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The problem with public records

I got this “IMPORTANT BUSINESS CREDIT NOTIFICATION” envelope in the mail yesterday from Dun & Bradstreet:

Important Business Notification on envelope addressed to Hollow Tree Software

They come every few months. I also get the occasional phone call from D&B asking me for details about my company, Hollow Tree Software. The letter said:

Another company has requested your credit file and we wanted to review your file with you.

I used to reply to these letters, and when someone called I told them the same thing: Hollow Tree Software has been out of business for 25 years. You can search various business sites and learn that:

  • Hollow Tree Software was started in 2010 (it was actually ~1985)
  • It had an estimated revenue of $92,000 in 2011 (it was $0).
  • It is a software company (Hollow Tree manufactured computer cables and never sold software)
  • It employs 2 people (it never had any employees)

I’ve called D&B and written them multiple times. They just keep sending letters and calling. It’s just marketing to them, and it’s just marketing to pretty much everyone in the public records business.

One might wonder just how this spurious record comes to exist, and I am fairly certain that I know that answer. Way back when I applied to the State of South Carolina for a retail license for that company, I also bought a business membership in Sam’s Club. That name is still on my Sam’s account along with my current address, and that is the only place in the world where I put Hollow Tree Software and my address together. Sam’s provided the data that has caused the annoyance. I’m guessing that they got 2 employees from the two Sam’s cards I have (me and Ms. Conspiracy), but the estimated revenue figure seems to have been pulled out of the air.  Needless to say, I’m dropping my Sam’s Club membership.

I wrote about the fallacy of blindly trusting “system” outputs in my 2012 article, “The F.L.A.W.

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5 Responses to The problem with public records

  1. avatar
    richCares May 17, 2013 at 3:26 pm #

    In the public records Susan Daniel used for her report shows “1890” and also shows “1990” (same page 6 entries earlier). Both of these show date issued 1977-1979, now how does a 1990 DOB show up as being issued in 1977-1979. was it an error or a time machine? Both of these have the same Somerville, MA address. How did this address show up with 1890 as this address did not exist in 1890. That is a really silly use of public records.

  2. avatar
    Butterfly Bilderberg May 17, 2013 at 3:55 pm #

    Some public records show me living in California — a state in which I have only vacationed. While other reports correctly identify the series of addresses where I have lived over the past 30 years (convenient when filling out paperwork for security clearance recertifications) they also show my husband living at those same addresses.

    What is the problem with that? you may ask.

    He died in 1992. He never resided in Arizona or any of the other places that my career has taken me in the last 20 years. Yet he is reported as recently as December 2012 as sharing my address.

    On a positive note, one credit reporting agency lists a paid off student loan from Arizona State University. A record of perfect on-time payments.

    I never had a student loan from ASU, although I did some post-graduate work there for two semesters in the 1970s.

  3. avatar
    Sef May 17, 2013 at 3:57 pm #

    richCares:
    In the public records Susan Daniel used for her report shows “1890” andalso shows “1990” (same page 6 entries earlier). Both of these show date issued 1977-1979, now how does a 1990 DOB show up as being issued in 1977-1979. was it an error or a time machine? Both of these have the same Somerville, MA address. How did this address show up with 1890 as this address did not exist in 1890. That is a really silly use of public records.

    I remember back when the 1890 nonsense came out that someone opined that 1890 was the year in which the house in Somerville was built. Have not idea if that is true.

  4. avatar
    gorefan May 17, 2013 at 4:40 pm #

    richCares: Both of these show date issued 1977-1979, now how does a 1990 DOB show up as being issued in 1977-1979.

    The same record for the 1990 DOB also shows that it was first reported to the database in (IIRC) 1988.

    So someone born in 1990 was issued a SSN in 1977-1979 and used it to generate a credit report in 1988.

  5. avatar
    J.D. Sue May 17, 2013 at 7:19 pm #

    Somewhat related to the f.l.a.w. issue is the irrational use or query of data. See for example, Taitz’s current FOIA request to SSA (which raises the old issue of whether she is completely irrational or simply relying upon the complete irrationality of her supporters).

    Supposedly, she wants to see the purported SS-5 for Harrison J. Bounel and claims there is no bar against it’s release under the 120-year rule. But her request does not even ask for a record based on his name; instead it asks for a record based on a SSN. “I demand release of SS-5 of the SSN 042-68-**** for Harrison J. Bounel.” (redaction is mine, and SSN is/was probably Obama’s).

    Outraged, Taitz relates, “I demanded an explanation, why SSA is refusing to release the SS-5 for an extremely aged individual over 120 years old. I was told that this is a protected number …”

    Of course, a rational person would entertain the notion that the SSA’s query on that number shows it was assigned to someone who is not reported dead or who was not born over 120 years ago–thereby making it a “protected number”.

    But her fans do not disappoint, e.g., “This is so obvious to anybody above an 80 IQ level as to why this FOIA request has been ordered non accessible. I mean let’s get real here. Simple logical basic question. Why would an obscure man with no family who was born 123 years ago have his records placed off limits????” Why, indeed…