As someone who has experienced a (relatively minor) case of identity theft, I can personally attest to how frustrating and time consuming it can be to correct blatant misinformation with the various consumer credit reporting companies. Proving that I was not the person who opened a Best Buy credit card under my name in another state (when I had an “alibi” proving I was at home at the time) required countless hours, diligence, and persistence. And, as most recent home-buyers know, even correcting minor errors like misreported balances or number of open accounts takes far too much time and effort. So when I heard about the Mississippi Attorney General’s new lawsuit against Experian, my blood began to boil all over again.
In its complaint, the AG alleges that for the last two decades Experian has not conducted an independent investigation into consumer complaints regarding misinformation appearing in its own credit reports. This is despite its statutory duty under the Fair Credit Reporting Act to conduct its own investigation into consumer complaints, instead of just adopting the word of the creditors as its own. According to the complaint, in lieu of an investigation, the company simply assigns each complaint a generic code (e.g. “mistaken identity”) and forwards it back to the creditor that reported the (mis)information in the first place. Allegedly, Experian doesn’t even bother to forward the consumer’s explanation or evidence to the creditor – which would not only help ensure a more accurate and efficient review and resolution of the complaint, but also more accurate information in Experian’s reports. According to the AG, as a result of Experian’s failures, “it has mixed up consumers’ identities, and reported as late or still owing accounts that have actually been settled in full. It also reports on consumers’ credit reports accounts that have been closed or extinguished through bankruptcy, and discloses liens and judgments that have also been taken care of.” If proven, this failure not only hurts (and frustrates) individuals whose lives and reputations are inextricably linked to their credit scores, but also hurts companies who rely on these credit reports when turning down potential loan applicants, job applicants, and other business opportunities based on misinformation.
So I for one will be watching this lawsuit closely, and hope that some progress is made to help protect consumers and businesses alike who rely on Experian to do its job and report creditor information as fairly and accurately as possible.