Weston: Discover and Correct What Big Data Says About You

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I thought I knew all about the information consumer reporting agencies collected about me. Then I discovered The Work Number – a database that reports every paycheck I received from my company, with net and gross amounts, dating back to my hire date six years ago.

Another consumer reporting agency shows the results of a 2016 echocardiogram. (That was normal.) Yet another tracks insurance claims on my home and car. If I had made too many returns at retail stores or bounced a check at a casino, this could also show up in a database.

“Any data point that someone can track, there will be a bureau or someone collecting information and selling that information,” says Matthew Loker, a consumer protection attorney in Arroyo Grande, Calif.

Unfortunately, not all information provided is accurate and errors can have serious consequences. Loker says one of her clients lost a lucrative job offer because a job-selection firm mistook her for a drug dealer. At the time the error was corrected, the position was filled. Others have been denied insurance, apartments, bank accounts and government benefits due to database errors.

But finding and correcting errors is no small feat.

DOZENS OF COMPANIES FOLLOWED US

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau maintains a list of consumer reporting agencies which currently runs to 38 pages. In addition to the three major credit bureaus – Equifax, Experian and TransUnion – the list includes 22 employment screeners, 10 tenant screeners, six check and bank screeners, four credit reporting agencies insurance and two medical information companies, among others.

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