CT Watchdog: Credit Errors Can Impact Loan Eligibility

By George Gombossy, CTwatchdog.com

In these days of tight mortgage lending standards, getting your home refinanced can be a real challenge, even if you have equity and good credit.

Tim McCarroll of Cromwell faces an additional hurdle: Connecticut Natural Gas damaged his outstanding credit rating by incorrectly telling credit rating agencies that McCarroll was a deadbeat.

And when McCarroll contacted CNG and the state attorney general’s office for help, no one appeared to get overly worked up about the problem until McCarroll asked for my help, and a public relations mess was in the offing.

It was only after I sent McCarroll’s email to CNG spokesman John Dobos Jr. and to the PR staff at the attorney general’s office that CNG apologized and promised to work quickly to clean up the mess it created.

It was only after McCarroll tried to refinance his home through Webster Bank that he learned a collections agency was trying to locate him for allegedly failing to pay a CNG bill. The mortgage officer told a stunned McCarroll that because of that black mark, his $200,000 mortgage would end up costing an extra $4,000 to refinance. No one had tried to contact him about the bill, McCarroll said.

He immediately called CNG, where the service representative checked a database and quickly established that McCarroll was never a CNG customer and that someone with a similar name had the account and had apparently used McCarroll’s social security number.

He was also told that is a frequent problem because CNG has so many new customers it doesn’t have the time to check everyone’s social security number to make sure it belongs to the new customer, since state regulators require quick hookups.

The customer service representative refused to provide McCarroll with free credit monitoring to make sure the problem doesn’t crop up again, but did agree to start the process of clearing his credit report.

“I would love to prevent this for future people or myself,” he wrote me. “There is no way to prevent this unless the companies opening these accounts are held responsible. I have no idea now if someone has utilities on using my SS Number and wouldn’t find this out until they stop payment and some company puts it to collections, then it hits my credit report – it’s not like a credit card or line of credit, which hits right away.”

After I notified Dobos that I was pursuing this case, McCarroll’s issue got the attention it should have had in the first place. He was given an apology, free credit report checks and CNG promised to move quickly to mitigate the damage to his credit rating.

Dobos did not challenge McCarroll’s version of events and said the customer representative would receive retraining.

“CNG has policies and procedures in place designed to detect the warning signs — or ‘red flags’ — of identity theft in our day-to-day operations,” Dobos wrote me. “Our procedures have changed and developed over the years and our vigilance in protecting customers has improved. We have incorporated new available technology and internet products that now allow us to conduct identity checks on every new account.”

But he said “identity issues still occur on accounts, particularly if they were opened in prior years when identity theft was not as prevalent. When a customer brings to our attention a potential identify theft, we work with the customer to verify errors, issue them a letter acknowledging any error, and submit corrected information to the credit bureaus.”

A good way to avoid this problem is to check your credit reports at least once a year – it’s free.

George Gombossy can be reached at george@connecticutwatchdog.com or you can send him a letter at Connecticut Watchdog, PO Box 23, East Longmeadow, Ma., 01028.

He will respond to as many inquiries and complaints as time permits. Please check out ctWatchdog.com for other consumer, health and finance tips.



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