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Who’s Watching Your Money? - the Consumer Reporting Agencies


Who’s Watching Your Money? - the Consumer Reporting Agencies

There are a handful of agencies that probably know more about your finances than you do. It’s good to be reminded who has the power to do what and what your rights and responsibilities are.

The credit bureaus

Experian, TransUnion and Equifax -- this trio holds the keys to the credit kingdom. They have the good, the bad and the ugly regarding your use of credit. They keep account of late payments, how much outstanding debt you have, pretty much everything about your credit life. Not only can you get your credit report from them, but also your credit score. Go to www.experian.com, www.transunion.com, and www.equifax.com for more information.

Once a year you can get a free credit report. One place to do so is www.annualcreditreport.com. You want to know what’s being said about you. Find out if there are any inaccuracies, or worse, suspicious activity, like accounts in your name that you know nothing about. You want to know your credit score, those three digits can determine whether you get a job, an apartment, the interest rate you’ll pay, or if you’ll even be extended credit. Do realize however, that your free report will not include your credit score.

ChexSystems

You may not be aware of ChexSystems, but they know you. They do business with banks and other financial institutions. ChexSystems collects data from financial institutions about closed savings and checking accounts. That information helps their clients determine whether you are deemed too risky to open a new account, based on your previous banking track record.

Some shady characters have been pretending to be from ChexSystems, asking people to pony up cash in order to have information removed from their file, to have information investigated, or to obtain a copy of their consumer disclosure report. Beware.

ChexSystems points out on its website, www.chexsystems.com, that it will never contact anyone as part of an effort to collect debt and that it doesn’t call folks. It also won’t require payment from you in order to investigate the accuracy of your information, nor will it ask for money to remove inaccurate information. You have the right to request your report and to challenge any facts you think are incorrect.

Early Warning Services (EWS)

You need no reminders about how big a problem identity theft is. Early Warning Services, www.earlywarning.com, helps banks and other financial institutions authenticate their customer’s identities. They are a watchdog of sorts, using technology and consumer reporting to look for signs of all manner of mischief such as fraud and forgery. Financial institutions depend on EWS to have the intel on who's been naughty or nice. If you have a penchant for writing rubber checks and have lied about your income or other financial info, EWS could be the one to rat you out. Like the other agencies, you most definitely want to know what they are saying about you. No worries, you can get a copy of your consumer report for free. You have the right to dispute what you see, if you believe it incomplete or off base.

CoreLogic Credco

This is a big kahuna when it comes to merged and specialized credit reports. They have access to one of the world’s largest consumer and business databases. They are beloved by mortgage and auto lenders, among others. They get the skinny on your housing stats, like previous homeownership and mortgage info, how timely you were with your rental, among other things. You can also get a free annual report from them. For more information, go to www.credco.com.

Is your information safe?

These are just a few of the agencies minding your money. If the thought of your financial information being so available at a time with cyber security is a continuing concern, you are not alone. This week another agency concerned about your finances, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, www.consumerfinance.gov, announced it is launching an inquiry into the challenges people face in accessing, using, and securely sharing their financial records. They’re asking the public for information about how much choice they are being given about the use of their records, how secure it is for them to share their records, and to what extent consumers have control over their records.

“Consumers should be able to use their financial records and account information and securely share access in an electronic format,” said CFPB Director Richard Cordray in a prepared statement.

Fact is, every financial transaction you make is recorded. That info is maintained by account providers, and companies you give permission to delve into your files. But those companies have their “partners” who are privy to your information. The CFPB says people who allow access to their financial records need to feel confident that the info won’t fall into the wrong hands. According to the CFPB, however, it has heard concerns from some financial institutions that providing third-party companies with access to records may compromise consumer privacy or put consumers’ funds and account relationships at risk.

Comments
Anonymous
Anonymous   |     |   Comment #1
Thank you for this!  I wasn't aware of EWS and Credco.  I'll order my report just for fun!
Anonymous
Anonymous   |     |   Comment #2
Typo stated Cr was " fee."  Website, as required by law says it's free.  But why would one want to give them personal info?  If one is declined credit you are entitled to a report then.  Enough is enough!
Ken Tumin
Ken Tumin   |     |   Comment #4
Thanks. The typo is now corrected.
Anonymous
Anonymous   |     |   Comment #3
I'm more concerned with who's watching the people who watch the money. From tellers, bank officers and data entry types, an awful lot of eyeballs are looking at an awful lot of  sensitive  info.
Anonymous
Anonymous   |     |   Comment #5
Excellent blog post. This should be published in the national media for all the general public.
Bozo
Bozo   |     |   Comment #6
Correct me if I'm wrong, but many banks and credit unions will purport to provide you a free "credit score" (which looks suspiciously like a FICO score), but may not. Some wags call it a "FAKO" score.

When last we needed to obtain a "real" FICO score, our banker advised there was only one fool-proof method, and that was applying for credit. If anyone has any different information, I'd be happy to hear about it.
Anonymous
Anonymous   |     |   Comment #7
There are many-many websites talking about this, you might be better just doing a Google search on the topic.

Basically, there are lots of lots of score types. Some are by FICO (an actual company), some by someone else. Most banks (>80%) use some FICO version, some banks use other scores, some (probably most, even) checks multiple versions, and not *just* the score (maybe they deny you immediately if you opened 5 credit cards in the last 24 months, no matter how good your scores are). You can get non-FICO (=FAKO) scores for free from some sites, some banks *do* provide *actual* FICO scores; but that might be (and probably is) a different FICO version your next creditor checks, and your score might change daily (depending on when current creditors send updates to the credit bureaus); that's why the only fool-proof method is applying. Scores aren't useful for anything else anyway.. But if your version A score is good, chances are version B is good as well, so you should not care too much; know the range, and know what you need to to to make it better.
Anonymous
Anonymous   |     |   Comment #9
I have just opened my 7th card within 24 months. I  get the special rewards for the cards and during the holidays some rewards are better. I will close most of them after the holidays. Some of the cards were bank cards, some were department store cards, and my last one was a grocery store card. Received $25 off groceries with that one and 10% off for that visit.  That card also gives 10¢ off their gas but it is not a top tier gas so I will not use it. Top tier is the same price and I get 3 to 5 miles more a gallon with it. The store also several times a year gives a coupon for another 10¢ off a gallon making it a total of 20¢ off when stacked but I rarely get it. Credit union "Fico" as they call it is 877 out of 950. The other credit union has  825 out of 850. Low score for age "A" from "A+" and credit mix C because I only have credit cards which I pay off each month. It is true that the score is based on the total amount of your credit card. If it is checked just before a payment when you have 2 months of charges on the card it will be lower than if was checked just after you paid it off and just had one months purchases on it. 
Anonymous
Anonymous   |     |   Comment #11
The 5/24 example is Chase bank. They have this policy, they will deny you.. Other banks have different rules. Point is; it's not just the score that matters.

One of the factors is credit usage, what is the balance divided by the credit limit. This is usually calculated with the statement close, so if you charge more in a month, the utilization will be larger, your score will be lower. But that 825 score is pretty **** awesome, so you should not care. They say try not to go over 10% / 30% / 50% utilization, these are utilization targets for excellent / good / average scores.

If you close a card (credit or store), then your credit limit *will* drop. So that *will* bring your score down. Also, credit age is a factor to scores, so if the card you close is old, then that will also bring your credit down. TBH, if you don't have annual fee on a card, don't close it. You don't need to use them.
Anonymous
Anonymous   |     |   Comment #13
If I had credit cards I no longer used, I would certainly close them.  This day and age, there is no need to have open credit acct. numbers floating around in cyber space for hackers to possibly latch on to.  Cuts down on junk mail too.

I only hold two credit cards.  Still the first and only two I ever applied for.  Only got the second card incase the first card number was illegally compromised and the acct was frozen while I was out of town.
Anonymous
Anonymous   |     |   Comment #16
That's a valid concern, and you can have good credit without many cards, it just takes longer to build; just saying that closing cards usually lowers your score.

The score is still just a number though. If you don't want to open new credit (don't want a new card, don't want to refinance your mortgage, etc.), then you should not care about it much.
Anonymous
Anonymous   |     |   Comment #17
Ok, that would be me. 

As a blue collar worker during my working years, I kept my "nose to the grind stone", worked hard, paid off our mortgage, and have been retired now for several years with no debt.   It can still be done, but it requires  fiscal discipline.  And of course a secure job and good health along the way.
Anonymous
Anonymous   |     |   Comment #28
Actually your credit card score goes down if you close your accounts. One of the measures used for the score is % of credit used. If you use a small percentage of your available credit you get a higher score. So the more open accounts you have the lower your percentage. Sounds convoluted but that's how they do it.
#8 - This comment has been removed for violating our comment policy.
Anonymous
Anonymous   |     |   Comment #14
Of note, ChexSystems provides for a credit freeze.
Anon456
Anon456   |     |   Comment #15
Q) -Who’s Watching Your Money CLOSER

THAN YOU?

A) - My wife?
Anonymous
Anonymous   |     |   Comment #18
Here is my basic problem with all of these agencies. First they track all of your information basically without your permission then they sell that information to anyone who will pay them for it. But the worst thing of all is that although they give you the right to dispute inaccurate information the onus is on you to prove them wrong. We should have 100% control over our own financial information and be able to change inaccurate information at will and THEY should have to prove that WE are wrong not the other way around! We should also be able to access our credit information for free 24/7 report and score(actually there is a site where you can do this but as a courtesy to Ken I won't advertise it here). Then and only then will consumers rights be protected.  
Anonymous
Anonymous   |     |   Comment #19
Got it..."Anonymous" has "more" loyalty to Ken...don't we all?  And, since when is posting an advertisement by an anonymous person?  Oh, are you really saying that that is a competitor of...?
Anonymous
Anonymous   |     |   Comment #20
I dont think Kens site is in competition for credit scores, and generally doesn't mind guidance to relevant sites.
Discover lets you check score for free. It gives you the Experian  score.
you still have to give info. and SS#  This is true for all the free Fako scores including
Credit Karma, Open Sesame and Quizzel.
Anonymous
Anonymous   |     |   Comment #21
Ok folks the only place to get your report and score for free with no hoops is mybankrate.com It also gives you a ton of free tools to help you understand and manage your score. You don't have to signup for anything and it isn't a trial either it is completely free.
Ken's site is just much better for tracking interest rates and CD's so I don't like to mention this site by name understand?
Anonymous
Anonymous   |     |   Comment #22
Thanks...now that wasn't hard to do!  We need to have a national  database to rate (in)competent financial institutions, i.e. what's good for the goose is good for the gander!
Bozo
Bozo   |     |   Comment #23
To: Anonymous (comment #22).

Aside from the pain of having to deal with the FDIC or NCUA when your bank or credit union "goes under", and (perhaps) losing a tasty CD rate as a result thereof, whether any particular financial institution is run by geniuses or idiots is of little concern to us, so long as deposits are within insurance limits. Somewhat tongue-in-cheek, I might actually prefer a financial institution managed by an idiot, so long as his or her CDs offer above-market interest rates.

As a minor historical footnote, many local banks and credit unions in the period just before the Great Recession offered very high CD rates. 5.5% for a relatively-short (18 month) CD as the norm, not the exception. Back in 2006, I was actually able to construct an IRA CD ladder spread over five years, with virtually no "delta" between the shortest term (12 months) and the longest (five years). As late as January of 2008, I was able to snag a 10-year at KeyDirect at 5.6%. Those were heady days.
Anonymous
Anonymous   |     |   Comment #26
Same here Bozo the highest rate rules. Back in 08' I was frantically locking in 1-5 year CD's for 5-6% the weekend just before the big drop! I was able to lock up 80% of my liquid cash in 3 CD's but 2 of them failed before the 5 years was up and I had to get bailed out by the FDIC without the lost interest of course. I hope interest rates get back to normal again with Trump at the helm. I'm actually hopeful again.
Anonymous
Anonymous   |     |   Comment #27
Pain, deally with the FDIC or NCUA when your bank or credit union "goes under"?

Are you for real?   No pain what so ever.  I know from personal experience, not from trying to be an armature blogger on  hitching a ride on somebody else's web-page. 

Apparently you don't know how much financial pain you as a depositor would feel without FDIC or NCUA  deposit insurance and the bank or CU went under.
Anonymous
Anonymous   |     |   Comment #29
No pain at all getting money back from FDIC. In most cases the FDIC merges the failed institution with another bank. I think Advanta bank was a payout. It happened on a Friday and had a check the following week. The one thing you will most lose is a high intrest rate as the new institution does not have to honor the rate but you can close the CD. Some banks like Popular Direct gave you a good rate if you kept your Doral bank with them. When Washington Mutual went under Chase took them over and actually honored any rate you had until your CD matured.
Anonymous
Anonymous   |     |   Comment #24
This article missed the stocks, IRAs, insurances, annuities, real estate, gold and other investments that are tracked by the authorities. Every ACH transfer is recorded permanently and every bill payment is tracked as well. Just try to transfer money oversees and wait 5 minutes at the door for a secret service visitor. Try to pay with large some of cash or deposit large some of cash and see what happens next.

The money you deposit at the bank it is not yours unless the bank agrees to give it to you back.
Obama administration created so many rules and regulations about the money that he publicly proclaimed, "..you didn't earned that,..." it belongs to all of us.
Anonymous
Anonymous   |     |   Comment #25
Let's talk about them...

"You" really think the state ins commissioner is looking out for your interests...when was the last time "you" filed a compliant?  The fiduciary duty is owed to shareholders...(the recent banking action on Wells is rare but much too late).  Example, bought an annuity from a too big to fail insurer for a retirement 403b fund years ago for the spouse...terms of the policy were clear as to interest rate on funds going in, on the second year the new interest rate for old funds was much lower than the going in rate...objected, why the difference, where in the annuity contract does it provide for this, etc.?  Are you sitting down?  They stated the transmittal letter for the annuity set forth what would happen then and the out years.  I said "really?"  Then I said, "if a letter/complaint was sent to ins commissioner, would the terms of a letter be deemed part of the policy?"  Their answer was clear...silence was deafening.  I stated the spouse wanted a roll annuity over to an IRA (another financial institution) w/o any surrender/penalty (normal would be 7 years then) AND I wanted to see the proforma 1099 for year end to show non-taxable event.  Worked!  One has to do their own thing. Ins. Comm is usually only effective if insurer goes belly up...same for FDIC.  There "primarily" to give assurance to the public which the insurers then know they should, note "should," be concerned about.  Have to stay on the situation and not let them roam the waterfront and confront them when you are right.  

Everyone have a Great Turkey Day! 
Micheal Griffen
Micheal Griffen   |     |   Comment #30
I would like to know about this "bail-in " concept, i.e. that the next time a bank fails, that it will not be bailed out by the government (i.e., the taxpayer,) but by the other depositors in the bank, including their safe deposit boxes, if they have one. The concept being that if you have a bank account there, you are an "investor" in their loan business ( remember those tiny interest payments?), and as an investor, if the bank goes down, due to bad loans to real estate developers, etc., then you lose the money in your accounts, and even valuables in your safe deposit box if you have one. 
So, is this indeed a fact? Are credit unions any safer?
I have asked  my two banks if this is true, and all they will say is, "you have FDIC coverage."
So is this true or not??? 
Are credit unions any safer?