By now everyone has read about the massive data breach at Equifax, one of the “big three” credit reporting agencies. The arbiter of every detail of our financial lives, Equifax runs a big business capturing data over which we have zero control. Even more delightful is the fact that there really is nothing that any of us can do about it. In the WSJ article, Senators Rip Credit-Reporting Model, Senator John Kennedy (R., La.) said it best:
“You have my information, you don’t pay me for it, you don’t have my permission”, said Sen. John Kennedy (R., La.). “You can’t run your business without me. My data is the product you sell.”
So much for the home of the free. Even the Senators ain’t free, jack. Anywho….
As I reflected on my interactions with Financial Big Brother over the years, I was struck by how very convoluted the system is and how very cumbersome and exhausting it can be to navigate. I remember making the colossal mistake of taking my credit for granted during my early 20s and the shenanigans required to clear up my leveraged mismanagement. Thankfully, I worked for a time with two high volume debt and bankruptcy collection law firms that specialized in getting blood out of turnips. I learned the difference in processes for settling an account vs. paying it in full, to always require documentation should proof of resolution of said debt be requested in the future by new debt owners, and to never, never, ever trust a collector to follow-up on pay agreements whether in writing or over the phone. In short, the borrower is slave to the lender, just as the good book tells us. Yet, here we are, Americans all – slaves to the credit reporting agencies. Why slaves? A look at the facts shows why quite clearly:
- In order to lend money, establish new accounts, approve a credit card, etc. your credit profile is required.
- Credit reports are riddled with inaccuracies and misappropriations.
- In the event that inaccurate information is on your credit profile, it is your job to fix it, regardless of whether or not you have the time, resources, or overall ability to fix said errors.
- Unless there is a major snafu, suing the credit bureaus for breach of duty is akin to trying to sue the President — an exercise in futility 99.9% of the time. Zero accountability is the name of the game.
- The dispute process is a black hole. You learn of the results, but have no insight into exactly what is being done to research, define, or resolve your specific issue — There is no agent to call about your specific dispute. you wait. until you are contacted. Period.
- Credit bureaus know all of the above facts and operate with impunity. Hence the data breach, sell off of stock by Equifax executives prior to breach announcement, and initial charge for credit monitoring services, abandoned only as a result of the immense pressure incurred by the bureau as the meaning of the breach became more clear to all involved.
Paul Revere would turn over in his grave. The Boston tea partiers would outright riot. Patrick Henry would go ahead and end it all. Jefferson would declare the foothold of tyranny steadfast. Americans in 2017 file law suits and revert back to reality tv. Such is modern life, defined by malaise, apathy, and acceptance. Congress could be furious were they not complicit, but as I am sure the lobbying and donation money funnels will show, very little change should be expected and our “do nothing” congress will continuing doing just that- nothing.