If you have ever written a bad check or overdrawn a checking account, watch out. You may end up with a negative in a credit reporting agency called ChexSystems.
According to their website, "Chex Systems, Inc provides deposit account verification services to its financial institution members to aid them in identifying account applicants who may have a history of account mishandling (for example, people whose accounts were overdrawn and then closed by their bank)." That means you don’t want to get reported to ChexSystems.
Right now, I am trying to help a friend get his ChexSystems report cleared. A few years ago, he went into what was then "P" Bank (I am not naming names since there are other banks still around with a similar name) and was told he could not open a checking account because he had $287 in unpaid checks reported to ChexSystems. Problem was, he never had a bank account with P-Bank…in fact, he had no bank account at all for years. "Show me the copies of the bounced checks and I will pay them off right now," he said, producing a walletfull of cash. The bank told him he would have to pay for the research to find the original checks, but he refused to pay for their mistake, and left.
Fast forward a couple of years, and he can’t open any bank account anywhere because of this item in his ChexSystems file. (Consumers can request their ChexSystems file, if they have one, for free here.) Since P-Bank branches here have been sold, I figured if he disputed the item it wouldn’t be verified and it would be removed per the Fair Credit Reporting Act.
But when he disputed the item, he received another letter back from ChexSystems with a different financial institution listed, along with the check numbers for the alleged bounced checks. He called the number listed for the financial institution that apparently had bought the account from P-Bank. I joined him using three-way calling for what turned out to be a bizarre series of phone calls. After at least an hour of calls to various toll-free numbers, he finally found a customer service representative who told him there was only a 45 cent balance left on the account, and that she would "mark it as paid." She clearly didn’t believe him when he insisted he never had an account at that bank, and made it sound as if she was being very generous to mark the item as paid. No one he spoke with could offer any proof that the account was his, or provide any documents with his signature.
He could try to pursue this further with a consumer law attorney, but the five-year time limit that ChexSystems applies to reporting negative information is soon up, so the item should come off his report soon. In the meantime, if the balance shows zero, he should be able to open a new bank account. We hope.
Have you had an experience with ChexSystems? Share your comments — and suggestions — in the comments section below.