got a 60-day suspension? What the fuck? She could easily have killed someone. I wasn't that stupid when I was 16 or 18. Personally, I don't think she should be allowed to drive until she's 30. Getting turned down for a job seems like a small price to pay. Funny how everyone went nuts over Bush's DWI conviction, but it's somehow OK if you're just Joe Citizen.

    The point here is that should a person be held accountable forever for that which was done in youth. Getting turned down for one job may well be a small price to pay, but when she goes to apply for the next one what is to say that she won't be turned down for that one as well? Should she be unemployable all of her life for one night of partying? And for the record, the reaction to Bush's DUI seemed suprisingly apathetic to me. Maybe where you live people "went nuts" over it.

    The real problem here is not that these agencies exist and do what they do, but that it isn't easy enough for people to check and correct their own records. People should be notified whenever an "incident" is added to their record, and given the opportunity to dispute it. Jon Katz should be complaining about the errors, not the actual collection of the data. If you fuck up, there are consequences. Learn that, and everyone will be better off.

    True enough. To a large extent, I agree. But John Katz was for the most part complaining about the errors. Perhaps you missed the first and main story?
  • If you use your credit cards almost like debit cards (spending only when you already have the money in the bank, and paying the whole balance off at the end of each month), and and are ultra-conservative about using your cards, your credit will be just as good (and your available borrowing rate just as low) as it would be for carrying a $3000 credit balance and making the "required" monthly payments.

    Funny, this is what I thought, too - so that was exactly what I did with my credit card - used it as a convenient way not to have to carry cash, and paid off the charges as soon as they showed up.

    Then my interest rate got raised (not for any reason, or at least that's what they said) and I started trying to get another card with a lower rate, just in case I had to carry a balance for some reason. So far, I've been turned down 3 times because "Revolving debt balance is too low" - in other words, AFAICT, because I don't carry a balance on my card.

    Credit card companies really do want you to carry a balance. They don't make any money off you if you pay it all off before the interest kicks in.

    -Cyclopatra


    "We can't all, and some of us don't." -- Eeyore

  • Okay, in order:

    You expect to be rewarded, in the form of employment, for behavior that has nothing to do with employment? Why don't you try building up your skills and knowledge and get hired based on real merits? Let me guess -- you were an only child, or a tattle-tale, or (more likely) both.

    Crikey, how do you parse that from what I wrote? Let me try to put it another way:

    If offered the choice between two candidates, Harry One and Larry Two, where Harry One has a spotless record, and Larry Two has a couple of minor transgressions, which would you hire? I would hire Harry -- because I trust him more. Why? He's a better risk than Larry.


    What if Larry is more qualified? I'd interview both and see if our personalities match up.

    What if Harry is brand-new-out-of-school, but Larry's got 10 years experience? I'd prefer Larry, regardless of past history.

    Regarding only-child/tattletale, you really ought to not make assumptions because you run a real risk of coming out looking like a blockhead. I have 3 siblings. Tattletales don't last long in my family. You stand up for your siblings or you'll find your GI Joes without arms and legs come Monday morning.

    So, since we're making snap judgements, I guess you're a pedophile in hiding, trying to avoid a palimony suit from your sister while finger-banging your grandmother, and you want everybody to "accept you as you are".

    Good for you. But if there's a reward for that, it comes from your parents, and certainly not from the government. What you do on your own time is your business, and what I do is mine. The government is not here to babysit us.

    Geezum crow, where did that come from? I guess we're still stuck on "expecting a reward". I expect neither the government or my parents to reward me for what is decent and proper behavior. Does that satisfy you? I expect NOTHING from NOBODY -- I get what I can earn, and nothing more.

    Because it's none of your damn business. Nor is it the employer's business, or any other person or organization. What happens between a person and the law is between that person and the law, and nobody else.

    If I'm hiring somebody to be a cashier, I damn well SHOULD know if they are a repeat-offender thief! Should I then be able to take out a full-page ad telling everybody in the world "Hey! Joe Smith is a THIEF!"? No!

    If you have a daughter (if($daughter) {ereg_replace("if", "when", $rant)}), will you still think that "what happens is between the person and the law" when you go looking for a day-care center? Or will you just hope that they haven't hired any pedophiles?

    Absolutely not. The point that the record should have been sealed is the entire matter.

    I don't think I made myself clear here (mea culpa). I was trying to separate the two issues for a hypothetical situation. I didn't do a very good job of it.

    Let's assume, however, that this guy does live in a state where misdemeanors committed as a minor are sealed, except for certain cases where damage was done that ammounted to more than $2000, and his spray-painting cost $3000 to repair/clean up. If the employer doesn't like the fact that this guy did this, it's his choice to not hire him, and he has cause -- his employees reflect upon his business.

    Your conformist attitude sickens me. It's people like you that are turning this world into a place where every movement you make is logged, and the concept of privacy is laughed at. Will you keep the same attitude a few years from now, when you won't even be able to buy milk at the grocery store without being logged? And before you dismiss that possibility, note that here in FL at certain liquor stores you can't buy anything (even cheese) without having your ID scanned.

    Conformist? I don't want conformity! Where in the hell do I say I want conformity! I want respect for property -- is that too much to ask?

    For the record, I'm a die-hard, voting, volunteering Libertarian. Do I do drugs? No! If drugs become legal, will I do them? No! Do I want a nanny state? NO!

    Should a criminal record be public? No, but they should be accessible in certain circumstances. Who decides what circumstances? Depends on the record -- federal crimes are dictated by federal authorities, state by state authorities, local by local authorities. If I am able to access a person's record, do I have the right to blab it? No! If I do so, it should be punishable.

    Grow up and mind your own business. The purpose of government is not to babysit the people. Let me guess... you also support drug prohibition, social security, and welfare. Oh, sure, they all work in theory. Problem is, not everybody thinks the way you do, nor are the obliged to.

    I answer most of this above -- I got further afield than I intended to. Do not put words into my mouth. My premise was simple enough, you expanded it to mean things that I never said, never intended, never implied.

    You apparently think that I pry into the doings of my employees -- an assertion that I can wholeheartedly deny, mostly because my employees are people that I've know for years. At this point, we don't even have an employment application!

    Read my original post again, and try to see it without your pre-formed opinions of what you THINK I said. Then we can talk again.

  • Blame the people who built houses, roads, and businesses over the deer's natural habitat.

    --

  • Absolutley. Thank god we live in a country where a youthful indescretion like being arrested for cocaine posession (allegedly) can be overlooked and that person can wipe his slate clean and someday become the leader of the free world.

    ... and thank God we live in a country where if you get BJs from interns half your age and lie under oath about it, every feminist organization will rush to your defense!

    ... and thank God we live in a country where if you're the son of a President, that's all it takes for a major political party to hug you to its white-bread, golf-playing bosom!

    ... and thank God that the only Presidential candidate who promised nothing but individual freedom and liberty (and, thus, responsibility) got only 373,000 votes!

    (the [Ll]ibertarian speaking now)

  • But technology is making it easier and easier to pass the buck along. "Oh, sorry we can't do anything about that, go see Entity X" "Oh, sorry we're not responsible, Entity Y added you to our database" "Oh sorry, we don't really exist anymore, we were bought out, go see Entity Z".

    You can even see it in spineless university and corporate policies which disclaim any responsibility for everything under the sun. We're a litigious society, where nobody wants to take responsibility for anything, or make any personal conscious decisions without referring to some rulebook.
  • The examples given here:

    1) JD, who (at least claimed to) knew of no debts that he owed (the information may or may not have been in error).

    2) Someone ordered comics by mail, thought he had stopped ordering them, moved, went off to college, had no reason to believe that he was still being billed.

    These don't sound like profiles of people who "rip off" other people to me.
  • Not that I encourage such anarchistic methods of revenge

    Well I sure do. How's about a nice return-envelope full of dog poo ? If we can't kill spammers, we can at least make them eat $&!+.
  • Guess what ? Rich people will avoid the sanction.

    Can't argue with that -- it's a fact of life. I don't like it either.

    I hope I have the intestinal fortitude to be able to tell the difference between a rich guy who gets off because his daddy is big and important and the guy who got screwed by some racist nitwit cop.

    Mmm. I am only attacking your way of reasonning. Basically, the idea that you want to unrealistically lower the risk at employment time. It is a very sloppery path. Statistically, employing white people is safer than black, so your reasonment can easily lead to racial discrimination.

    Please don't talk about slippery slopes and then make "logical inferences". That's a very sloppy way of thinking.

    Thank you, I already have my own business.

    Then, you're in the club! Here's your decoder ring, here's the secret handshake...

    The 'real world' is not limited to the united states. Where I live (France), employment discrimination is plainly illegal (but is practiced). Even if ideals are not fully applied they still have value. Even if racial equality (again -- I should come with a better example :-) ) is 'unrealistic in the real world', discrimination is illegal. Personally, I find this a good thing.

    You're avoiding the argument -- still. You have two guys in front of you. One has a record, one doesn't. Which do you hire? Simple question. Racial discrimination doesn't come into the equation, and by playing the "race card" you're employing the most despicable debate tactic imaginable.

    At a fundamental and abstract level, I reject your way of reasoning, mainly because you are punishing twice for the same fault. Furthermore, one punishment is done by justice, and the other one is social lynching. Lastly, for a religious person, you seem to totally distruss redemption. Unfortunate...

    Punishing? Maybe. I don't see it that way. If I hire the guy with a criminal record and he becomes the best worker imaginable, I've made a good risk. If he cleans me out, I've made a bad one. However I choose which risk to take, and for you, or anybody, to hold me in contempt if I choose to take the lesser risk (by hiring the guy with the clean record) is deplorable.

    Social lynching? That's a bit of a stretch, don't you think? It's the mirror image of me saying that hiring the clean-record guy is a Moral Imperitive. It's a risk-assesment, nothing more. Let me turn the question around on you. Should you PREFER ex-cons in the hiring process?

    I don't distrust redemption. However, when you bring religion into the argument, you're applying two different types of redemption: social and spiritual. Which do you think I distrust?

    I might just hire the guy with the record. I might not. If I take the lesser risk, does that mean I distrust redemption? I guess it does to you. Does that mean you only hire ex-cons?

    I see now where my error lies. I shouldn't have said "you SHOULD prefer the guy without the criminal record". Instead, I should have stated "Should you be held in contempt if you prefer to have an employee with a clean record?".

    Tho, we've wandered far afield from Katz's article now. But, I'm enjoying it anyway...

  • You misinterpeted my post. I wasn't referring to Katz's examples, but to the large number of replies to it in this thread.
  • It was people long before it was technology...

    This is nothing new, many people who are Junior's wind up getting their father's credit inoformation in their reports etc. This has been a long standing problem.

    More offensive is that we can send a message in nano-seconds, but to correct credit information still takes 30-90 days.

    Remember though, if you challenge information in a Credit report, the bureau has the problem of either proving it or striking it. Know your credit report and fight it often.

    Hammy
  • That is not the CRA's fault you idiot. That is VISA telling you to PROVE that the charges on your CARD were fraudulent.

    That is a risk in carrying a credit card. If VISA says that you did NOT make the purchases, all you have to do is tell the CRA that you dispute the item. They will then verify this with visa, and it will be gone.

    The problem is when there are legitimate or fradulent accounts with lenders. If you are a fraud victim, and this does happen often, i.e. identity theft, you have to get the authorities involved, lock away the fucker, and give the details to the creditors. Cleaning up your CRA info is the easy part.
  • You may wish to consider that some people have, unlike yourself, not been born to always make the correct choices, but have sometimes had to make serious mistakes first. From these mistakes they must have the opportunity to make their lives right.

    Sure, but that does not mean that we should all forget that anything happened. Which is exactly what you want apparently.

    Sorry, but it doesnt work that way.

    If my past mistakes will continue to penalize me, then I have no incentive to make the diffcult choice to right my path.

    Yes, you do. Because if you continue making bad choices, you will incur further consequences, and make yourself even more miserable.

    Doing things the 'right' way, allows you time to rebuild your credit, or history. It will never be a clean slate, because you DID FUCK UP, but it can always be better.

    If I am arrested for a DWI, why should I make the decision to correct my behavior, when I will be unable to find employment 10 years later regardless?

    Because the next time your in jail for a lot longer. The third or fourth, you may actually kill some little girl crossing the street. Then you get many many years. Oops.

    If I am a foolish tennager who undertakes a bad debt, why should I even bother applying to college, knowing the debt will deny me the possibility of financial aid?

    Then study your ass of and get a scholarship. Work your ass off and save and pay for it yourself. No one MUST HAVE credit. It is nice to have, but certainly not a requirement. Get a grip.
  • Well, the doctor didn't lube my enema this morning, so I'm a bit cranky.

    Nothing like tearing sphincter to start your day.

Chairman of the Bored.

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