THE VALUE OF A MAN, REVISITED
Through my friend’s misfortune, I understand how our culture measures individuals.
As suspected by conspiracy theorists everywhere, it’s not in the hands
of the government, but in specifically three private entities, which
corporations and financial institutions use to collect data that we,
the individuals about which that data gets collected, may only see once
a year, and only because a law was passed requiring it.
The reason I could have a car this year is because the law requires
adverse information that’s as old as my financial problems are must
disappear from my credit report. Otherwise, my continued
financial health is up to the whims of Equifax, Experian, and Trans
It may sound obvious that you could have a group of people simply
collect data as financial institutions do certain transactions, giving
one to three easy places to find out how good people are at paying back
loans. The problem is that the purpose of those three companies
has grown well beyond that function.
When I ran my own credit under the annual credit check law, I
discovered that two of the three companies thought I had lived in
Florida for at least a couple of years. Astute readers and
mathmetitians would have easily discovered that in order to accomplish
such a feat, I would have lived in both Florida and Illinois
simultaneously. It also did not report that I ever worked in
Florida, nor did I ever buy anything.
They were quick to correct the information once I called them on it,
but the shame is that I needed to report a mistake at all. You
see, it is entirely my responsibility to check the accuracy of my own
credit report, but I’m only allowed to see it once a year. If I
am responsible for the quality of the information; if Experian,
Equifax, and Trans Union can’t trouble themselves to make sure that the
data is at least accurate, I should be allowed to look at my credit
report any time I want, free of charge. My information, my
problem, my power.
Without fact-checking, my friend’s stolen wallet was used to take out a
post office box, and in turn, a credit card in his name was unlawfully
used to run up about $4000 in charges, something he didn’t learn until
the bill collector finally found his actual residence.
There’s a reason why I don’t just consider this a ‘whoops’ wrong,
though. This is a ‘people will go to Hell when they die’ wrong,
an immorality, and this is why:
THE POOR ARE MORE LIKELY TO STEAL
Credit checks are used to determine eligibility for employment.
They’re used to decide if you keep promises as well as if you are
likely to rob the company you are about to work for….
You see, the poor are more likely to steal. Of course, the poor
are also more likely to need work in the first place, but not hiring
someone that is qualified but poor is not the same as not hiring
someone who is qualified but a woman or not hiring someone who is
qualified but black.
If being in debt makes you less able to get a job and get out of debt,
there’s no doubt that it makes you more likely to take on a living by
criminal means, even if that’s simply selling counterfeit DVDs at a
flea market, or something society finds more disturbing, like selling
crack in the streets, or selling your body to the night.
And of course, Experian, Equifax, and Trans Union can’t possibly have
poor information- we paid good money to screen this candidate.
With that in mind, please write your congressman.
All of the above could be mended at least slightly if-
– Consumers have the right to review their credit reports at any time,
and/or the reporting agencies can be held liable for inaccuracy
– If it is expressly forbidden for employers to screen candidates by using credit ratings
And finally, fraud would be reduced greatly if the big three bothered
to check for, and report anomoies in, a credit report. How can I
live in two places at once? It’s possible, but unlikely, and
ought to be investigated.
This would make it more difficult for a tourist’s stolen wallet to turn into a credit account and a stolen identity.
Thanks for the comment.
sswanson: I’m not calling last.fm flawless by any means, and
indeed, you touched on my biggest gripe since starting to use it.
There are ‘tag’ mechanisms you can use, so that when you’re feeling
like chill-out music, you can hear just that…. or maybe some
‘get psyched’ music or ‘wale-up’ music, but not necessarily just rock
or techno or jazz or whatever else.
The most obvious way to get a station skewed to mood, that I can tell,
is to set up multiple accounts and skew the data yourself, which is a
royal pain in the ass. When I feel I’ve played with it enough to
report on a good solution, I’ll say so and write it up in my ‘reviews’.
Hope everyone’s doing well.
See you next time.