State will look into who can look into your credit

October 16, 1992|By Norris P. West | Norris P. West,Staff Writer

Can H. Ross Perot pull your credit report?

Maryland Consumer Credit Commissioner Alan T. Fell is posing that very question in the wake of complaints by two former Perot volunteers that they were fired after an unauthorized check of their credit.

"For me, the question is when does a detective agency or someone outside the normal process have the right to look into your credit?" Mr. Fell asked. "This started with Perot, but to me, the issue is bigger than that."

The former Frederick volunteers claim that O'Connell Associates, a Smithtown, N.Y., detective agency, pulled their reports from Equifax Credit Information Services on April 28 and April 29.

Both were fired from the Perot campaign on April 30, said Mr. Fell.

Perot campaign officials have denied any links to O'Connell Associates. Equifax, which is based in Atlanta, recently terminated its ties with O'Connell after the detective agency refused to identify its client.

Concerned about the complaints of the Frederick volunteers, Mr. Fell this week asked the Maryland attorney general's office to determine whether agencies with access to credit reports should be required to identify themselves and to state the

purpose of their inquiries.

J. Steven Lovejoy, an assistant attorney general, said the state will pursue the matter.

Lawrence Way, the former coordinator of the Perot petition drive in Frederick County, and Richard Stover, a former volunteer, also have taken their cases to a House subcommittee that is investigating similar charges by dozens of Perot volunteers nationwide.

Mr. Way has filed a $10 million slander suit against the Perot campaign.

Mr. Fell said the information obtained on Mr. Way and Mr. Stover included names, addresses, former addresses, employers, former employers, Social Security numbers, names of spouses and any aliases.

Those reports were termed "ID checks" that contained no information on debts and payment histories. Mr. Fell is asking whether such checks are classified as credit reports under state law.

Mr. Fell said creditors, employers, collection companies, insurance firms and government licensing agencies have legal access to credit reports. But he said the complaints by former Perot volunteers prompt concern about illegal access.

"The mood of the public is 'I don't want my credit accessed by anyone,' " Mr. Fell said. "They would be very, very upset if they knew a detective agency had access to it."

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