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Thursday, November 30, 2006

"Give Me Back My Credit" by Denise Richardson

Consumer Book Reads Like a Raymond Chandler Mystery

Anyone who has read Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep knows that the book’s protagonist, Philip Marlowe, is an honest detective in a corrupt world. He’s meticulous about detail, and always catches the culprit in the end. I have never reviewed a book on this blog, but when I read Give Me Back My Credit by Denise Richardson, it almost felt like I was back in Chandler’s Los Angeles. Denise’s narrative of her fight against mortgage companies and credit bureaus is both admirable and gut-wrenching, and it reads like a good mystery.

Innocent Consumer in a Corrupt Credit World

Like Marlowe, Denise wakes up in familiar surroundings one day to embark on a contradiction that will lead her through years of mental anguish against an establishment she thought was her friend. It will take fifteen years, but, akin to the Private Detective’s style, Denise will prevail in the end. And, folks, that’s what it takes in today’s fight to protect your sensitive data, particularly with the credit industry.

Once Upon a Time…Our Credit Was Sacred

This is the story of a bank, a collection company, and three credit bureaus. There are minor characters, but this group of five represents the battle that ensues over mortgage payments that aren’t applied correctly, promised follow-up that mysteriously vanishes, resulting in a prevailing arrogance and hostility against a customer who was right from the beginning. The culprit, all along, was the fact that the mortgage company used a coupon book, and provided no monthly statement of account.

Let the Nightmare Begin

In the book, Denise explains in great detail how she carefully documents payments for the bank that somehow aren’t already obvious. In this and future stages of the dispute, she will hear the phrase, “I’m sending it to research,” which many of you reading this will probably recognize. With repeated promises of fixing the problem, it takes forever to happen, and even when it does, there is a reversal later to the original dilemma. A collection agency enters the picture, even after Denise has her mortgage paid off, to collect a debt that doesn’t exist. Once it is reported to the three credit bureaus, she must then fight them for years to correct her credit report.

Why You Need to Read Give Me Back My Credit
Aside from a great mystery and excellent insight into the incompetence of those holding our private information in the mortgage and credit reporting industry, there are some great tips on how you can avoid the disasters that befall Denise Richardson. Here’s how to buy the book: or Buy Books on the You won’t be able to put it down.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Iraq War Not Only 2006 Election Message

Privacy Issue Was a Factor looked at the election, and found that between the Iraq war and the trillion-dollar deficit, voters were also concerned over their privacy. The article mentions identity theft as a potentially important issue in the 110th Congress, compared to the abysmal attention given this controversial problem by the bungling bunch in the 109th GOP controlled session. They even suggest that Senator Mike DeWine (R-OH) might have lost votes to Democrat Sherrod Brown because DeWine approved of the NSA spying.

“Worst Data Bill Ever” Congressman Retains Seat

Rep. Steve LaTourette held on to his seat, even though he had introduced identity theft legislation that favored business heavily over the consumer. He was also instrumental in blocking state laws that allow the individual to freeze their credit data in fraud situations. Go figure. The 109th did hastily put through a bill making pretexting—posing as someone you aren’t to get another’s personal data—a criminal offense. It took a major upheaval at Hewlett Packard, eventually forcing Chairwoman Patricia Dunn out of her job.

Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Holds More Hearings

It would seem to me that we’ve heard enough with over 350 data breaches—since ChoicePoint’s debut in early 2005—totaling more than 94 million consumer private records lost, according to the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse. Stop the hearings and start the legislation that will give consumers control over their names and personal data, and also pay them whenever it is sold.

The FTC story appeared in DM News, a junk mail industry publication that also reported participation at the hearing by Jeff Fox of Consumer Reports. Fox says a CR survey found that 72 percent of the public are concerned over the security of their private information. He also exclaims that CR is becoming more aggressive with their consumer coverage, a statement that makes me wonder why they haven’t taken the lead advocating individual control. A few years ago they actually declared that they felt consumers owned their financial data.

The Focus is on a Democratic Congress

Regardless of your political leanings, now is the time to let Congress know that your privacy is, in fact, a very important issue to you. If we’re ever going to get this grass-roots movement going, it will be in the next two years. Big Brother Bush may veto any privacy legislation, but then we’ll just have to replace the GOP in the White House in 2008. Contact your congressional leaders: House of Representatives; Senate.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Public Apathy Extends to 2006 Midterm Elections

Voter Turnout 40 Percent

OK, it was pitifully higher than the last midterm election in 2002 (39.7 percent), but that still means 60 percent of the eligible voting population did not vote. Millions of excuses, I am sure, but most of them don’t hold water when it comes to helping decide your country’s future. Emergencies excepted, every last American should have made their position known by voting for the politician that stands for what they believe. If you cannot find a perfect fit, pick the closest candidate to your beliefs. Or, simply vote against what you don’t want. summed it up in their story today, quoting a startling fact that the highest midterm turnout we’ve had in recent years was 42.1 percent in 1982. And the 60 percent non-voters in 2006 will probably be the loudest to complain in the future when something does not go their way. If you’re not happy, it’s your own fault. I will be satisfied if the GOP loses control in the Senate, and at least we have some new focus on the average citizen and away from the business interests.

124 Million Did Not Vote

According to the United States Election Project, there were 207 million people eligible to vote in the 2006 election. Since 40 percent (82.8 million) cast their votes, that leaves 124 million who did not. I wonder in that number just how many have had their privacy compromised. There are, of course, other matters of concern, but this blog is all about protecting your name and personal data. Therefore, that is my worry, since those millions have seen fit to cast themselves as “apathetics,” my term for a person who is detached, indifferent, unconcerned, disinterested about their well-being.

Out of the Mouths of Musicians

What ever you think of Kurt Cobain, or his music, his comment on apathy is symbolic of several stages in history, and speaks directly to the do-nothing crowd like those who didn’t vote in 2006. He said: “My generation’s apathy. I’m disgusted with it. I’m disgusted with my own apathy too, for being spineless and not always standing up against racism, sexism and all those other-isms the counterculture has been whining about for years.” Although he is talking of young people rejecting or opposing dominant values, the application is ageless. See this and more quotes re. apathy on

Where Do We Go From Here?

I don’t know where you are going but my direction is to fight to the end, and persuade whatever Congress we have that consumers must be given control over their names and private information. That they should be paid any time it is used in any way. And Congressional leaders, especially the new Democrat controlled House, must pass federal legislation giving individuals this right. Contact your representatives: SenateHouse.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Public Apathy Breeds Presidential and Congressional Abuse of Consumer Privacy Rights

The Scourge of Our Apathy

Helen Keller said it best: “Science may have found a cure for most evils, but it has found no remedy for the worst of them all—the apathy of human beings.” This was an amazing observation for this author and educator who was both blind and deaf. She penned it in 1927 in her book, My Religion. So the modern apathy movement of today has a history dating back at least 80 years. Actually it goes all the way back to the world’s most influential philosopher, Plato, who said in 428 BC: “The price of apathy towards public affairs is to be ruled by evil men.”

Definition of Evil

According to Webster’s first definition, evil is being “morally bad or wrong.” The second reaches a little further, “causing pain or trouble; harmful; injurious. I will let you decide if this administration and Congress has reached either of these levels, but, due to the apathy of the American public, they are taking advantage of the fact that so many constituents are either out of touch with reality, have quit following the news, or are simply mired in a rut of oblivion. No matter the reason, as a bargaining force, the consumer has given up their right for a voice in control over their privacy.

Apathy is Everywhere

Apathy.Net had an interesting comment from one of its readers. Commenting on the cognitive dissonance—holding two conflicting thoughts simultaneously—in the 2006 election, John quoted the NBC/Wall Street Journal Poll finding that only 16% of Americans approve of Congress’ job, yet 37% think Republicans should retain control in Congress. John, as we all should be, is astonished by the fact that these two figures mean 21% of those respondents disapprove of Congressional leaders, but still want them to continue doing what they are doing.

Indifference Toward the Republican Party’s Move toward Theocracy

In a project conducted by Cornell University titled, “The Rise of the Religious Right in the Republican Party,” one of the undertaking’s headings is: “This Republican Party of Lincoln has become a party of theocracy.” Theocracy, of course, is a form of government where God or a deity is the supreme ruler. Continuing with the Cornell study, “It is about the manipulation of people of a certain faith for political power…Today’s hard right seeks total dominion. It’s packing the courts and rigging the rules.”

Cornell finds that voter apathy—meaning those who don’t vote or who do without being fully aware of the issues—is key to the recent surge of the theocratic right. And from my point of view, that has elected the Bush/Cheney administration and a Republican Congress that have no use for the privacy rights of the individual. One need only mention Bush’s NSA spying and Congress’ refusal to pass legislation to protect your sensitive data to make the point.

Apathy is Lethal

I found this line in a number of philanthropic organization appeals on the Internet. Pretty macabre, but effective in describing what happens if we don’t do something about the problems of the homeless, or AID’s victims, or the environment. And, that’s only domestic issues. Horace Greeley, newspaper editor in the 1800’s said, “Apathy is a sort of living oblivion.”

More on apathy later.