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Agencies Could Be Collecting Personal Data You Think Is Private

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Dorothy Tucker Dorothy Tucker
Dorothy Tucker has served as a reporter for CBS 2 Chicago since 1984....
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(CBS) – Have you ever bounced a check, paid your rent late or gotten a ticket?

You may think of information like that as private, but there are agencies that are collecting details about you and as Dorothy Tucker reports you are not likely to know it until you get denied for a loan, or a credit card or even a lease.

Lauren McAvinchey is a budding entrepreneur. So when things got tight a few months ago she applied for a $7,000 loan. Despite an acceptable credit rating, she was denied.

McAvinchey says they told her why.

“They said the biggest red flag was there was a charge that was from this Illinois Tollway.”

An 80 cent charge from three years ago that had turned into $300 with fees because the bill went to a former address.

McAvinchey wondered, “How does something as basic as a toll, you know have that much of a butterfly effect into affecting all of the things that you had planned for?”

Privacy experts tell us the bank probably found out about the toll through a consumer data collection agency.

Kim Gough with the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse said, “I don’t think people realize there’s so many different agencies and data collection services out there right now.”

More than 400 may be tracking your utility payment history, insurance claim records or whether you’ve ever violated a lease, bounced a check or gotten a ticket.

Gough said about consumers “most of the time they don’t find out until something negative happens.”

That can be when a store won’t accept your check or you’re turned down for a bank account, insurance, a job, an apartment even cable TV.

But the FTC says some of those decisions are based on inaccurate information. It’s now investigating consumer data collectors.

Katherine Armstrong with the FTC said, “We wanted to know the nature and sources of the consumer information they collect and the extent to which they give consumers the opportunity to access and correct the information the data brokers have about them.”

Those who represent the consumer data collection agencies offer a different perspective.

“The data in these databases help us as small business owners to manage risk and make good decisions,” Stuart Pratt with the Consumer Data industry Association

But consumers are worried by it.

“You know it feels like a little bit of invasion of privacy,” said Jack Green.

“I don’t think they should have that much access that much effect to your personal finances,” said McAvinchey.

By law, you have the right to request a report from the source of the negative information. However, that’s not always easy to do. And, that’s a major reason the FTC is looking into these data collection companies.

For more information on consumer privacy agencies, visit privacyrights.org and consumerfinance.gov.

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