Dec. 1st, 2009

eirias: (brain liposuction)
I spent six hours today running around trying to figure out why I couldn't get my free credit report online. I'll spare you the suspense and disclose up front that it was that nobody ever found me at my last address, so listing that as my "previous address" made me look like an impostor.

But the path to get that answer was really twisted and involved a few nice librarians and a lot of rude everybody else. Equifax makes their customer support number really hard to find. Don't believe me? Try to find it yourself. Every number on their website goes to an automated system, which is no help when the system doesn't believe you're you. A librarian was able to hook me up, but as soon as I got off the phone with that number, I wondered -- where did she get that number? "Google," she said. So how do I know for sure that it's really Equifax?

This is what I realized today: businesses who are difficult to contact comprise an utterly amazing opportunity for phishing. If you are energized enough to want to call a business, and to need to speak to a live human, it's probably because you are upset and anxious. In that state today, worried about my credit report, I was uncritical: when I found a phone number that was linked to the company, and I called and someone answered "Equifax, how can I help you," I didn't think to question their identity until I'd hung up the phone. That's a big problem. That's a fantastic niche for some enterprising person out there to harvest a whole lotta data.

In the end, verifying that I had not been phished took almost as much time as solving the credit report problem had. Once I got bona fide numbers for Equifax, I called, but the people had no idea how to help me. It had not occurred to them that people would not be able to find their main customer service number; they were certain that Equifax had no other phone numbers (!). I had to sit on hold for half an hour and wait for a manager to agree to check out the number I had dialed previously, and this didn't happen until he'd already yelled at me twice.

This is what else I realized today: the credit bureaus have absolutely no incentive to be nice to me. I can't tell them to shove it; they are my only ticket to some things I'd like to be able to do. I'm not a customer, I'm a datapoint. And, well, to tell the truth... that makes me feel kinda Fight Club.

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eirias

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