Identity Theft In The Making – Stories From A Credit Bureau Insider

Hello.  My name is Steve Reger and I spent 26 years working for one of the three major credit bureau, TransUnion.  During my lengthy tenure as their Direct of Consumer Services I experienced most everything credit related.  I oversaw a busy contact center in Southern California which at various times received more than 10,000 consumer inquiries a day.  Within those inquiries were a mix of frustration, confusion and opportunity.  In the coming months I will speak to those real experiences and hope to shed a unique perspective in to the world of credit reporting, credit repair and financial fraud.

I began my career at TransUnion in 1988.  Within a year I was answering inbound phone calls from consumers who had credit related questions.  In the late 80’s the credit bureaus were numerous, regional and relatively unknown.  When someone contacted TransUnion it was almost always a reaction to something adverse.  Whereas today much credit bureau contact is proactive, back then you probably never heard of a credit bureau until you had been denied a home or credit card.

The story typically went like this.  John Consumer tries to buy a home and is told there is something on his credit report holding up the loan.  The lender doesn’t share that information with John and says you need to call the credit bureau.  John then calls TransUnion and says he was denied a home loan and doesn’t know why.  TransUnion tells John he first needs to review his credit report and sends a copy to John, something he will probably see for the first time.

A few days later John receives the report and tries to make sense of the codified information.  In despair John calls TransUnion.  25 years ago credit reports were made up of X’s, sticks, dates and numbers.  John got to see that same format his experienced lenders would see.  Unfortunately for John it made no sense at all and in turn his despair.

“Thank you for calling TransUnion.  My name is Steve, how may I help you?”  That is how I was trained to answer the phones.  John would respond he was denied a home loan, got his credit report and wasn’t sure how to read it.  I’d guide him through the mix of fields and codes, making sense out of the cryptic data.  John would eventually come across information he didn’t recognize.  We could often categorize that information in to one of three areas; mistaken collection accounts, incorrect late payments and unrecognized accounts.

The former, mistaken collection accounts, were typically medical or utility bills that got assigned to collection agencies for one reason or another.  While there likely was an underlying mistake like an insurance payment that wasn’t made, they did actually relate to John.  Same with the late payments, a genuine mistake, but no question it was John’s credit card or loan showing the late.  It is the later that I am going to explore further, unrecognized accounts.

Stay tuned for future posts where we explore how these accounts reveal a case of identity theft and I share my experiences as a credit bureau insider.


To protect against identity theft and other financial crimes I recommend enrolling in a comprehensive credit monitoring program like SmartCredit.  SmartCredit is the only program that combines traditional credit report monitoring with payment card monitoring, protecting against both identity theft and account takeover.  Enroll today at

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  • Over the next few months we will dig deeper in to the discussion on Identity Theft. Please share what you like to hear more about from someone who knows first hand the ins and outs of the credit bureau system and is an expert on identity theft and other financial crimes?