Credit Guards (or AT&T pt. 2)

When my “favorite” service provider AT&T (tongue-clearly-in-cheek) challenged my creditworthiness last month amidst an adventurous request for internet service, I was forced to bow down before the Big Three. No, not Ford, Chrysler, Dodge – I don’t drive any of ’em. And not CBS, NBC, ABC either – I can now stream their programming (since I finally have internet). Rather, today’s big three are Equifax, Experian, TransUnion – those behind-the-curtains guards who man the credit rating tollbooths as sternly as passport checkers from former Eastern Bloc countries.

Credit guard companies are more difficult to deal with than credit card companies.  The moment I entered college, offers for credit came pouring into my mailbox.  I could qualify for ridiculous amounts on little plastic cards, even though I was a penniless freshman with little reportable income.  But they want you hooked on credit at an early age so you’ll pay back a lifetime of fees in interest.  Yet now, with decades of credit history under my belt (all of it positive, I say with muted pride), dealing with the credit guards is infinitely more challenging.  It’s like walking up to Fort Knox and asking for a bar of gold.

If you don’t check (or even know) your credit score, you may not be familiar with the Big Three.  They’re like triplets hired to do the same job: “consumer credit reporting agencies… collecting and aggregating information… on consumers and businesses worldwide”.  Equifax tracks 800 million consumers.  Experian tracks a billion.  In other words, the next time you use your credit card, you can bet the Guards will be watching.

The Guards help themselves to your transaction, blend it with the others you’ve racked up recently, look at how well you manage your total credit and debt, and come up with a score.  If you and your wallet behave, you get a number in the neighborhood of 700; if not, you’re closer to 500 (sounds like a college entrance exam, no?) 1.2% of Americans maintain an absolutely perfect credit score, though darned if I know how they do it.  Maybe they pay for everything in cash.

Consumer credit reporting agencies are b-o-r-i-n-g (I’m surprised you’ve made it this far) so I’m not fired up to write about them today.  Instead, let me tell you a story – humor at my expense, really – where the Guards were peripherally involved… and I was fired up.

When I was battling working with AT&T on my request for internet last month, the customer service rep stole took a full hour of my valuable time to botch set up the account, even though I already had another account with AT&T for wireless service.  He asked a million questions (including the oft-scripted “how’s the weather where you are today?”).  A marathon later – because I could’ve run one by this point – he said it was time to check my credit.  Here’s where I should’ve thought to hang up because AT&T owns decades of credit history on me (thanks to the Guards).  If AT&T couldn’t tap into my score already then maybe I shouldn’t be doing business with them.  But I really wanted internet so I surrendered cooperated like a good little lamb, supplying my name, rank, and social security number.  And this is where everything went horribly wrong.

“I’m sorry sir, but your credit is blocked.”

Blocked?  What the *$%^#! HECK does that mean?  When I asked him to please explain, my smooth operator countered by saying, “Let me run the check again.  Repeat <your> social security number”… which I did, only to hear the word “blocked” again.  When the third time wasn’t the charm he made a rather stupid bold announcement:

“I’m sorry sir, but you must have an invalid social security number.”

Invalid social?  So you’re saying the nine-digit number I memorized when I was like, oh, an infant; the one I’ve spoken or written millions of times in my life, the one I’ve been trying to protect from identity thieves since I was born, is “invalid”?  What kind of incompetent fool professional was I dealing with here?

More like “think twice”

Again I should’ve slammed the phone down hung up, but silly me, I surrendered more minutes of time to understand my “two options for service when I have blocked credit”.  One, I could set up the account in my wife’s name. Involve an innocent bystander in this circus request and risk divorce?  No way.  Two, I could pay AT&T a $250 retainer fee to offset my newfound credit liability. Okay, NOW I’m insulted.  When I declined both options, my customer service imposter temporary friend apologized, bid me good day, and hung up without another word.  Seriously, he hung up on me (without so much as a sales pitch for DirecTV). I suppose you could call it a fitting conclusion to a totally worthless call.

My story does have a happy ending.  Several days later I mustered the courage to call (A)nguish, (T)orment, & (T)orture again.  Maybe the more you call them the better the service because the next rep let me know my credit was frozen (not “blocked”).  Ah, now we’re getting somewhere!  Frozen credit, for those of you in the not-know, is initiated by the consumer (me).  A credit freeze is put in place to counter identity theft.  I totally forgot I’d done that, like, last century, but thanks to a smidge of online access (the Guards are more hospitable these days) I was able to drop the freeze with just a few keystrokes. Bingo. Credit check passed. Internet service permitted.

The inspiration for this post was a recent headline about Equifax.  The Guard issued millions of incorrect credit scores last spring, which meant consumers were either denied loans when they shouldn’t have been or charged higher-than-deserved interest rates.  One ambitious soul is leading a class action lawsuit to reclaim the interest she never should’ve have paid.  As for me, I choose not to deal with the Guards any more than I have to.  After all, I get enough credit check grief from AT&T.

Some content sourced from Wikipedia, “the free encyclopedia”.

17 thoughts on “Credit Guards (or AT&T pt. 2)

  1. I find if you don’t seem to be getting anywhere with a customer service rep, if you call back and get another one it usually gets resolved, and you usually get one whose English is better. It bothers me when big companies outsource their customer service departments to other countries because the wages are cheaper. When I have to call my internet provider I get someone in Romania…..and yes, we usually do end up chatting about the weather, or the Covid stats etc.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. This was the case with AT&T, Joni. I lost track of how many reps I talked to through this process, but most were scripted and several had to transfer me because my request was outside of their area of expertise. A request for internet service? You’d think that’d be as simple as they come.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I feel your pain. I can’t remember what it was I was doing, but I had a similar situation. Frustrating as heck, especially when we spend so much time giving them information. GLAD it was resolved and you can still WRITE your Post to tell us about it!! LOL

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This is one of those experiences that sucks. No other polite way to describe it. I adore your (A)nguish, (T)orment, & (T)orture name for the source of your frustration. I know moving house can be difficult, but you’ve persevered brilliantly.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Dave, you’re about ready to return to Colorado. I know you need cable so can’t do this, but you’d be better off to go through Verizon and get a little satellite device you plug into your laptop for your internet signal. My boss has used this for years, even at home, rather than use spotty internet at the house. Verizon is even touting having cable now. I’ve still got AT&T for my landline as long as I work as I work from home.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. This was a case of bad service followed by good product, Linda. Now that we have our internet everything is great (including TV – we stream everything). But getting to this point was more of an adventure than I ever anticipated. Hoping I never have to contact AT&T agan!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I chuckled throughout the reading of your experience with (A)nguish, (T)orment, & (T)orture – although for you, I’m sure it wasn’t funny! I hope all is well now with you, your credit, and your internet!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I chuckled throughout the reading of your experience with (A)nguish, (T)orment, & (T)orture – although for you, I’m sure it wasn’t funny! I hope all is well now with you, your credit, and your internet.

    Like

  7. I feel for you. My choice is between ATT and Comcast. After the expense/grief ratio got out of whack with Comcast a couple of years back, I went back to ATT.

    The amazing thing about credit scores is that the person who pays cash for everything often has a low score. Those scoring systems encourage you to get access to large sums of credit. But woe unto the guy who dares to use it, because that can decrease the scores. It is like a game.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re absolutely right, J.P. If I’d thought about it for a millisecond I would’ve remembered cash does not equal a great credit score. It’s almost hypocritical in that it seems you need to have access to an irresponsibly high amount of credit to achieve a high score, and the only reason you need that high score is to… have access to more credit.

      Liked by 1 person

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