“Dead Man” Talking

January 18, 2010

Glenroy Allen of Brevard County, Florida wanted to buy a new truck.  He shopped around and found a beautiful Dodge Ram with all the extras, near perfect for his needs.  He agreed on a price and started the paperwork.  That’s when his problems started – Mr. Allen is dead.  At least that is what his credit reports say.  Fortunately, for Mr. Allen, each breath he draws proves the reports wrong.  While at first glance such an error seemed amusing, it lost all humor when he could not finance the truck.  He is unable to get virtually all credit and there is little anyone can do about it.

The problem is traced to an entry on Mr. Allen’s credit report by Nationwide Bank.  The three major credit-reporting services carry the entry “Consumer Deceased.”  While a mistake is understandable, the lack of ability for the consumer to resolve it is not.  Nationwide Bank is of  no help, they made the mistake, seems they should be the ones to fix it.  Of course, that is not how the system works.  It is up to Mr. Allen to fix a problem created by a bank.  It seems financial institutions are efficient at creating is problems someone else has to fix.

Just about any business is able to post a negative entry on a person’s credit report, even if it’s untrue.  The system is easy to use by businesses and the financial institutions.  It also has built-in hurdles to prevent removal of erroneous data.  We hear phrases like “check your credit, and check it often” or “it is up to the individual to ensure their credit report is accurate,” but when the time comes to correct it, useful catch phrases are of little help.  Consumer protection agencies, rights groups, even Congress have little control or influence over the credit reporting services.

The basic recourse available consumers is to dispute the claim with the credit reporting service, they in turn, ask the source of the item in question to verify the information.  Inevitably, this simply creates a cycle of circular motion that has no end and rarely provides the consumer with relief.  The bank or business will claim they corrected it, the reporting service will claim they have not.

At the very least Mr. Allen, and others in the same situation, have a valid claim at libel.  A common definition of libel state: “libel is the communication of a statement that makes a claim, expressly stated or implied to be factual, that may give an individual, business, product, group, government, or nation a negative image.”  What could give a worse opinion of credit worthiness than a false claim of death?   Of course, financial lobbyists covered this base with the ironically named Fair Credit Reporting Act.  It limits action against reporting agencies to state attorney generals.

Again, financial institutions have created a system that benefits only them and costs the individual dearly.  The system allows for easy entry of negative data, thus making the consumer “high risk.”  High risk means they hit you with a higher interest rate.  They lobbied Congress to make it near impossible to hold them accountable for anything.  It is a system ripe for abuse.  If ever a system needed reform, this is it.

One comment

  1. Amen. And the noose keeps getting tighter; the corral keeps getting smaller.

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