Sunday, April 4, 2010

Credit Report

Credit Report

I don’t understand the credit report game, or why three credit report companies hold sway over who gets to borrow what, why, when, and at which usurious interest rate they (cumulatively) set, but...

I do understand when employees from the tippy-top of a financially based scheme all the way to the near-bottom rung are not even pretending to do what they say their job is, not even faking it, not even covering their own incompetence with so much as a doily.

And I do understand why their competence wouldn’t matter anyway. You pay them because their keepers bought the right from the political parties to have them and the bankers charge you for their services, whatever they say their services are, which doesn’t matter because they don’t do any service anyway.

I wrote a column for the Oct. 16, 2002 edition of Newsday (I suppose I should say that Newsday is a daily newspaper—and some of you will have to look that up—on Long Island, just East of New York) about my friend, Susan Hennings (another series of stories I promise I will get too before I visit the hereafter again).

Facing tuition costs for a son then attending college, Susan, of Huntington, decided to apply for a home equity credit line. During the application process, she received a copy of an Equifax credit report showing a credit record that would be flawless but for an outstanding $711 debt to Household Bank, at 2700 Sanders Rd., Prospect Heights, IL. It indicated the account was opened in September 1995, and that the, "last activity," on the account was in March 2001.

Hennings told a tale of telephoning Household, intending to say she had neither a record nor a memory of any such account, nor of any $711 debt.

She reached, "Tai," who referred her to a second number, where another menu guided her to a representative who referred her to a third number, which—to make a very long, long, story just long—referred her to a fourth number, a fifth number, a sixth, followed by a seventh; and on the next day, from the operating room at the North Shore University Hospital in Syosset, where she works as a nurse, the seventh number referred her to an eighth number, at which a woman named, "Mona," recommended a ninth number, where "Cherise," recommended that Hennings fax her Equifax credit report and query to a tenth number, which she identified as a dedicated fax number.

The dedicated fax number turned out to be a regular phone number, where, after listening to another menu, Hennings, reached a person who suggested that she call (an eleventh number). At that number, an unnamed Household employee said that (sorry) Household did not keep records of anything beyond six months. This was (Ha Ha) five years.

That 11th call was the first hint that none of them would ever be able, let alone inclined, to assist her.

The 11th Household person said the computer in front of her showed no record of Hennings, not by name, not by Social Security number, or not by the account number listed on the Equifax form, which number, the woman added, didn't even have enough digits to identify it as a Household account, anyway.

She referred Hennings to a twelfth number, where a recording said that no customer service representative was available.

After work, Hennings managed to reach No 13, "Sheena," in the, "Recovery Department." Sheena said that as near as she could tell by reviewing computer files, the dispute involved a BJ's Wholesale Club account that Household had switched to another account number, when it was changing its system in 1995.

Sheena gave Hennings the number of Hennings' original BJ's account and the number of the BJ's account to which Household had transferred all new activity.

"They didn't notify me of that," Hennings said to Sheena.

"They wouldn't," Sheena said to Hennings.

"Wouldn't they notify me if I had an outstanding balance of $711?"

"You didn't," Sheena said. "The $711 represents the late fees and finance charges that accumulated on the old account from the date in 1995 when Household switched it, to the date in 2000 when Household discovered that the old account still was recorded as active. In August of 2000, they discovered it and absorbed the debt, and in March of 2001 they caught up with the paperwork and attached the outstanding balance to your credit report. It will stay there for seven years," Sheena said, "and if you do take out a home equity loan, the lender will apply the $711 to your debt."

"And what," asked Hennings, "pay it to Household?"

"No. You can't pay the debt. The account no longer exists. Household already has written it off as a loss."

"Let me get this straight," Hennings said. "Household switched my BJ's account to a new account number, didn't inform me of it, and mistakenly kept the old account opened for years.

“While I was paying all my bills on the new account, they were charging me penalties and interest for not paying into the old account, which I couldn't do because I didn't know about it. Then, they allowed late-payment charges and interests on those charges to accumulate for five or six years, to a $711 total, when they discovered the mistake and decided to eat the phantom debt. But, the following March, they reported me as a credit risk for not having paid the phantom $711 that they never informed me of, but penalized me for anyway, I not having their information. Is that about it?"

"Yes," said Sheena.

"And I can't even pay the $711 I still don't owe, but my otherwise perfect credit rating is going to suffer for seven years, no matter what I do. Is that right?"


"I'm writing the Attorney General," Hennings said. (You know she did. Nothing, of course, happened.).

Last week, eight years later, Hennings had to use my eight-year-old newspaper column to convince a Wells Fargo Bank official that the $711 debt Equifax still had on its obviously 7-plus-year credit report was not real, it was just Equifax not knowing a thing about its business, and the State of Illinois not doing anything about its business, and Household not caring about Equifax, Illinois, the State Attorney General, or Household’s own business; or anything involving Susan Hennings, let alone a curious Wells Fargo guy.

1 comment:

  1. I don’t understand the credit report game, or why three credit report companies hold sway over who gets to borrow what, why, when,