Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Free Credit Report Nightmare 

Now that everyone in the country is entitled to one free credit report per year from each of the national credit reporting companies, The Girl and I went online to Experian last week and filled out the forms.  We figured we'll get this one now, then in four months we'll get our free annual from another company, and then continue the rotation.  The Girl was able to view hers online immediately, and everything appeared to be accurate and in good order. 

Mine didn't go so easily or well.  As part of the online request, they ask you several questions relating to items in your report, and you have to pick the correct answer from a few choices.  For example:  In 1999 you had a car loan from which of the following companies:  Ford, Chevrolet, Chrysler, Not applicable.  Unfortunately, several of my questions appeared to be for items unknown to me.  Because I didn't/couldn't answer their questions, instead they snail mailed a report number to my listed street address, which I could then use to go online and access my report.  The number arrived yesterday (over a week after the online event), and I logged on. 

Ay carumba. 

There are mortgages, loans, credit cards and hospital debts that don't belong to me.  There are joint responsibility parties I've never heard of.  There are "alternate names" that have no resemblance to my name.  There are "alternate Social Security Numbers" that bear no resemblance to mine.  The name of my spouse is not my spouse's name (or gender). 

The part I really don't get is the "alternate Social Security Numbers."  Isn't that pretty much the gold standard of verifying that they're putting the right information in the right report?  Say my SSN is 012-30-4567, and someone, even someone with a similar name, has an SSN of 548-68-9256.  Why would they put their information in my credit report?  This is the level of similarity between my actual SSN and the "alternates" they have listed.

They have a nice "Dispute This" feature online, which I tried to use.  Unfortunately, I got a pop up response that my issue can't be resolved online and I have to call.  Oh, and by the way, you can only call them Monday through Friday, between 9am and 5pm in whatever time zone you happen to live.  I've never seen this floating time zone thing before.  Usually it's the time zone where their phone center is located. 

So now, not only do I have all this crap confusing my credit report, but I may have to take time off from work in order to resolve it.  This seems more complicated than what I could resolve during a 30 minute lunch, and I really can't take a longer lunch if I want to get to school on time.  Unless I get to work early, but given that I already get here at 7 am, I'm not sure how much further up I can push my arrival time. 

This blows.  Check your credit reports to make sure you're not suffering the same twists of fate, idiots and/or scam artists.

Posted by Beth Henderson at 12:55 PM