by Cliff Downing

 “Is Big Brother Watching you?”

 I have to confess to the readers that I’m one of those nasty ole auto insurance salesmen. Being in the insurance business can be an eye opening experience. You wouldn’t believe the things you find out about people in the course of doing insurance business with them. At times you become everything from best friend to financial advisor and even marriage counselor. It’s truly amazing what people will tell you if you just sit down and start talking with them.

Some of what you find out is downright scary!

In the insurance business any time someone submits a new application for insurance the company orders what is called an “underwriting report”.  Almost all underwriting reports come from the same place. It’s called Equifax services of Atlanta, Ga. Don’t try to look them up in the phone book because you won’t find them and if by some miracle you do happen to get a human voice on the phone your’re going to discover that Equifax doesn’t recruit the most educated and trained people they can find. If you’re familiar with a credit reporting agency called TRW and have been turned down for that new car loan based on information from TRW then you’ve already been a victim of the Equifax Data Base.

The most troublesome thing about Equifax is that they keep a data base of records about EVERYBODY in the United States and as far as I know maybe the world. In fact, if you’ve ever filled out any type of application for a loan, insurance policy or even filed your income tax you are in the Equifax database. Equifax gathers a large part of their information from what they consider to be public records.

This alone would not bother me EXCEPT. One of the groups that purchase the database are advertisers. Ever wonder why you got that advertisement for some special cat food? Because Equifax not only knows you own the cat but they also know your cats name. Same with your dog, your kids, that brother-in-law that lives in your garage and ANYONE that has ever received mail at your address. The Equifax database is an inaccurate mess. They constantly collect information from public records including auto accident reports. They don’t put in who was at fault, just that you were in an accident. I’ll guarantee you that at some point you’ll be charged extra on an auto policy and considered guilty until you can produce the accident report to prove your innocence.

Are you upset yet? You should be because Equifax (whom I understand has recently changed their name) will sell a targeted list to anyone. Want to find out who owns a gun in your area? You can purchase a list from Equifax. Want to find out how many car wrecks your neighbor has been involved in? Just purchase the information from Equifax. And the list goes on. They know everything about you all the way from who your parents and grandparents are to who some of your friends are. They know what types of foods you are most likely to purchase and they know what kind of make-up your wife uses.

Want to stop Equifax? Here’s a little suggestion, don’t give anyone your social security number because that’s how Equifax keeps their database. In fact if you’ll do a little research you will discover that not only do you not have to give your social security number to anyone for any reason you’ll also discover that the only legal use of your social security number is for keeping track of all the money you’ll never get back from the social security administration.  I live for the day someone gets turned down for something because they won’t provide their social security number because even bartcop can win this one in court. Using your social security number for any other purpose than to deal with the Social Security Administration is against the law according to several attorney friends of mine. The trouble is that no one has taken the time to get this into a court of law.

Let’s add one more problem to this business of watching over your shoulder. Now insurance companies are running credit checks in order to help determine your rate. They claim to have statistically proven that people with less than desirable credit are at a higher risk of having a loss than those with good credit. If you’ve ever in your whole life had a bankruptcy you can forget most of the major markets for homeowners insurance. (It seems you’re in with a bunch that oddly enough has a large number of house fires and Equifax will never forget that bankruptcy.)  Your credit or lack of it will soon determine if you get that good job or end up like Norton from the Honeymooners pushing sludge with a ten foot pole in the New York City Sewers and Equifax is determined to make this happen.

This bothers me most for one reason, the fact that the states for the most part require all vehicles to carry liability insurance. Don’t get me wrong, I think that liability insurance is a good idea. If you injure someone or cause them injury then that person is entitled to recover some sort of compensation for damages. The problem with this is two fold. One, the guy living over on the rich part of town is going to pay less for his liability insurance which is required by the state than is the guy from the “wrong side of the tracks”.  Why? Well first off Mr. Rich Guy's credit score is going to qualify him for a better rate regardless of his driving record and secondly he’s going to get discounts on his auto insurance to entice him to insure his multimillion-dollar home with the same company. The “wrong side of the tracks guy” is going to pay more for exactly the same coverage because he has to feed his family first instead of paying outstanding medical bills and because he doesn’t get a discount for renting his home. If any state is going to require you to do something then they should also take into consideration how much income you have. It’s simply not fair for a poor family to have to pay more for the same product than does the rich guy especially when the insurance coverage is required by the state in which he resides.

Just remember “Big Brother IS watching you”. It’s an unfortunate byproduct of the computer age and until a whole lot of us cause a big enough stink it’s going to continue.

Thanks to those that responded with e-mail from last weeks article and if some one “does ya dirty” write me and we’ll see if we can’t let the whole world know how they acted.

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