Power play Featured

8:38am EDT January 31, 2003
When was the last time you pulled your credit report? Odds are, you didn't do it before you applied for a business loan or a mortgage on a new home.

And when you finally discovered what it contained, there's a good chance you received a not-so-welcome surprise.

There is a growing problem with credit reports that has consumers and businesspeople alike crying foul. Most consumers don't know the exact number of open credit, gas and store charge accounts they have, and even those who do are often surprised to learn there are accounts they think are closed that the credit agencies list as open.

Add to that the fact that most people never take the time to look at their credit reports because they're not aware they can access them, and it's little surprise that they never discover mistakes that may be in them -- misspelled names, incorrect addresses and wrong Social Security numbers.

Then, when you learn the reason you were denied that business loan is that you have a negative credit report -- due to an open Sears account you haven't used in a decade which has an overdue balance of $20 -- there isn't much you can do to complain.

The big three credit agencies -- Equifax, TransUnion and Experian -- wield entirely too much power. They won't talk to you on the phone about your account until you've ordered a print copy. And even then, you must put your complaints in writing, and they often don't get back to you with answers.

It's shocking that credit agencies are able to penalize you, but when they're the ones at fault, there's no way for them to be penalized. This simply must change.