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

49Comments
Feb 1, 2013 12:40PM
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He who has the gold makes the rules.
Feb 1, 2013 11:25AM
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Its about time congress and consumer protection gets up to speed with with the times WAKE UP and smell the coffee
Feb 1, 2013 10:47AM
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Gee, I'm not sure from this article what debt collectors would gain from my credit report but Microsoft has tried to install 16 different spyware programs as I read this article and that information will be available to anyone who cares to pay for it.  Why worry about a legitimate source of information when the press is sneaking around behind your back and is trying to get access to all the personal information on my computer.
Feb 1, 2013 9:59AM
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This reminds me. Get out of FB.
This new site isn't even online yet and has over 50'000 members.

Conservatives Launch New Social Network to Escape Facebook ‘Censorship’ — Will You Join?

Fed up with the threat of “censorship” on Facebook, a group of a conservatives are launching their own social network called “” The site, which doesn’t even officially go online until Saturday, has already attracted nearly 50,000 members.


TheBlaze.com

Feb 1, 2013 9:34AM
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Oh and that probable cause shall be followed by in a affidavit of probable cause  stated in it what exactly they are looking for and why and sould be signed by a judge.
Feb 1, 2013 8:51AM
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If you are not asking for credit with any company than no one should have the right to pull a credit report without your consent and a your signature with time and date stamp also,I belive that only lawenforcement with proabable cause should be able to look into anyones credit history, other data basis that these debt collectors are doing illegally they should be thrown behind bars Its all bull crap each and every day these nit wits in congress and senate do nothing to protect our freedoms of privacy.we must act on election day...................

Feb 1, 2013 1:46AM
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The credit score of the federal government is suspect. I think they cook the books and make money from nothing.
Jan 31, 2013 9:48PM
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Your information being supplied to debt collectors is a use full tool in keeping the economy going. I know everyone, including me, thinks that banks have been predatory in their lending practices. That is why we have the Federal Trade Commission, the Consumer Credit Protection Act, Truth in Lending, and Fair Debt Collections Act. The addition of the C.F.P.B. is just additional governmental spending when there are already regulatory bodies to protect citizens. If we want the economy to keep going we need the banks to be able to lend money to people for small businesses, car and housing loans. The banks can't lend if everyone is defaulting on their debts. I realize that most people in debt have had a major life altering experience. Most of the people being called by debt collectors have either gone through a loss of income, major medical incident, divorce, or other life changing event, however if you didn't read and agree with the terms of your credit card or loan you shouldn't have signed the agreement and spent the money. Those of you  that complain you didn't get a full disclosure when you signed up should have declined or demanded it before you signed your personal guarantee to the contract, and if you still want to complain that there is no disclosure read the back of every statement you get from the credit cards. Your contract is on the back of them. I am a debt collector. It is an honest living and a job that is vital to the economy when it comes to recovering the losses for the banking industry. The job can be done by treating people with dignity and trying to understand fully what happened to a person that they got behind. The industry is highly monitored. I and the company I work for can be sued for violations of the F.T.C., F.D.C.P.A. and the C.C.P.A. I do my job with integrity and I need the tools of a person's credit report to know when someone is lying to me. Do you think it is fair for a person to not pay their credit card and go buy a new Sports car worth over 50,000.00 instead of paying a debt back? Should people be allowed to go on expensive family vacations when they could have paid off their debt instead? The information provided to me in a Credit Report lets me decide how I can best help a card member repay a debt and get them out of a financial crisis. You should really be concerned with Debt Settlement Agencies and the laws  that govern them. Research the kinds of terms they operate under and you will see real predatory practices that will blow your mind. Promises of settling your debt out for twenty cents on the dollar when it cant be done and it's in the agreement along with the fact that several banking institutions wont deal with Debt Settlement Agencies. The bottom line is we are responsible for the choices we make, our spending habits, and the fact that we live beyond our means as average Americans. As far as Identity theft is concerned, most of it is caused by relatives, and dishonest people in the retail industry. Anyone that really wants to target a person for their data and has advanced computer skills will get your data. So suck it up. Quit complaining and live within your means. If a life  altering experience has put you in debt and it is not your fault, which is usually the case, work with those that are willing to treat you fairly. Do your do diligence on researching alternatives before filing a bankruptcy or just not paying your bills. There are ways to get out of debt. Granted it will be a blow to your current life style and you will have to make sacrifices but life is not fair. Be glad you don't live in a third world country. Yes our government needs monitoring and a lot of change, but if you think we have it bad as far as Big Brother is concerned than you have not watched the international news lately.  I would like to hear your responses to my comments as the original topic was the providing of credit information to debt collectors.

Jan 31, 2013 9:40PM
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seems that there's no more privacy even they can open your door when you are taken a can.
Jan 31, 2013 9:38PM
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well in this article say that equifax sold it to the debt collector, now they won't stop calling days and night.
Jan 31, 2013 9:28PM
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Do you get the feeling that much of corporate America is way out of control?
Jan 31, 2013 8:56PM
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OH but we AN do something about all this credit reporting B.S.  Get  involved in the political process. Sittin around bitchin about it  will accomplish nothing . Form a political action committee . Bug  your representative, fill up their inbox. Just  posting things here  and other places like it does nothing to change things . Why is this country in the hands of the Corps.?  Because too many people are uninformed , do not pay attention to  the reprts on how  their lawmaker voted  and  as  to what . Too many  vote by name familiarartity , not their record . Too many people vote a straight  party line as opposed to the  person who will do the best  job.  I agree withthe idea of low pay fro the first year and a revue of performance thereafter. Not to mention term limits. Too  many  career  polititions .
Jan 31, 2013 8:54PM
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Bad credit scores? Soon the rules will slant to favor the poor. Otherwise the rich will join the majority.
Jan 31, 2013 8:53PM
Jan 31, 2013 8:52PM
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It amazes me that with the growing number of reports of potentially unstable people going on shooting sprees and the like, that someone, anyone, (in this case the senior staff of Equifax) would do something as stupid as this.  You people have more than likely made targets of yourselves to some poor person who had their private info sold and opened to the public.  And if that person, or persons, felt it would justify their actions, they might come looking for you guys and or your families.  This world is too unstable in certain aspects to go around pissing everyone off over one thing or another.  I read it and see it on the TV and internet more and more, how something done by a big company or bank or the like set someone off on a killing spree or rampage of some sorts, and its usually some innocent person or persons that get caught up in that rampage.  Obviously, integrity is no longer considered socially acceptable as its nearly impossible to find it anymore, but stuff like this is akin to selling your soul and sooner or later, a collector is liable to show up.
Jan 31, 2013 8:37PM
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I find the comments on this board hilarious. The only time they can legally sell any of this information is if you apply for credit or default on a debt. You give up the right to that information when you incur debt or sign up for more credit. The ignorance of the general population just kills me. Let me ask you a question. If you didn't know me, would you lend me thousands of dollars if I wouldn't provide my income or asset information? Would you be willing to pay a surcharge so I could call and verify the information you gave me? I didn't think so. If you don't like it, don't borrow money and don't incur debts. I have some credit, and I understand that to get that credit, I have to provide information. I also understand that the person lending me money is going to want to verify that information. But alas, we have become so dependent on the government, that when something we don't like happens, even if there is a logical and just reason for it, we scream for the government to protect us.
Jan 31, 2013 8:34PM
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Really, How much do you think Equifax, Experian and Transunion get funded by banks and other financial institutions?  Credit scores are set up to make you pay more because the (sheep) people don't question the intent of these companies.

Jan 31, 2013 8:31PM
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So is there a list of all government lawmakers who have Equifax/ credit scores info I can see before they run for office?

Perhaps back round checks AND credit scores for all the law makers should be made public?

 

If they want to make those laws then they should hold them high and let us all see just what kind of bandit's are helping still to bail out big banks and big business.

God help us all is all I can say.

Jan 31, 2013 8:16PM
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I asked for my credit report with one of the three credit agencies and was given the Social Security number of someone else with my name with the annotation, "Other social security numbers used."  I guess if I wanted to disappear from the earth, it wouldn't be too hard since I know the social security number of someone else with the same name although he lives in the South state and I live in the North state.
Jan 31, 2013 8:08PM
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All these companies and I mean all of them have some lobbyist pushing for them.  These lobbyists are relatives and friends of the lifers we put in the senate and congress.  They need one term and one term only.  This will stop the family affair that is raping America of privacy and tax dollars.  Tax dollars that some how find the back pocketts of these theives.
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