Can a credit bureau really put my old inmate number and address on my credit report? They also said I live at a “high-risk address.”
— Richard in Washington
Yes, they can. And they do.
First, let’s be clear about what’s happening here. Richard’s credit report says, “This address may be perceived as a high risk because it has pertained to business, or used as a mail drop or a delivery service.”
Credit reports are maintained by the Big Three credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. Each of these private companies have their own way of doing things, but they’re much more similar than they are different. So, I went to a friend at Experian to get a detailed explanation.
Why credit bureaus list penitentiaries as high-risk addresses
According to Amanda Garofalo, Experian’s public relations manager, this is all about fraud.
“Such non-residential addresses may be indicators of potential risk of fraud,” Garofalo emailed me. “The intent of the notice is to alert users such as creditors of the report so that they can take steps to conduct further diligence should they deem it necessary.”
Here’s something important to remember: Your credit report isn’t for you. It’s for lenders who decide whether to give you money – and if you’re likely to pay them back. From experience, Experian knows that people who use certain addresses (like a P.O. box) are more likely to be the kind of people who commit fraud.
“The intent of the notice is to alert users such as creditors of the report so that they can take steps to conduct further diligence should they deem it necessary,” Garofalo says.
The sad truth is, people in prison can still commit crime. Example: Last summer, the federal government revealed 33 inmates were arrested again for applying for – and receiving – COVID-19 unemployment benefits.
Getting prison incarceration off your credit report
So, what can Richard do? If he’s no longer a guest of the state, he can simply ask for a change of address. Garofalo says Richard “may use the address ID on his credit report for more details about who provided the address to Experian, and, if it is no longer a valid address, request its removal from his credit file.”
How do you do that? Go to your creditors and ask them to update your address, and that will automatically appear on your three credit reports. That might take a minute, but it makes you a low risk!
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