Credit Reports

CREDIT REPORTS….The ChoicePoint ID theft debacle is ? surprise, surprise ? worse than they originally fessed up to. They now say it’s affected 145,000 people, maybe more:

Investigators said they think the number of victims will continue to rise as officials learn more about the scheme.

….To control the damage to consumers and the company, ChoicePoint executives over the weekend decided to announce changes in how they assess their clients and maintain security.

Starting today ChoicePoint will offer victims free credit reports and credit-monitoring services for the next year. ChoicePoint officials said they expect to finish sending out notices by the end of the week. Company officials also said they will curb access to some sensitive information for as many as 17,000 small-business clients, including some lawyers, private investigators and insurance companies, while verifying their legitimacy. Conducting the background checks could take as long as two months, the officials said.

Sorry, not enough. The problem with credit reports is that they’re strictly under the control of one side of the credit transaction: businesses. If a business requests a report, they get it, no questions asked. If a business reports a problem, it goes on the report, no questions asked. The consumer never knows any of this is happening, and that’s the way the credit reporting companies like it.

This needs to stop. If a business requests a report, the consumer should be notified ? by email, phone, or in writing ? and the report should go out only if the consumer authorizes it. If a nonroutine entry is added to a credit report, the consumer should be notified so that she can object immediately if she thinks a mistake has been made. Consumers should be full partners in the creation of credit reports, and any changes or uses of credit reports should be fully transparent to the consumer involved.

These aren’t just pieces of paper anymore. Credit reports are minutely detailed resumes of your entire life, and credit reporting companies shouldn’t be allowed to arrogantly treat your life as if it’s their sole property. After all, an improper use of your credit report can do you tremendous damage. It should fundamentally be considered joint property, as much yours as the credit reporting company’s.

Someone needs to take this up as a cause. How about it, Senator Clinton?