How to Secure Your Credit Reports After Identity Theft under Wisconsin Law

If you are a Wisconsin resident and the victim of identity theft or fraud, you have the right to place Security Freeze on your consumer files with the 3 national consumer credit reporting agencies, Equifax, TransUnion and Experian. This makes it harder for anyone to use your consumer information through the agencies to open new credit accounts. You can place the Security Freeze on your consumer files by contacting the three agencies and reporting the fraud and requesting the Security Freeze. It costs $10 for each agency. More information on this process is at http://datcp.wi.gov/uploads/Consumer/pdf/IDTheftCreditFreezeFAQ632.pdf. Sample letters to each agency are available at www.privacy.wi.gov, which allow you to fill in your personal information and print the letters for mailing.

The contact information for placing a Security Freeze alert is:

    Equifax: CSC Credit Services
    Security Freeze
    PO Box 674438
    Houston, TX 77267-4438

    Experian: Experian Security Freeze
    PO Box 9554
    Allen, TX 75013

    TransUnion : TransUnion Security Freeze
    PO Box 6790
    Fullerton, CA 92834-6790

Under Federal law, you are also entitled to place a Fraud Alert on your consumer files and a free copy of your consumer file, known as a “consumer disclosure,” after you are the victim of fraud. For more information on your rights under Federal law, see our Blog entry on How to Secure Your Credit Reports After Identity Theft under Federal Law.

Mixed Files Found to be Big Problem in Credit Reporting

The 4-part investigative article published by The Columbus Post reports that one of the biggest problems found in consumer complaints to the FTC is with mixed files, where someone else’s information is appearing in your reports.

Of the 1,252 people who told the FTC that their files had been mixed with other consumers’, 30 percent also complained that the credit-reporting agencies failed to correct the mistakes after being asked. The others did not indicate whether they had sought to have the information corrected.

You can read the rest of the article at this link: TheColumbusDispatchonCreditRpts.

Errors in Credit Reports due to Mixing and Matching a Relative’s Data Most Prevalent

The Columbus Dispatch reports, following an extensive investigation into consumer complaints at the FTC over a 2.5 year period, that almost 3/4th of the complaints involved consumer reporting agencies mixing someone’s relative’s credit data into their file. Of nearly 1,300 complaints with the FTC, 563 reported the information being mixed with that of their mother, father, sister, brother, son, daughter or grandparent. The next highest category is data mixed from a stranger, reporting at 213.
You can view the results at this link: TheColumbusDispatchMixedFileStatistics.

Wisconsin Court of Appeals Upholds Arbitration Clause Against a Consumer Despite Its Class Action Ban

In Cottonwood Financial Ltd v. Estes, Wisconsin Court of Appeals, Case No. 2009AP760, decided Dec. 20, 2011, the court enforced an arbitration agreement against a consumer despite the ban on class action proceedings contained within the agreement. The Wisconsin court followed the holding of a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision in AT&T Mobility LLC v. Concepcion, 563 U.S. __, 131 S.Ct. 1740 (2011), which it summarized as holding that “a state law that ‘classif[ied] most collective-arbitration waivers in consumer contracts as unconscionable[,]” and thus unenforceable, was preempted by the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA).’” Although the pre-Concepcion decision out of the same court of appeals found the agreement unenforceable, Concepcion caused this court to reverse its earlier decision and now uphold the agreement in its most recent opinion.
The bottom-line of this decision is that forced arbitration agreements that preclude consumers from bringing their claims in court, before a jury, regardless of whether its is brought as a class action or an individual claim, can be forced into privately held, confidential arbitration proceedings without the ability to raise the claims on behalf of all similarly harmed consumers. This will tend to preclude small dollar claims from ever being enforced to the benefit of unscrupulous businesses.

New Employee Protections in Wisconsin for Reporting Suspected Child Abuse

As of December 9, 2011, new changes in Wisconsin law provide greater protection to employees that report suspected child abuse. 2011 Wisconsin Act 81 enlarged both the scope of employees protected and the nature of adverse employment actions that employers are prohibited to take against an employee in Wisconsin for reporting.

Wisconsin law at Wis. Stat. 48.981 governs the reporting of suspected child abuse. The identity of the reporter is kept confidential.

The law makes reporting mandatory for employees in certain occupations such as physicians, nurses, dentists, social workers, school employees including teachers and administrators, school counselors, child care workers, EMTs, police and other law enforcement officers, among others. Any of these employees that have “reasonable cause to suspect that a child seen by the person in the course of professional duties has been abused or neglected or who has reason to believe that a child seen by the person in the course of professional duties has been threatened with abuse or neglect and that abuse or neglect of the child will occur shall … report as provided in sub. (3).” There are exceptions noted at sub. (2m). Failing to report when it is mandatory can subject the person to a fine of up to $1,000 or imprisonment for up to 6 months or both.

All other employees may report suspected child abuse, but doing so in not mandatory. Permissive reporting still provides the same protections as mandatory reporters.

An employee reporting suspected abuse who has a good faith belief of abuse is immune from liability for making such a report if the investigation does not find abuse occurred. There are a few exceptions, for example, the perpetrator cannot self report and still be immune.

The protection provided to an employee that reports suspected child abuse is under Section 48.981(2)(e). This section prohibits an employer from discharging an employee from employment for making either a mandatory or permissive report. Act 81 amends this section to now include the additional protections from “discipline or otherwise discriminated against in regard to employment, or threatened with any such treatment for doing so.” It appears to essentially prohibit any adverse employment action in retaliation for making mandatory or permissive reports of suspected child abuse.

Consumer Mobile Fairness Act Proposed in U.S. Senate

Senators Blumenthal (D-Ct) and Al Franken (D-MN), who are sponsors of the Arbitration Fairness Act, have introduced a bill to the U.S. Senate to prohibit mandatory arbitration clauses in cell phone contracts.

Mandatory arbitration clauses force you to bring claims in arbitration, rather than in court. These clauses are generally anti-consumer because it keeps information about claims hidden from the public as well as the outcome of claims. The clauses also take away your right to have your dispute decided by a jury of your peers in open court. Many arbitration panels are viewed as biased, in favor of industry, as industry is in arbitration with these panels repeatedly while the consumer is before them maybe once in a lifetime, among other reasons.

More information on this bill is at:

http://blumenthal.senate.gov/newsroom/press/release/blumenthal-franken-introduce-legislation-to-provide-justice-to-wireless-customers_

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post-tech/post/franken-blumenthal-bill-would-allow-cell-phone-users-to-sue-carriers/2011/10/04/gIQANrueLL_blog.html

U.S. Senate Banking Committee Approves Cordray to Lead Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

On October 6, 2011, the U.S. Senate Banking Committee approved Richard Cordray to lead the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the new agency created to watch out for consumer protections in the financial industry. The vote was straight party line, with Republican senators opposing his nomination and Democrats supporting it.

The nomination now moves to a vote on the Senate floor.

White Class Action Notice for Bankruptcy Entry on Credit Reports

Consumers in Wisconsin and throughout the nation that have filed obtained bankruptcy protection are getting notices of a class action settlement in White v. Experian relating to credit report entries that report accounts discharged in bankruptcy. You are a Class Member eligible for benefits if you received a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy order of discharge and you have had a credit report issued by Trans Union, Experian or Equifax between March 15, 2002 and May 11, 2009 (or, for California residents in the case of TransUnion, between May 12, 2001 and May 11, 2009) that contained debts, accounts, judgments, or other obligations discharged in your bankruptcy that were not reported as discharged. Consumers that have actual damages such as the denial of credit, loss of a job or increased interest rates should consider whether the class action settlement will fairly and adequately compensate them for these damages. Consumers can opt out, meaning to decline to have his or her claim included in the class action, and bring his own lawsuit to recover damages individually. If one does not opt out of the class action, then the settltment will prevent non-opt out consumers from bringing a claim later on. The deadline for filing a claim form or opting out of the class action is November 30, 2009. If you don’t opt out of the class action and fail to file a claim in the class action, your rights to recovery will be cut off. More information about the class action settlement is at www.bankruptcydischargesettlement.com. If you have a claim, reside in Wisconsin, and want to know more about your rights, you are welcome to contact me at grl@rosedejong.com or 414-678-1681.

Attorney Gordon Leech
Milwaukee, WI
414-678-1681
grl@rosedejong.com