When Clancy and I moved to Cascadia, one of our goals was to start getting things transferred into “us” accounts rather than “Will Accounts” and “Clancy Accounts.” One of the ways that we’re doing that is to finally merge our automobile insurance. Clancy initially wanted to go with her insurance company, Salamander, though I wanted to stick with Homefront, which I’ve been with for ten years and has always treated me reasonably well (I think insurance companies generally do treat long-term customers better rather than newer customers because the latter are likely to be the unloyal sort of customer that hops around from place to place depending on the best deal at any given time. My parents have always gotten stellar service from Homefront, with whom they’ve been since the 70’s).

So I stopped by the local Homefront and we worked up our insurance rates, which turned out to be about the same for both of us as they were for us independently in Estacado. So we decided to go ahead and get everything auto (liability, collision, comprehensive, uninsured motorist, etc) as well renter’s insurance for the total quote of about $150 a month.

Flash forward a few weeks and we get our Declarations in the mail and everything changes. I’m a somewhat well-educated guy but I couldn’t make heads or tails of the information that they were sending us other than that it was going to cost us a lot more money. Somewhere between $210-260 a month depending on what exactly the documents were saying (was the listed premium for a six month period or the remaining four months of the current six month period… things like that).

I would have just attributed it to them finding out about my traffic ticket, except that a separate piece of mail from Homefront gave us a very different impression. Essentially, what it said was that the rates were affected by a consumer risk rating, something similar to a credit rating used primarily by insurance companies. At the bottom it said that it was affected by Clancy’s. As luck would have it we checked Clancy’s credit less than six months ago (when we were getting our current apartment) and it was fine. So I went down to Homefront’s office to ask what the deal was and why she might have gotten a sour risk rating when six months ago we were fine.

Unfortunately there wasn’t much that they could tell us other than to help me understand the documents and find out that the monthly payment was actually $195. They asked if we had any claims against us or if we had credit problems and neither of those things are true. We don’t have too many credit accounts and don’t owe anyone except student loan organizations money. We do have a few black marks on late payments, but never enough to hurt our credit too badly and besides I have never had a late payment to Homefront in over a decade. Of course it’s not that simple. It’s somewhat well-known that insurance companies know that people with good credit are statistically likelier to get into less accidents than people with bad credit. Even so, why would a sour credit rating (that shouldn’t even be that sour) make our ratings shoot upwards 25%? Particularly when one driver has a perfect driving record and the other driver (as far as I know that they know) has one 10mph speeding ticket in the last five years and none in the last three?

And of course I can’t ask them directly whether my driving record suddenly had a huge black mark on it in the form of a 26mph speeding ticket in Real-life Wyoming. My figuring up until that point was that because I got my Cascadian driver’s license prior to RL Wyoming assessing my fine and forwarding the info to the Estacado DMV that unless they went back and checked Estacado specifically that I might have gotten away with it. This was telling me that maybe I didn’t, though as I said I couldn’t directly ask without drawing attention to things I don’t want attention drawn towards.

There were two things, though, that made me question whether it was the ticket. First is that all of the documentation they sent me told me that recent changes were reflected by Clancy’s consumer risk rating and none made even a cursory mention that “If you’ve recently gotten any traffic tickets…” The second is that it’s quite possible that if they did find out about that ticket, that my rates would have gone higher. Just to check, I went to Salamander’s website and saw what they would have charged us (with the ticket that I think they would have find out about). The answer was that they would start at $210 with basic liability and go up from there and I didn’t even bother to see what it would have been to get the full coverage that I was getting at Homefront.

So we were basically going to be stuck with Homefront, so all we had left to do was find out why we were considered so risky. My driving record or something in her credit? And if it was something on her credit, was it something genuine and stupid (like student loan debts), something genuine and troublesome (some complaint filed against us in Estacado that we don’t know about), or something erroneous. We had a little reason to believe it was the latter because my agent said that one area for concern would be if a married couple live at different addresses and Clancy and I have two different addresses on our driver’s license.

My Homefront Agent called the Risk Assessment Agency (RAA) to ask them to review my account. We waited about a week to hear back from them and when we did they said that they were standing by their numbers. Still no indication as to how they arrove at them. Obviously they can’t tell us the formula because that’s proprietary, but just a summation of what hurt us would have helped. A couple days later we got something from Homefront that said that if we had any questions how we could get our report from the RAA.

It was a long two weeks waiting for that result. Then, when we got it, it told us nothing at all. All they sent us was her driving record, which was spotless. So was the RAA primarily looking at driving records? If so, then it’s probably my ticket that did us in. But the documentation we got from Homefront said that our renter insurance was “higher than it otherwise might be” because of what RAA had to say. Interestingly enough, though, when our auto insurance went up from $140 to $185, our renter insurance stayed at $10. And on top of that everything attributes any change in our rates to the RAA and nothing about driving records.

The documentation listed two “reference numbers” so maybe there were two reports. If so, then we need to get the other one. But the form that we filled out didn’t give us any way to specify and asked us things like driver’s license state and whatnot that suggested that we were primarily going to get DMV info. So now I have to call the RAA and find out if there were two reports and how we can get the other. If they’ll even talk to me since said reports were in my wife’s name. I also filled out another form to see what they have on me and if my Spitstorm Ticket shows up then that answers that question.

By the time this is all said and done, I can’t help but wonder if enough man-hours have been spent that it cost us more than just paying the $195 monthly cost. Even so, if there is some big black beast haunting our credit, I want to know about it. I contacted our former landlord and asked her if she had filed any complaints, which was our theory for a while, but she hadn’t. She then suggested that there might have been identity theft (who knows what was sent to the apartment in Estacado before we got our change-of-address filled out?), which would be something that we definitely need to know about.

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4 Responses to They Don’t Give Me No Credit

  1. Peter says:

    You can get your credit reports and credit scores online at myfico.com. It’s something like $40, but probably worth it, even if it weren’t for the insurance issue.

  2. Barry says:

    Why is a rate calculation formula proprietary? Are they afraid some other insurance company’s going to steal their secret equations?

    Maybe I just don’t understand insurance, but it seems if it’s something as simple as BASELINE $ AMOUNT times “x” accidents divided by “y” random divisor times “z” bad credit reports to the “nth” traffic tickets power minus a base logarithmic “a” late payments to the “bth” jaywalking tickets root over “c” identity thefts, it wouldn’t be that big a deal for other people to use it as their base formula…

  3. trumwill says:

    Barry, my guess would be the following three things:

    (1) The proprietary information is important. The ability to beat one another with pricing is important. Whoever best assesses risk wins. They drive off the most risky customers and give better deals to the least risky. I think that this is why they pull in information from so many different sources to get a leg up on one another.

    (2) Making it complicated makes people go away. Getting any and all information here has been like getting our teeth pulled. Knowing that we will never get the full story is quite dispiriting and makes us want to give up. The more people they get to give up, the better. So long as it doesn’t drive them away.

    (3) It makes mistakes more difficult to catch. If they have something factually incorrect that’s costing us money and we find out where the mistake is, we can get it fixed. If we don’t know where the mistake is, we can’t. We just assume that it’s our fault and that we did something wrong because that’s what they tell us. For instance, if I attribute it to my speeding ticket, I stop asking questions. Everyone’s guilty of something and a lot of people will just assume that’s why their rates are so high.

    (4) Making it more complicated allows them to jack up rates mysteriously. The fact that we signed on under the assumption that we were going to spend one amount when in actuality we’ll be spending 25% more than that amount means that they get business and a higher profit margin from two relatively safe drivers. If they’d told us we’d be paying this much, we would have gone with Salamander. By making it complicated, they made it easy not to tell us.

  4. Webmaster says:

    My guess:

    Someone else has stolen your wife’s SSN and used it in the past/present to get credit.

    “Her” credit score – when you personally look it up and get ONLY the file where her name and SSN data match – looks fine.

    The “subfile” – with the info from whoever ELSE has pulled credit using that number but a different name – has something bad in it.

    When the insurance company runs their data, they are getting the ENTIRE file by looking up her SSN but not the SSN-Name check… but when they mail her report, they’re only mailing you the SSN-Name check.

    You need a thorough investigation on this one. Contacting the credit bureaus and demanding their fraud investigators run an SSN-only check for you is a start.

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