February 22nd, 2007

Keep Walking

Equifax is in the news, once again, for cheating consumers!

Today's blog entry is sponsored by http://www.adultsheepfinder.com

thanks to chrishansenhome for pointing this parody site out!

Today in Techdirt, I see that Equifax is in the news, once again, for cheating consumers as they were before: The FTC's response? Fine them again... this time, 2/3rds less than the first incident! Perhaps you've seen the television ad with the hokey jingle for "freecreditreports.com"? Did you know that it's a scam created by the credit reporting agencies , used to encourage you to purchase a credit-monitoring program at an $80/year cost to you?

If you really want free credit reports from all three major credit-reporting agencies, go to the official site: AnnualCreditReport.com (which Equifax says is "un-American", since they can't make a profit off the consumer!) In the United States, under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), the FTC requires each of the nationwide consumer reporting companies — Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion — to provide you with a free copy of your credit report, at your request, once every 12 months. [read more on the FTC website]

Credit Agency Fined A Second Time For Misleading People About Free Credit Reports

A few years back it was discovered that most of those sites advertising "free credit reports" were something of a scam. While many of them were run by the various credit agencies, they weren't the official AnnualCreditReport.com site, but rather tricks to get people to sign up for fee-based credit monitoring reports. Eventually, the FTC cracked down, fining Experian $950,000 for misleading the public. Apparently, though, the business generated by such practices was worth a lot more than that. It appears that Experian simply took the fine to be a cost of doing business for their Consumerinfo.com site, and have continued misleading people into signing up for a "free" credit report, and then quietly enrolling them in an $80 credit-monitoring program. So, now the FTC is back fining the company a second time, this time for $300,000. Given that the larger fine didn't get the company to mend its ways, somehow it makes you wonder if this new fine will be any more effective. It certainly does seem to be a conflict of interest to let these credit reporting companies charge you to alert you to whenever they might make a mistake. Of course, the credit agencies don't see it that way. Soon after this practice was originally outed, Experian competitor Equifax's CEO stated that it was "un-American" (see older article below) to let people view the information that these companies had about them for free.

Equifax Says "It's Un-American For People To Know What Equifax Knows About Them"

It's tough to figure out where to start on the various comments from Equifax boss Thomas Chapman, who claims that the new law requiring the big credit companies to let people see what data has been collected on them for free at least once a year "unconstitutional and un-American." His argument is that it "cuts into the profits" of his company. First of all, cutting into someone's profits isn't unconstitutional or un-American by itself. Second, they're not asking him to "give away" some random product, but to let anyone check the info that his company has collected on that person to make sure it's accurate. Considering just how much depends on these companies reporting data accurately, that seems like the least they should be required to do. In fact, they should want to encourage that as it means they would have more accurate data. Besides, part of the problem is really that many people don't realize just how much data these companies have on them, and how much of it is just wrong. Besides, given the various sneaky upsells, it certainly looks like the big credit companies are actually increasing their profits by convincing people that they actually do have to pay for these "free" reports. The article also gets amusing towards the end where Chapman puts his foot in his mouth big-time by basically saying they've had a bunch of data breaches which haven't been announced, and then trying to pretend he never admitted that, first by saying: "I don't think you've seen our name in the news," then by refusing to answer more pointed questions on the issue with: "I'm not going to go there. I'm not going to answer that question. We have been notifying and engaging in communication with customers, consumers, for a long time. We're known for that. We're known for our stand on privacy." Yup. Your stand on privacy is apparently that you don't believe in anyone's ability to check on their own private data to make sure it's accurate -- unless they first pay you.

Articles and inspiration for this blog entry are from Techdirt