How to keep tabs on the secret companies that know everything about you
The letter arrived in a simple gray envelope. I had been refused a personal loan, he said, because of information Innovis and SageStream had learned about me.
I vaguely knew that Innovis was a mini credit bureau specializing in fraud detection. But what was SageStream? I decided to find out. Turns out it’s just one of dozens of obscure agencies that collect data about me, you and everyone we know — information like how quickly we pay the electric bill, what medications we take, or if we’re up to date on child support payments.
When people think of credit reporting agencies, they usually think of Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. But credit bureaus like the Big Three are largely limited to information about financial services, like loans and credit cards, says. John ulzheimer, a credit expert. A universe of other secret societies, often called data brokers, suck and sell our personal information. They can make or break your ability to find a job, get health or life insurance, rent an apartment, cash a check, or even gamble in a casino.
And odds are you’ve never heard of most of them.
According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, there are 47 major consumer information agencies in nearly a dozen categories. In turn, they exchange your personal data with thousands of small information brokers on the Internet. Here are the ones you should know.
Consumer credit agencies
The Big Three know more about you than Santa Claus. Whenever you apply for a credit card, take out a loan, pay off your late mortgage, get harassed by a debt collector, file for bankruptcy, or have a lien on your property, these agencies keep track of it.
They also keep a record of your past addresses, names, businesses and employers, as well as at least part of your social security number. (That is why the Equifax hack, through which nearly 150 million people have had this information stolen, was a catastrophic mistake.)
The good news is that you can request a free copy of your report from each agency each year, as well as any time a report results in “adverse action”, such as a loan denial. (Just be sure to request via AnnualCreditReport.com; Otherwise, you could be scammed by a similar site that charges you money for this service.)
You can also ask the offices to correct the errors, and this is important. A 2015 FTC investigation found that one in five credit reports contains ‘big mistakes’ it could affect your credit score. So be sure to read them carefully.
These mini credit bureaus collect information that the Big Three don’t often collect, such as ownership, licensing information, child support payments, or your billing history with cell carriers and service providers. Internet. The main mini-offices include CoreLogic CredCo, Innovis, and LexisNexis. Others, like SageStream, offer proprietary (and impenetrable) credit scores designed for loan providers to weigh in with an applicant’s traditional FICO scores.
Filters for use
More than 100 companies provide background checks for potential employers, which can include arrests and criminal records, as well as workers’ compensation claims. There are about a dozen prominent selection officers, including Sterling Talent Solutions, Intellicorp (property of Verisk Analytics), and Right to hire.
The good news is that an employer must get your consent before they can request a background check, and they must identify the assessment agency they use. If the company decides to reject you based on this selection, they should send you a “adverse pre-action letter”Which allows you to review the background check, correct any inaccuracies and ask for reconsideration.
If you’ve already paid your rent late or evicted your apartment, agencies like Experian RentBureau, CoreLogic Rental Real Estate Solutions, or Contemporary information society. (CIC) could report you to potential owners.
Personal Property Insurance Supervisors
Agencies like THE LexisNexis INDEX, Exchange of insurance information (owned by Verisk), and Pilot history (largely owned by TransUnion) records every claim you have made for your home or automobile, and / or every moving violation, for the past seven years. They share this data with insurance companies, who use it to determine if you qualify for insurance and, if so, how much you will need to pay. Some share this information with job screening officers.
Filters for subprime loans and banks
Companies like Clarity services, DataX, and Confidence factor collect information on payday and installment loans, check cashing stores and other financial services for low-income consumers. If you’ve written bad checks (or someone writes bad checks on your behalf), companies such as ChexSystems, TeleCheck, and Early warning services share this information with banks.
Miscellaneous data brokers
There is much more. the National Stock Exchange for Telecommunications and Consumer Utilities is probably the biggest consumer information bureau that no one has heard of, says Ulzheimer. If you don’t pay your water, gas, electricity, cable or phone bill on time, the NCTUE knows it.
Have you ever been turned down for health or life insurance due to a pre-existing condition? You can probably thank the Medical information office, which shares medical claims data among its more than 400 members. (And given Obamacare’s precarious state, you may have to worry about it again soon.) Milliman IntelliScript, meanwhile, records all prescription drugs that you have already purchased through your insurer.
The retail equation tracks the products you return to stores and flags transactions that it deems fraudulent. If the stores refuse to refund you, you must request a copy of your Return activity report.
If you have shit too many times at the gaming tables, the data collected by Certification verification services can determine whether the casino honors your marker or throws you over your ear.
Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act of 1970, all consumer reporting agencies are required to send you a free report, at your request, but none are required to make your job easier, Ulzheimer notes.
On AnnualCreditReport.com, you can complete an online form for one of the big three credit reporting agencies. For the rest, you usually submit a request by mail or fax, accompanied by proof of identity and your address; some also accept requests through a tortuous interactive voice system.
Unfortunately, despite grossly negligent behavior of companies like Equifax, you cannot prevent these agencies from collecting information. The best strategy, therefore, is to monitor them closely by requesting your reports and correcting the wrong information.
“There is no federal or state law that you can use to make it illegal for any of the credit reporting agencies to keep a record on you,” Ulzheimer said. “But trying to get a loan without a credit report would be like trying to find a job without having anything on your resume. Having an accurate credit report is infinitely better than having no credit report at all.
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