Sunday, March 06, 2005

Today I Wrote Congress

After reading this story in the Washington Post about the usurous practices of credit card companies and the Republican plans to further stick it to people by not allowing credit card debt to be resolved by bankruptcy, I wrote the following to my Congressmen: Rep. Lynch (D - MA), an d Sentators Kennedy and Kerry (D's - MA):

Dear Senator,

Today's Washington Post online reports that the Senate is likely to pass a bill making it hard for consumers to clear credit card debt by declaring bankruptcy. This despite the outrageous and capricious fees credit card companies add to cards, making the companies no better than loan sharks in many cases.

Meanwhile, as laws against usury seem to be a thing of the past, credit card companies, in an age of identity theft, continue to send unsolicited offeres for loans, credit cards and other expensive and fee-laded financial services to our mailboxes. And it's from mailboxes and trashcans that we know most identity theft occurs.

If Congress is unwilling to control the rapacious appetites of credit lenders and their practices, and if they are unable to help consumers who get caught up in those practices, most insidiously interest rates jumping astronomically when a payment's late, even if the payment late wasn't on a different card. One woman in the story had an interest rate of 29.99 percent.

If Congress will not at least do something about that, can they try to do something about identity theft.

Here's an idea.

As a consumer, I should be able to contact TransUnion, Equifax, Experian and other credit agencies and put a hold on credit issued in my name. This won't stop the flood of unwanted credit and loan solicitations I get, since that flood comes from mailing lists being sold and bought, but it would at least protect me from identity theft.

No credit lender processes a credit card or loan without checking those agencies. If they check and see that I have a hold on credit being issued, then they can't proceed. For them to proceed I would have to remove the hold.

Now this isn't perfect --there would need to be a system for a consumer to place and remove holds, one that included verifying the identity of the consumer, but there should be a way to do this.

You can't get a job in the U.S. without showing --in person-- proof of citizenship. So what if every bank branch, every credit union branch and other institutions were obligated to work with the credit agencies in such a way that you could walk into those places, and verify your identity and then from those institutions, create an account with the credit agencies, and from that account, you can place a hold on your credit.

The credit industry is awash in billions of dollars generated from onerous fees and usury. They should be able to fund this small bit of consumer protection.

Thank you for considering this idea.


Nick Carbone


Michael said...

This is a really good letter, and I hope it produces results. I've been hearing tidbits of this since Bush was first elected in 2000. I'm a bit surprised it's just now getting covered.

Nick said...

Hi Michael,

I wish it were as easy as writing one letter. I've seen the story in the news on and off since 2000, but I think w/ impending legislation, it's getting final burst of coverage.

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