Credit Reports, Debt Collectors and Identity Theft
The credit industry is largely a shambling mess, with billions of dollars of "identity theft" and debt collectors hassling individuals for nonexistent debts being the result. I've been trying to figure out what to do, and have collected a few complaints and some advice that seemed like it made sense.
Equifax lost 143 million Americans' social security numbers and other personal information.
When they're free, the price is right. Otherwise, probably not.
We're making individuals over something that isn't their responsibility.
By law, you're entitled to a free annual credit report from the major credit agencies. This is an official site, mandated by the government. There are many other sites, like the scammy "freecreditreport.com" that exist to prey on your fears.1 Avoid them.
Advice about handling both incorrectly reported debts and/or identity theft, but more generally advice about competently navigating bureaucracies that don't remotely care about you as a person.
Instead, you want to communicate with the bank in a manner which suggests that you’re an organized professional who is capable of escalating the matter if the bank does not handle it themselves.
....Mean words cannot hurt a bank. Threats cannot hurt a bank. Paper trails, though, are terrifying to regulated institutions. Your bank’s customer support representatives are taught to evaluate whether someone looks like they’re competent and collecting a paper trail. If they are, the CS rep is supposed to stop touching the case immediately and instead escalate them to a supervisor or to the legal department.
....anyone who sounds like a well-organized professional with a paper trail is a problem to be swiftly addressed.
That, dear reader, can be you.
A security freeze prevents anyone from pulling your credit report, and thereby almost entirely prevents someone from committing identity theft. Depeneding on your state, the costs may vary, but for my fellow North Carolineans, it seems its free online.
But why does it have to work this way? You want to prevent anyone from opening a line of credit in your name. Instead, you make it so that no one can pull your credit report. Why the indirection?
I've yet to go through with a security freeze, but I'm planning to do so soon.
A commentor on Hacker News gave some links to get a security freeze.
(see responses at More on Debt Collection).
Document everything and validate debts.
Question: if you owe the government money (and why would you want to give them an interest free loan?) does that mean you don't have to worry?