If there’s one thing most people can agree on it’s this: credit reports are the absolute worst. Even if you score 720 or higher, the threat that some cryptic force always looms and is going to one day crash-land on your report, bringing a set of false charges and debt with it, is all too real. John Oliver took on the contentious topic of credit reports in this week’s Last Week Tonight and exposed some of the biggest problems with the industry.
Here are 6 fantastic points Oliver made — and one way he is getting back at credit bureaus (bless his heart).
1. Credit reports affect your life more than you probably think — Your credit rating isn’t simply helpful to banks making the final call about whether to lend you money. Oliver points out that landlords can use the information to decide whether to rent you an apartment, insurers set your rates based on your score, and potential employers can ask to run a credit check on you and then deny you a job because of a low score. “Nearly half of employers conduct credit disputes,” Oliver says. Among them? Benihana, which advertised on Craigslist for a restaurant manager and another employer using Craigslist to hire someone to find “fireworks tents.” Yeah, absolutely no clue either.
2. Oliver admits he sucks at managing HBO’s money — One of the reasons employers feel a credit check is necessary is because there is a belief that people with good credit can more effectively manage a business. Oliver vehemently disagreed: “My credit is probably fine but I routinely waste HBO’s money,” he said, bringing up as proof the expensive Yankees tickets he gave away to fans for a nickel and a dime last week (just to stick it to the Yankees). “I clearly can’t manage this company’s money well.”
3. It’s a mistake to use credit reports as a measure of someone’s character — All debt is not equal. A report found that 52% of all debt is from medical expenses and an astounding 25% of consumers have errors in their credit reports. And, just to add to the crazy, Oliver said that one in 20 people find serious errors in their reports that affect their lives. “If every Wendy’s frosty turned out to be warm goat semen we would want accountability and we would want it now… at least freeze it,” Oliver joked.
4. Anyone named Judy Thomas is screwed — Get this: not one, but two women named Judy Thomas recently revealed that they were mistaken for other ‘Judiths’ in their credit reports, a mistake that resulted in one of the women spending six years trying to prove she wasn’t Judith Kendall. “I’m surprised she didn’t just go, you know what, f**k it, I’m Judith Kendall,” Oliver said. After learning that another Judy Thomas had the same issue in 2002, the host threw up his hands in defeat: ” If you or someone you know is named Judy Thomas, give up, there is no hope in life for Judys like you.”
5. The FTC can’t keep track of credit background companies— If you want to make money in this day and age, it seems all you have to do is set up a laptop in your bedroom and start your very own credit background company. In fact, there are so many small companies providing services that allow other people to find out everything about you, including your credit score and criminal background, that the Federal Trade Commission admitted it does not know how many credit background companies there are out there — and, yep, that’s one heck of a problem.
“You can’t just lose track of how many background companies there are the way we’ve lost track of Oreo flavors,” Oliver said.
6. Oliver set up websites to help credit bureaus understand how despised they are— You may not know the names of all of your cousins’ spouses and kids, but you are probably well acquainted with Experian, Equifax and TransUnion, the three credit bureaus that run your life (into the ground, at times). “If only we can make this whole industry understand the jeopardy they’re putting people in,” Oliver said, before proposing his solution.
He set up three websites with very familiar names. There’s Equifacks, a company that takes an animal out of a shelter, lets it go home with a person so it can lick peanut butter off their privates and then returns the animal to the shelter. Next up is Experianne, a company that vows to whisper passages from Mein Kampf into the ears of babies. And, finally, he gives us TramsOnion, a place where you can purchase “quality” steaks made from dead orcas who worked at SeaWorld.
Of course he’s just kidding about everything. Except for that part about how credit bureaus are blood-sucking leeches. It’s also possible he didn’t say that and I’m taking liberties. Either way, Oliver hit the nail on the head this week.