Monthly Archives: March 2008

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.

CMRR Mail

It’s generally recommended to use CMRR (Certified Mail with Return Receipt) for communicating with credit reporting agencies, collection agencies, and creditors. It provides a trail of when letters were mailed and when they were received. If correctly used, CMRR can be used as evidence in court. Here’s how to send off a letter CMRR:

  1. The first thing you’ll need is a Certified Mail form and a Return Receipt form. These are available free of charge at your local post office or can be ordered free of charge from the USPS web site. A certified mail form looks like this:

    certifiedmailform

    It has a unique tracking number printed three times on the form – once at the far left side, and twice under the barcode.

    A return receipt form looks like this:

    returnreceiptform

    The return receipt form is double-sided and you will need to complete both sides of the form.

  2. When writing your letter to the creditor, collection agency, or credit reporting agency, be sure to reference the tracking number from the Certified Mail form in the header of your letter. Just a brief note near the date that says something along the lines of “Sent via Certified Mail: XXXX XXXX XXXX XXXX XXXX on March 2, 2008” will do.

    Even though the sending and receiving of the Certified Mail can be tracked through the US Postal Service, referencing the CM tracking number in the body of your letter itself is the only way to prove what the actual contents of the letter were. Be sure to make a photocopy of your letter before you seal the envelope.

  3. Place your letter in the envelope, seal it, and write the delivery and return addresses as normal
  4. Complete the Certified Mail form. It’s very simple. You only have to fill out the bottom right portion where it allows you to print who it is being sent to and the address where it is being sent.

    You will notice that the form is perforated between the two tracking numbers printing under the bar code. Do not tear the form at this perforation. Leave the form complete. The postal clerk will detach the form after they’ve completed their portion of the form and postmarked it for you.

    Attach the CM form to your envelope. The bar code portion of the form is sticky- simple peel off the backing, and fold the form over the top of your envelope. It should be attached at the top, to the right of your return address. A small green sliver will be on the back of the envelope, and the large portion with the barcode will be affixed to the front.

  5. Next up is the Return Receipt form. Start with the back, which simply has a large empty box where you can print your name and address. This will be used to mail the Return Receipt back to you as proof that the letter was delivered.

    On the front side, fill in the name and address of the company or person you are sending the letter to in box #1. In box #2, copy the tracking number from the CM form. In box #3, check the Certified Mail box.

    On the left and right side of the RR form on the side with your name and address, peel off the backing and stick the form over the delivery address on the envelope. When the letter is delivered, whomever received the letter will sign and print their name in the boxes on the upper right. The mail carrier will detach the form from the letter at the perforations, and the green card will be sent back to you.

    Attach the certified mail receipt, the post office receipt, and the return mail receipt to your letter and file it away to be referenced as needed at a future date.

Now you’re all set to start sending out those letters!