Ghost consumers

I was rejected by Capital One, the credit card that wants to know “what’s in your wallet?” An agency the company uses to assess cardholders’ risks reported I was deceased. 

Apparently, dead people do not pay their bills on time.

Capital One’s letter sympathized with my situation: If you feel we missed something or misread your information, then please write to us. We know this isn’t the answer you were hoping for, but we hope there is an opportunity to provide you new products and services in the future.

What a relief! This was not a communication from some impersonal, soulless credit card corporation. Apparently Capital One believes in reincarnation.

I tried calling, but like trying to talk to God, a series of options were offered, followed by more options, and none of them resulted in any genuine, immediate assistance.   

What irked me the most as I considered my status from this new, altered state of mind should have activated a cosmic medical monitor with blips and bleeps and announced to the credit card corporation how silly it would be to pull the plug on my application.

Capital One, after all, had sent me the pre-approved invitation to join, and I’d completed my paperwork, promptly returning it to some employee’s desk with my very own handwriting and signature granting permission to seek a credit report on my finances. 

Then, when the three credit reports on my financial state of health arrived at Capital One’s offices, two out of the three did not suggest I was kaput. The odds were, therefore, in my favor that I faired far better than rumors suggested.

But the capital crime, the one that hurt the most, was its attempt to pass along the disappointing news by means of a form letter, refusing to follow appropriate postmortem protocol. It should have convened a seance. I’m still haunted by the faux pas.  

In the summer of 2013 CBS” 60 Minutes” aired a program on credit report errors, divulging that as many as 40 million American consumers are victimized by inaccuracies – 20 million of those with “significant mistakes” that impact their ability to sign for loans, purchase homes or even pay for purchases with a credit card. 

Here’s the infuriating part: there is little a consumer can do to correct the inaccuracies, despite a federal law that requires investigation for all consumer complaints. The $4 billion industry, dominated by three companies, that collects and sells our financial information to banks and creditors lacks the responsiveness, or even the willingness to see to the error of its ways.

TransUnion is one of that trinity, the data reaper that dealt me this death blow. I tried to contact the corporation, entered all the pertinent information on my phone pad. The options, once again, did not include access to warm-blooded talking and thinking human beings. Indeed, I mused, this must be what it’s like, the ethereal frustration of attempting to communicate with the living world once a person ends up on the other side. 

When I entered my Social Security number, as requested, followed by the pound key, the recording sputtered and was unable to access a copy of my inaccurate credit report. Instead, it asked me to write a letter. I think I scared it.

It took Sandra Cortez, a California accountant, five years to resolve her dispute over a  botched credit report, which mixed her name up with a known international drug trafficker. 

It took Judy Thomas, a medical center manager in Cleveland, six years to prove that her name was not Judith Kendall, a woman she didn’t even know, whose debts kept appearing on her credit reports. 

I now exist in this state of limbo, having sent a letter to both Capital One and the TransUnion corporations. I don’t know what transgression could have prompted my banishment from America’s credit-approved Eden, but I have been kicked out, turned invisible, and the fruit of my labor over a lifetime of credit-building purchases and transactions has shriveled and fallen from the money tree. 

My only recourse may be to continue acting as if I’m alive, boldly enter the world of commerce and financing and continue to shop with the only credit card I possess, the one I acquired before I died. If I swipe it enough times, swiftly, perhaps no one will suspect my signature is being ghost written. 

Or another possibility exists, especially in conjunction with that eternal April 15 tax deadline. I’ll ignore the deadline this year and every year, toss every W-whatever form delivered to my mailbox into the trash, and the IRS will have to believe my mortal coil has been shuffled. It may leave me alone. If not, if an auditor shows up at my door, what an ideal time to provide a Federal employee with TransUnion’s toll-free phone number.

– David Feela


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