What Happens when the Numbers lie? Do you know what lies within your credit score?

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A number is a very concrete thing. It always represents a quantity, yet can also signify quality (a score of 9.7 out of 10), duration (since 1915), or time (8:30 a.m.). Numbers can also have mysterious, magical characteristics. Superstition whispers that 1 is a lonely number, 13 bodes ill-fortune, and a stitch in time saves 9. Every child knows that Snow White had seven dwarfs and the genie in the bottle grants exactly three wishes.

When it comes to buying an automobile, financing a home or obtaining credit, it's all about the numbers. The numbers contained in a consumer's credit report are directly related to the price of a car or home the consumer can afford. These all powerful numbers can affect both the affordability of insurance premiums and the interest rates and ultimately, may be a deciding factor in whether or not the consumer obtains employment or can purchase a home or automobile.

What happens when the numbers lie?

Here's just one of the many stories that illustrate a continuing pattern of abuse often heaped on innocent consumers :

Credit report errors still plague woman

Even though she won a court case, she isn't sure what's on record
By KEVIN TURNER, My Nassau Sun

Although a jury in November awarded Angela Williams $2.9 million in damages from Equifax, one of the nation's three largest credit reporting bureaus, errors in her credit report still haunt her.

"I'm hesitant to apply for credit because I don't know what's on there," Williams said Jan. 11. "I'm a good person. I pay my bills. I should have good credit, but because of what's gone on with Equifax, I'm unable to take advantage of it."

Williams said the company now claims that her credit report is repaired, but a lot of damage has been done over the last 13 years due to errors that wouldn't go away.

Equifax, headquartered in Atlanta, maintains records on virtually all Americans who have credit. In a 2003 suit, Williams claimed the company scrambled her credit record with those of another person who lived in Florida and who had a similar name and Social Security number.

The trouble started in 1995, when she noticed several credit accounts that weren't hers on her credit report. She disputed them and had them removed, but they later reappeared. MORE
Ms. Williams many year battle to retain her accurate credit is all too eerily similar to mine and many others who have had to file suit before finding any relief. The best thing you can do to prevent living through a similar fate is to check your credit reports, disputer any inaccuracies and place fraud alerts on file to avoid identity theft.

If you are thinking of calling one of the credit bureau's to find out what is in your credit report or discuss your credit score--forget it. You first need to have ordered and received your report -prior to being allowed access to speak with a human being. All credit reporting agencies utilize automation, requiring the input of the actual report number assigned to, and contained in, the credit report in question.

Thanks to government mandates, we are all entitled to a free annual credit report. However, you need to get that free credit report from the right place -and the right place isn't what you hear on the television commercials. Nor do you hear any public service announcements -that clearly provide the accurate website.

The officially designated website is annualcreditreport.com and the automated toll free number is
877-322-8228. I recommend the latter and further recommend you order by calling from your home phone. Many privacy experts have noted their concerns regarding the official website's privacy policy. It appears the site's privacy policy isn't exactly consumer friendly and indicates they may sell your information to third parties. Additionally, when typing the URL in your browser check and double check your spelling accuracy. If you inadvertently misspell the address -it will most often divert you to an imposter site. You may find yourself on a site offering credit reports that are only free if you purchase additional products such as credit monitoring services or your credit score.

The truth is -numbers do lie! If you don't know what is contained in your credit report, then you can't detect whether or not your credit score is based on accurate data or not. If erroneous or fraudulent information is mixed in the recipe utilized to establish your credit score -you may find yourself paying a high price for someone else's mistakes.

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