Weston: We deserve a better credit reporting system

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In some ways, the American credit reporting system has improved.

Credit freezes, which lock our credit information to deter identity theft, are now free and fast. We have free weekly access to our credit reports, courtesy of Equifax, Experian and TransUnion credit bureaus, until April 20. Free credit scores provided by banks, credit card issuers, and other companies make it easy for us to monitor for signs of fraud and other issues. .

Unfortunately, our credit information is still not as accurate, easy to obtain, or secure as it should be. These failures mean that Congress and regulators must intervene.

Accuracy is always an issue. Earlier this year, Consumer Reports recruited nearly 6,000 volunteers to verify their reports. The results: 34% found at least one error or one account they did not recognize.

There just aren’t enough incentives for the credit bureaus to do it right. Their main clients are financial institutions that can profit if someone who is creditworthy is charged a higher rate because of an error, says freelance journalist Bob Sullivan, author of “Your Evil Twin: Behind the Identity Theft Epidemic “.

Look for “free credit report“, “annual credit report” or even “AnnualCreditReport.com”. The first results are likely to be advertisements for other sites that improve credit monitoring. The real site is often in the middle of the page, with no indication that this is the official federally mandated place to get free credit reports.

People are understandably confused when they click on other links and are asked for a credit card, often after entering sensitive information including their social security number and date of birth. (The real site doesn’t require a credit card.)

The real site should be the first search result for keywords related to free credit reports. Additionally, any business purchasing ads for these keywords should be required to have a prominent button that says something like “Looking for AnnualCreditReport.com?” Click here ”with a link to the correct site. Search engines, credit bureaus, and other credit monitoring companies are unlikely to do this on their own, so lawmakers must act.

More than one in 10 people in a 2012 Consumer Reports study said it was “difficult” or “very difficult” to get their credit report, often because they couldn’t answer the check questions. identity of the offices.

Do you know who doesn’t have a problem with these questions? Identity thieves. They use information extracted from database breaches to access people’s credit reports with relative ease.

One solution is to make the information on credit reports, primarily Social Security numbers, less valuable. These numbers were meant to track our income history, not to be a universal identifier.

Liz Weston writes for NerdWallet.


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