Denied credit? Company must tell you why

By Amy Davis - Reporter/Consumer Expert

HOUSTON - Credit cards come with some responsibilities like paying your bill on time and not exceeding your credit limit. But there are rules that banks must follow as well. They can't simply deny you credit without explaining why.

One Houston man called consumer expert Amy Davis when he said the bank was giving him the around.

Understanding why you've been denied is key to helping you clean up your credit report. Jack Van Pelt called Davis when he said Wells Fargo was asking him to jump through hoops for nothing.

"After spending several hours trying to deal with those people, it was a nightmare," Van Pelt said.

He applied online for a line of credit with Wells Fargo to use at Gallery Furniture. He was approved in just a couple of hours, but once he went to the store he got a different story. An employee told him he should call Wells Fargo.

"First I got a hold of customer service and they couldn't give me any answers," Van Pelt explained. "I had to talk to the fraud people. I had to jump through several hoops to finally get a hold of a supervisor who basically told me that something to my credit bureau indicated I was deceased."

He said that supervisor told him the information came from TransUnion, one of the three credit bureaus. Suspecting some sort of identity theft, Van Pelt immediately requested his report and then checked with the Social Security office. No irregularities were found.

"I've checked both places," said Van Pelt. "If there had been an error, I'd have been happy enough to call y'all back and thank y'all for stopping this from occurring."

That information apparently wasn't good enough. Van Pelt said Wells Fargo told him in order to get the line of credit he needed a letter from the Social Security Administration confirming that he is, in fact, alive.

"Well if you've ever driven downtown by the Social Security office, there's a line out the door and that's going to be a probably half a day experience," said Van Pelt.

Consumer attorneys said Wells Fargo may be in violation of the Equal Credit Opportunity Act. The law says if credit is denied, the consumer must be notified in writing, with the specific reasons for the denial or the lender must inform you that you may request a full explanation. Instead, Wells Fargo left Van Pelt wondering with no line of credit and no answers as to why he was denied. When Davis called the bank, a Wells Fargo employee called Van Pelt. He said the employee said the bank made an error when it processed his application. Van Pelt got his line of credit and an apology.

Wells Fargo sent Davis this statement:

"When a customer applies for credit, we pull a credit report using information on the application that personally identifies the customer. If the credit report contains information that differs from the application, we begin to take steps to ensure we can positively identify our customer. If, ultimately, we are not able to identify the applicant, we would deny the request for credit and send them a letter explaining why. Though I can't go into specifics about our interactions with Mr. Van Pelt for privacy reasons, I can tell you we are following our regular procedure in this situation, and it is our understanding the matter has been resolved to the customer's satisfaction."

If this happens to you, you should write a letter to the creditor demanding to know the specific reasons you were denied. You can also contact the Federal Trade Commission to report violations of the law.

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