See Your Credit Rating in the VIP Room

Given that the nation's credit rating bureaus have names that are somewhat nightclubby — "see you later on at Club Experian!" — it almost makes sense that they maintain VIP lists. Almost.

Reps for Experian, TransUnion and Equifax deny keeping lists that single out rich and powerful people for better, faster service. But that seems to be untrue, based on what the New York Times reports:

David Szwak, a consumer lawyer in Shreveport, La., who has handled dozens of credit cases, said that the V.I.P. designation and preferential treatment did exist at Experian, and he provided sworn testimony from former Experian employees that the category existed.

Besides limitless champagne and table service from shirtless guys with six-pack abs, people on the credit bureaus' VIP lists also get priority treatment in resolving disputes and fixing errors on their reports. Given that "anywhere from 3 to 25 percent" of reports contain "serious" errors, this seems like a valuable perk. Supposedly "regular people" can also get priority treatment if they have some sort of time-sensitive issue or a lawyer representing them, but who qualifies as a "regular" person isn't so clear. Judy Johnson of Bossier City, Louisiana, sounds like a perfectly regular person, yet she doesn't seem to be sitting on anybody's luxurious leather couch:

Johnson ... was confused with a less creditworthy Judith Johnson, with a similar address and Social Security number. For nearly seven years, Judy Johnson, a 63-year-old credit manager for a building supply company, said she tried to remove the black marks from her credit report. But when she was denied a credit card, she knew the problem had returned - a third time. "This time, I was livid," she said.

When you're out clubbing, and you don't like the club you're at, you can always leave and hit up some cooler place. But you can never leave the credit rating bureaus. Maybe rating bureaus are more like prisons than nightclubs? It's possible; sometimes our choice of metaphor is off.

Because their customers are America's creditors, and not the regular people, the bureaus probably won't do much to fix their shit until somebody regulates them. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau might be able to help out with this, if our nation's rich and powerful VIP Republicans ever let it do its thing. Until then, if you're denied a job because the credit bureaus somehow mixed up your info with that of a felon who shares your name and birthday, well... let them know, see what happens, and hope for the best. (Have you thought about changing your name to something more distinctive?) If you're a child who's being chased by collection agencies because someone stole your identity to open up some accounts, have your parents write the bureau for you and ask them to change your name (something like Xerxes Experian Archaeopteryx should work).

Hey, it's not like everything the credit ratings bureau involves making mistakes or involves selling your financial data. TransUnion's running a very nice contest rewarding couples who get married. At least they support family values.

[NY Times]