This week, Last Week Tonight tackled credit reports, or as John Oliver calls them, “the basis for the single most important three digit number in your whole life other than 311, the Beatles of rap-rock.”
Credit reports can affect many aspects of your life, including whether banks will lend you money or whether a landlord will rent you an apartment, and over half of employers used credit checks to vet employees.
There are a few major problem with that, though. First, 52% of all debt on credit reports is from medical expenses, which Oliver notes is unfair, as “no one chooses to be sick, with the possible exception of Julianne Moore taking a run at best actress.”
Perhaps more problematic is that a Federal Trade Commission study revealed that one in four credit reports has an error and one in 20 has a significant error, including wrongfully flagging people as terrorists or, perhaps worse, dead. These mistakes cost people housing and jobs and disputing errors is difficult, if not functionally impossible.
There is nothing new about the problem, either. Oliver showed news clips going back to the early ’90s all reporting the same story — that credit reports are riddled with errors. According to Oliver, the three major credit reporting agencies — TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax — are not working (or not working quickly enough) to resolve the problem. In fact, because of their reticence to correct the problem, Oliver believes the credit agencies are fine with a 95% success rate, that leaves 5% of their customers (or 10 million people, roughly the population of Sweden, Oliver notes) with erroneous credit reports that affect their lives and livelihoods.
To fight back, Oliver and his teams opened three fake businesses with names (and websites) that are “problematically similar” to those of the three major credit reporting agencies (warning: these websites contain adult content that some readers may find offensive) — Equifacks, Experianne, TramsOnion. He is certain that 95% of people who visit the sites will not be confused between Experian, the credit reporting agency, and Experianne, a website that whispers verses of Mein Kampf to babies. As the website says, “We are Experianne. Please do not mistake us for Experian. What they do is unforgivable.”