This morning I got an email from reader SD about a recent experience with the credit reporting industry:
Through some screwups and misunderstandings settling my father's estate, we were hit with a tax lien. We immediately cleared it up, but a year or so later when I went to get a car loan there it was on the record. Got a notarized proof of clearance on it, sent it to the credit reporting agency. A few years after that, we got a home improvement loan and there it was. My wife was visiting our daughter recently in San Diego and looking at houses and a realtor ran a credit report and there it was.
It appears that when any credit reporting agency gets some dirt on you, they immediately tell all the peer operations....who tell all that they work with, and on and on. Not only that, but it's nearly impossible to ferret out every instance of such misinformation (which should be the credit reporting agency's responsibility to clean up), AND the chain reaction keeps going until the same piece of disinformation that you originally expunged from, say, Experian, comes BACK to them and they enter it their database against you AGAIN.
Financial organizations should not only be made liable/responsible for correcting this kind of thing, but should be responsible for making sure that all instances of it are expunged.
As it is, they love and live for dirt on you, and take no responsibility for its correctness or the integrity of their data. And you never find out, all the while suffering under the bad credit score unknowingly until you formally take out some kind of loan....
Credit reporting agencies don't care about making sure their reports are accurate. Why should they? There's no penalty for screwing up someone's life.
If the tax lien automatically showed up on SD's credit report, it should just as automatically be removed when it's taken care of. Why should SD even have to handle this in the first place? Beyond that, there should be straightforward procedures, mandated by law, for correcting your credit report. Likewise, there should be straightforward procedures, mandated by law, for ensuring that corrections are sent immediately to every credit reporting firm. Anyone who doesn't correct their records within 24 hours should be liable for statutory damages. End of story. Do that, and guess what? Credit reporting agencies will suddenly start caring about the accuracy of their reports.