Category Archives: My Experience

Correcting the Easy Stuff is Almost Done

According to my student loan company, my name has been updated on my student loan account. They never notified me that they received my request update my account, so I logged into my account online, and there it was – my updated information. Hooray for small miracles. I figure I’ll give TransUnion a month, and then I’ll request the change to my name once again.

I called Experian to talk about my addresses. Each address on my report was assigned a code number. I had to deal with a computer, but I was able to dispute the addresses over the phone by punching in the code number assigned to the address. About 10 addresses were removed from my report, and Experian mailed me an updated report. There were about four addresses that it would not allow me to dispute with the automated phone system, so I will have to call back during regular business hours to speak to a person to see what’s going on with those. One of them is really odd – it’s not even a complete address – it’s just a city and state. A city that I’ve never lived in. I have no idea what’s going on there.

I know that there have been some attempts at fraud using my name and/or social security number. At a past job, the CEO hired a really sketchy guy to handle accounting and human resources. This man had access to our personal information and our bank account information on account of us having direct deposit. He pulled a lot of sketchy moves and finally disappeared after stealing a few thousand dollars out of petty cash and other accounts. I left that job before that whole situation was resolved, so I have no idea if he was ever found or if the case made it to court. I placed a fraud alert with the credit reporting agencies and switched my bank account, and so far, nothing’s happened that could be traced back to this man.

However, this past November, I was reviewing my checking account online when I noticed a transaction for $500 that I didn’t recognize. I used my bank’s online customer service and sent them a message inquiring about the nature of that withdrawal. I never did receive a response to that inquiry. The next day, I logged into my account and there was *another* transaction for $500 along with several overdraft fees. Thus began an absolute circus of calls to the bank, waiting interminably on hold to speak to the one and only department at the bank that would discuss the case with me (minimum hold time 35-40 minutes before a person came on the line who was anything but helpful), filing police reports, and then being told by my bank that it would take them 4-6 months to investigate. The bank gave me information in little bits and pieces. The two transactions were actually ATM withdrawals – all the scarier, because someone had not only a clone of my debit card, but my PIN as well. My own research revealed that there were two likely culprits: using my debit card at the pay-at-the-pump at the gas station or using my debit card to pay at a restaurant, where the waiter/waitress takes you card and wanders off where you cannot see him/her to process the payment.

The take-away there is do not use your debit card to pay at the pump or to pay at a restaurant. It’s extremely difficult to get fraudulent charges on debit cards reversed, but credit cards are much easier to deal with. Pay inside at the gas station, or if you must, pay with your credit card. Pay cash at restaurants, or use a regular credit card instead of a debit card.

There was also a weird case a few years ago where someone must have gotten hold of just enough of my personal information to think they had a chance of getting some credit or something. Ex-employers and assorted family members started getting weird phone calls from women claiming to be “Mrs. Washington”, “Mrs. Jefferson”, and “Mrs. Monroe” saying they had to speak to me. Did the person on the phone know my address? Phone number? Social Security Number? “Mrs. Washington” even had the nerve to tell one family member that she needed the family member’s social security number to verify in her records that the phone call had happened. It was very strange, but everyone who got a phone call was smart about it and didn’t give out any of my information, nor any of their own either, and as far as I can tell, nothing came of it.

To make a long story short, some of these strange addresses on my report may have come from some of this crazy and fraudulent activity, as a previous commenter pointed out. All the more reason to keep tabs on your accounts and your credit report. The sooner you realize there’s a problem, the sooner you can take steps to get it fixed.

Progress on correcting the easy stuff!

I am the proud owner of three credit reports – one from each Credit Reporting Agency, and a few nice results.

Equifax – deleted all of my old addresses except, of course, my current address. They also corrected my name.

TransUnion – still refuses to update my name. I finally identified a student loan that’s still under my old name. I can only assume that this is the only tradeline reporting my old name. Does it make any sense to you with all other tradelines reporting my name correctly and me providing multiple documents proving my name that they refuse to change it based on one student loan account?

Experian – corrected my name, but didn’t remove a single old address, stating that the addresses were listed as reported by the creditors. How can a creditor be reporting an address at which I never lived, and in one case, an address that doesn’t even exist? They make this all the more frustrating by reporting your addresses in a separate section of your report from your tradelines, and there’s no way of knowing which creditor is reporting which address. Experian does say that if you contact them by phone they will tell you which creditor is reporting which address, which is more than TransUnion was willing to do when I called them about the same issue.

At this point, I’m happy with my “Easy Stuff” results with Equifax. Nothing more to do there.

I’ll correct my name on my student loan account and then contact TransUnion again to have my name corrected.

I will call Experian and have them match up addresses with creditors. That could take awhile as Experian is reporting <strong><em>32</em></strong> different addresses for me. Seriously. Who’s lived at 32 different addresses?

My dumbest purchase ever

Debt Kid has posted a challenge at his blog wanting to know about <a href=”http://www.debtkid.com/share-your-dumbest-purchase-ever-win-my-ds-lite”>your dumbest purchase ever</a>. Since purchases can have a big impact on your credit score, I thought I’d share my dumbest purchase ever.

In 1993, I was newly married to a Private in the Marine Corps whose take home pay was about $600 a month and working as a waitress at a diner chain where I made $2.13/hour plus tips. And the tips were awful. On average, I’d say I brought home about $15 for a breakfast/lunch shift (6am to 3pm) which I worked most of the time and maybe about $40 for a lunch/dinner shift (11am to 8pm) which I worked maybe two or three times a month.

A door-to-door salesman came to our door multiple times, trying to find us both at home. Because we both had irregular schedules, I’d say he tried at least eight or nine different times before he showed up one day and found us both at home. We were young and naive and he seemed friendly, so we let him in and listened to his sales pitch.

He was selling a family photo club package. For the low, low price of $6,000, payable in monthly installments, we could join his family photo club. Benefits of membership included a “free” VCR that he promised to bring the next day if we signed up, a decent quality 35mm camera, a genuine leather photo album for displaying our beautifully developed family photos, and a huge book of coupons entitling us to photo developing, enlargements, prints from negatives, photo repair of ancient photos, and even special effects added to our photos (you’ve surely seen an infamous wedding photo with the couple’s face floating in the middle of a brandy snifter?).

For the rest of our lives, whenever we had any sort of photographic need, all we would need to do is clip a coupon from this giant coupon book, and mail it off to this company to be processed in 6-8 weeks. If the coupon book ran out, we could request another one.

There were a few catches, of course.

The first was that the “lifetime” membership actually expired in five years. So, how could they call it lifetime? Why, all we had to do was send off a letter to the company six months in advance of the expiration requesting that our membership be extended another five years. No cost to us except the stamp.

The second was that sending off film to be developed or photos to be enlarged with the coupons from the book actually wasn’t free. Each coupon had a price printed on it, and we had to include a money order for that price in the envelope as well. If I remember correctly, reprints were $1 each, enlargements varied in price from $2 to $10, depending on the size, and film developing cost us about $5. Um…wasn’t that about what that would cost us anyway? Even a little pricey?

But, being 19 years old, newly married when we had no business being married, and suddenly plunged into this world of trying to manage our $1500 total income each month, we bought it. It turned out years later when we were more comfortable talking to each other that neither of us had actually had the least interest in purchasing the package, but had been afraid to speak up since we had perceived the other as being interested.

For the next five years, this company deducted $100 a month from my husband’s meager little military paycheck, and we struggled. When the military uprooted us to move across the country, we had all of $300 to our name and ate nothing but cheap pot pies and tins of refrigerator biscuits for months at a stretch. There were times where we couldn’t afford to have sex because we couldn’t afford birth control! That $100 a month would have made a big difference.

I think all in all, we developed maybe a dozen rolls of film through this company and I sent off for three enlargements to 5×7, that don’t forget, cost us money. The VCR they gave us served us well for many years, but realistically we could have bought one pretty cheaply for ourselves. The camera they gave us was stolen from our car about four months after we signed up for the package.

So, in the end, I’d have to say that we spent $6000 on a VCR. Pretty dumb purchase.

Still trying to correct the easy stuff

I never received any kind of acknowledgement or letter from Equifax. I haven’t recently pulled a copy of my credit reports, so I have no idea if it’s been corrected on Equifax’s side or not.

I’ve been extremely busy and a bit fed up with this endless cycle of not getting anywhere. But this is just the beginning of the long uphill climb. So I won’t give up now.

I guess my next step is to send out all that information that Experian has requested, and as long as I’m at it, I may as well send it off to Equifax and TransUnion as well to see if it gets me anywhere.

So far, I’ve been sending all correspondence regular mail. If you poke around the web, there are all sorts of theories on how to get better responses from the credit reporting agencies. Many people say to never use anything but Certified Mail with Return Receipt, and to include a reference to the tracking number directly in the letter itself, making sure to save a copy for your records. I’ve read all sorts of other tricks and tips, including sending only hand-written correspondence on yellow legal paper written in green ink. Something about that being difficult for them to OCR into their computerized system, forcing them to deal with it personally. At this point, I’m beginning to see how all these tricks and tips surfaced, and I’m starting to think that they might not be a half-bad idea.

I’m sending off copies of all requested proof of name and address to all three as my next step. I’m undecided as to whether I’ll use CMRR or yellow legal paper and a green pen. I’ll report back when I’ve made my decision and on the results.

My second attempt at correcting the easy stuff

So here I am still stuck at Step 3: Correcting the Easy Stuff. Frankly, if this is the easy stuff, I’m getting a little bit worried.

I haven’t heard back from Equifax yet. Hopefully that letter will be arriving in the mail soon. I’m curious about what Equifax will have to say about my name and address.

TransUnion did nothing. They sent me back a copy of my credit report with no changes from last time. The next day I got a separate letter stating that the name on my credit report simply reflected the name being reported to them by the creditors, and they couldn’t change it unless all the creditors starting reporting my new name. I called customer service to see if talking to a person would get me anywhere. The gentleman I spoke with wasn’t very helpful. He insisted that my old name was being reported by creditors and therefor couldn’t be changed by TransUnion. I said, “Who do you think knows my name better – me or some company I had a credit card from five years ago?” That accomplished nothing. So next I tried to get him to tell me which creditors were reporting my old name. At first he said he couldn’t tell me that, but then he finally said, “All of them” which I know is a lie as all of my credit cards, statements, and bills have my current name on them. I got nowhere fast.

It seems ridiculous to me that TransUnion insists on keeping an incorrect name on my credit reports even though I am able to prove with ID, social security card, and W2 that my name is incorrect simply because some random creditor is reporting an incorrect name. I’d think they’d be more concerned about their records being correct than that.

After my first attempt, all I got from Experian and Equifax was a request for more verification of my identity. This time Experian sent back another letter talking about the prevalence of identity theft and insisted that now they need a government issued identification and a utility bill, insurance, or bank statement to verify my account. Keep in mind that I’ve sent them a copy of my government issued identification twice now, along with a W2 showing my current name and address. It’s like a silly cycle of identity requests. I hope it eventually ends in my personal information on my Experian report being corrected. I’m afraid that if I send my government ID and say a bank statement, I’m going to get back a request for a Social Security Card or a W2, and nothing is ever going to be done. I don’t know if I’m comfortable putting so much information in an envelope and hoping it arrived safely. On the other hand, if I don’t, this seems likely to go on forever.

My First Attempt at Correcting the Easy Stuff

As mentioned in my Action Steps posted called “Step 3: Correct the Easy Stuff“, I sent off letters to all three credit agencies requesting that they correct my address and name information. Enclosed with each letter was a photocopy of my driver’s license and a photocopy of the Personal Information section of my report from that agency showing the incorrect names and addresses.

Within two weeks, I had responses from all three agencies.

Equifax and Experian both claimed they were unable to locate my credit file and have requested I send more information to help them identify me. Both say that in addition to a copy of my driver’s license, they need a copy of my social security card, a copy of a paystub or a copy of a W2. This is accompanied by large-size bold text about how the FBI has named identity theft the fastest growing crime in America. I guess I’m supposed to feel grateful that they’re protecting me.

TransUnion was a little more helpful. They were able to locate my credit file and correct my address, but simply listed my current name under “Other Names” with an incorrect name still listed as the main name on my record.

Final results from first round of letters:
Correct addresses: 1 out of 3
Correct names: 0 out of 3

Preparing and sending out a second round with all required information.

Patience. Persistence.