Equifax just sold off your privacy

The credit reporting agency makes individual information available to debt collectors, and it's all perfectly legal.

By Jason Notte Jan 31, 2013 4:59PM
Woman on the Telephone -- Radius Images, Radius Images, Getty ImagesIf anyone out there on the Internet remembers the quaint notion of privacy, please explain it to Equifax (EFX).

Like many of the jaded members of online society, the credit reporting agency seems to have resigned itself to the idea that no electronic information is 100% private. That's not such a great conclusion to reach when you're sitting on a database containing the salaries, employment records, lending histories and spending habits of nearly a third of American adults.

That information all may have been considered private in simpler times, but NBC News found that Equifax sold chunks of it to debt collectors and other financial service companies.

According to NBC's report, Equifax takes such information from U.S. businesses and ships it off to a subsidiary called The Work Number. That group then verifies employment and income data for lenders and other job screeners. Everything would be nice and private if the trail ended there, but Equifax then sells some of that compiled data to debt collectors, who then get access to individual information that employers could ordinarily deny.

Demitra Wilson, a spokesperson for Equifax, told The Huffington Post that debt collectors are free to request employment data from The Work Number at any time. That's a lot of information, but it's all legal thanks to the Fair Credit Reporting Act, which originally passed in 1970 but has been amended several times since to conform with the Patriot Act, the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act and other legislation.

Equifax and its fellow credit agencies Experian and TransUnion have drawn increased scrutiny within the last year after the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau began looking over their shoulders and questioning the accuracy of their reports. Back in September, Reuters reported that the consumer watchdog agency was showing about 20% of Americans a different credit score than they were showing potential lenders.

This leaves consumers with two options: Don't amass debt or take it up with Congress, which can then unleash the CFPB. While Americans have had a notoriously tough time with the former, their sub-16% job-approval rating for Congress might inspire some reluctant austerity.

More on moneyNOW

Jan 31, 2013 5:58PM
Sorry folks, this should be illegal and punishable by law.
Jan 31, 2013 6:14PM
Look at this quote "....and it's all perfectly legal...." Now, WHO makes it legal?? CONGRESS!  Nothing about you is private with the government and not much is private with anyone else.  I am 65 years old and I detest Equifax and the other credit score agencies.  I had to call a senator in California to get one of those thug credit agencies to stop emailing me!  They would not stop!  I blame CONGRESS for that and for all the insurance offers too.  Also, for the "ask your doctor ads" that addict and kill people.  I thing CONGRESS should be paid Minimum wages or the average individual income for their area the first year of their reign. After that, an opinion poll should be taken for each and subsequent years' salaries would be the percentage mulitiplied by their first year's salary.
Jan 31, 2013 6:21PM
All credit reporting agencies should be abolished.
Jan 31, 2013 6:28PM
Well Congress said it's illegal to have an unlocked cell phone but they allow your privacy to be violated? Why? Because all we are is a commodity to the government. They don't serve our best interest, just their own. Anything to keep the United States of America, Inc. in business.
Jan 31, 2013 6:27PM

I think this needs to be made illegal right now for all credit bureaus to do and I DO MEAN NOW! I

It should have never been legal at all. I can't believe Congress would allow this to continue, but if they do I think we should vote all them out.

Now they even tell the credit agencies have 20% of credit scores wrong, so I'd say that a big percentage wrong in a system that controls how we get employment, credit, and insurance prices. Does anybody else think this is as wrong as I do?


Jan 31, 2013 6:19PM
I do not care what my credit score is.  If it is 100 or 1000, it makes no difference to me.  If a banker has to ask me about a credit score, I don't want to do business with him or her.  If they look at my score, that is okay.  I don't care.  But, if they mention it to me, I don't want to talk to them.  I have a house and vehicles.  I have no desiire to finance another car or truck. I would rather buy a used one in good shape.  Some good vehicles can be bought for not a lot of money. Some are auctioned off.  I don't want to pay 5 to 7 years on something to haul my ash to town and back.  The main reason is in my own way, I want to say "screw you" to credit scores.  Now, to congress....They should be paid minimum wage and then be put on a merit basis for the next year's salary.
Jan 31, 2013 6:33PM
To whom do YOU think Congress will listen?  The American public, or some entity that stuffs money into their pockets?   
Jan 31, 2013 6:11PM

If you work for a medium/large size employer, chances are good that your employment data, including dates of service and salary, either has been or will soon be, provided to Equifax's The Work Number subsidiary.  The reason:  The Human Resources Dept. at these companies do not want to deal with employment verification calls, be it from new potential employers or the bank or finance company you are trying to get a car loan from.  So they have found that simply turning your data over to Equifax is an easy way out of providing the info themselves. 


Personally I feel it is an invasion of privacy, esp. the salary data.  Nearly anyone, if they really want to find out how much you make, can do so if the info is in this database. 

This is scary is nothing private anymore ? do we not have a say about our own life?
Jan 31, 2013 6:43PM
Ah!!!!! The smell of freedom this country has....

What a bunch of crock!

Jan 31, 2013 6:57PM

I just informed Wells Fargo Bank that they are losing my business after 28 years with them.   A few years ago I finally went to online banking and actually really liked it for convenience and easy access to my account balance.  In December they informed me that if I didn't agree to allowing them to sharing my information with their affiliates that would no longer be able to bank online.  After calling and arguing to no avail i went to USAA who I hold mutual funds with.  They also have online banking, it's free, I can use any ATM without penalty (they refund up to 10.00 per month) and the thing I like best is I can scan my paycheck at my desk to deposit.  The banking industry has it backwards.  They make you sign a statement buried in numerous advertising papers that come in a statement, to "opt out" of their sharing "YOUR"  information, rather than ask you if they can share it.  They did not even give me that option for my online banking.   My co-worker got the same message from them but relented and agreed.  Bye Bye Wells!



Jan 31, 2013 6:27PM

Everyone worries about Big Brother and Big Government while private enterprise makes money giving away all our private information for profit.  We do not have the ability to stop these people and obviously these people make it easier for identity theft.


What a silly circle that has been created.  The very people who create our credit ratings help the very people who would destroy our credit ratings to destroy our credit ratings.

Jan 31, 2013 7:27PM
I see a lot of people asking how congress can invade our privacy and "sell" privileged information to people. The fact is "WE LET THEM DO THIS." its all within THE PATRIOT ACT. we have given away all of our rights to privacy, due process, and our protection against illegal searches.
Jan 31, 2013 7:05PM
All government employees are safe.....We try to "vote" them out but can't !! The voting process in this country is as corrupt as it gets !! Never mind about another country, this one is just as underhanded as the next! REAL law abiding, Tax paying citizens are have no chance in HE** of changing the way the, "SYSTEM" is... BEING worked, by those so called  "elected" members ?! "Punishable by law.....Who's law" ? Get the drift!
Jan 31, 2013 6:40PM
Next, your physician will be selling photos of your hemorroids to sex fetish hounds. Only HARSH public indignation will STOP this crass groping of your STUFF!!!!
Jan 31, 2013 6:47PM
How does it feel to know you are being PIMPED to the wolves by an agency that exists by voter consent?  Only the voter can kickbutt about this....  GO DO IT!!!
Jan 31, 2013 6:30PM
Wow.  I am so very surprised by all of this....said no one at all.
Jan 31, 2013 7:20PM
.  .  .  and just look how private and safe universal firearms registration would be! .  .  .  Not.
Jan 31, 2013 6:47PM
Why blame congress. We are the one who have elected and selected them to rule over us.
Jan 31, 2013 7:34PM
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