should the credit agencies be able to do this? I don’t think so

This is a story about the credit agencies and how they have too much power and not enough accountability.

I recently bought a new house, one thing you always here about this is to check your credit before  you start this process. My old house was on the market for a year, so I checked my credit when this process started, but I did not check it again during the year, and that turned out to be a mistake.

So, I had someone who wanted to buy my house pretty quickly, and I found a house I wanted, this should be easy, right? Not so much.. When they pulled my credit, there turned out to be a lein against me for $5500 in change, that seemed rather odd, as my credit is good, and I have always paid everything. After some research, I was able to determine that there is someone else with the same name as me in the same county I was in who had a legitimate lein, who didn’t have the same social security number as me, yet this was on my credit! Additionally, it turns out that with my bank, if you have something like this happen and it is <$5500, you can get something in writing and they just pretend like it isn’t there, but if the amount is > $5500, you must have it removed from your credit before they will issue the mortgage.

So I called the Bartow County Superior court clerk’s office, they were very nice and told me that they didn’t report to any credit agency. I was also able to determine from talking to them that leins are considered public record, so anyone can go in and look at the full text of the lein, additionally, due to privacy concerns in recent years, the SSN is not included in this document. What this means is that if you have the same name as someone else in your county, no one can tell the difference between you two just by looking at the court documents.

After this, I placed a call to the business who had filed the lein. They are an umbrella corporation (DBA, whatever you want to call it) for Fred Hanna and Associates. The first person I talked to there was named Stephanie, and she was not very nice, helpful, or any of the other words that you would put together with “customer service” in a positive manner. After some more calling and discussion, I was able to talk to a guy named Roy Raegan, and he was much  more helpful. After discussing with him, he told me that they were as specific as they could have been with the lein, and this was just what can happen. He provided me a letter to send to the mortgage company and to the credit agencies stating that if my SSN’s last 4 digits weren’t XXXX then I wasn’t their guy.

During this process I found out that the credit agencies actually have people that work for them whose job is to drive in person to the court clerk’s offices in the various counties, and look through public records for new leins to report against people’s credit. That is how this ended up on my credit report.

So, I gave this to my mortgage agency, who sent it off to the credit agencies with a “rapid rescore” (which costs several hundred dollars), and they sent this back stating that this wasn’t sufficient documentation (no more detail than that!) So I called all the above folks again, did some more talking, and eventually came to the conclusion that I was screwed. At that time I made a call to a friend of mine who has a lawyer buddy and went in for a consult. He advised that with my timeline (less than 2 weeks at that point), it may be better just to pay the $55XX and work it out later, after I got over the initial shock, I asked for another idea. He offered to write a more demanding letter than what I had written to begin with, and sent it off to the big 3.

I called the next day and was able to fax the letter in to all 3 credit agencies… Transunion and Experian both had “pending mortgage approval” departments that were easy to find, and easy to work with. They looked at the fax, got my closing date, and said that there shouldn’t be a problem, Equifax, on the other hand, was a bear to deal with. They wouldn’t gurantee that the information was correct, and the time and date that this would come off my credit report. I called repeatedly every few hours in the days leading up to the closing, and they finally did remove it on May 23, I closed on May 24.

So now, my credit is clean, and what is on there is mine. It is a shame that I had to get a lawyer involved to write a nasty letter to get them to do this.

The point of my whole story is right here though.

Whenever someone submits your information to any credit angency, they must include details, such as your social security number . This is a unique identifier that well, identifies you. What happened to me is apparently perfectly legal, the credit agencies themselves actively pursue information which is flawed at a root level, they are unable to determine with any certainty that this information applies to you, yet they still apply this to your credit report. This can and does impact you in a negative way. For me, it cost me a lawyer bill, hours and hours on the phone, faxes, stamps, and hours driving around, talking to people, and researching the laws around this.

Just so this gets caught in search: ripoff, legal, illegal, experian, equifax, transunion