Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Dun & Bradstreet

What is Dun and Bradstreet?   Or what was it and what has it become?

Dun and Bradstreet, which can trace its roots back to 1841, provides information on the creditworthiness of companies and businesses.    Call it Equifax for Corporations.  As a Government Contractor, I have to apply for, or renew, my license every year, and part of this application requires a D&B DUNS number.

So I go to the D&B website, fill out some forms, and they assign me a DUNS number.   What it all means, I don't know, as I doubt they have much about me on file, other than my name and business address.

In August of 2010, D&B spun-off and sold their credit monitoring and management business to a newly formed company, Dun & Bradstreet Credibility Corp

And since then, I have been getting alarming e-mails from the latter company.  Most of these claim I need to "verify" information, and thus sound like phishing scam e-mails:
D&B Business Credit File requires verification for Robert P Bell

Dear Robert P Bell:

Your business credit file is something that deserves your attention on an ongoing basis. By monitoring your D&B credit file, it shows banks, vendors and customers that you're serious about your financial standing.

Please call 1-877-XXX-XXXX immediately to learn more about the information in your D&B business credit profile.

Understanding how other companies use your business data can help you identify ways to improve your business credit profile, which can make it easier to secure loans, mortgages, equipment leases, and supplier terms for your business.

We recommend using SelfMonitor™ to help you understand the information that is available to companies who purchase your business credit report.

With SelfMonitor you will receive 24/7 online access to:
The latest information contained in your business credit file
Your company's payment history, D&B credit scores and ratings
Ability to add good payment history not currently in your file to enhance your company's D&B payment score
D&B's credit limit recommendation for your company

Please contact a Credit Advisor today to review your credit profile and to learn more about SelfMonitor. You can reach a Credit Advisor by calling 1-877-XXX-XXXX, Monday - Friday, 8 AM - 9 PM EST.


Dun & Bradstreet Credibility Corp.
What is up with that?   It turns out that this "Credibility Corp." is now responsible for assigning DUNS numbers but also has a sideline selling what appears to be a corporate version of "Credit Protector".

It is the same deal the "credit score" people are selling - fear.   You should obsesses about your credit score (or in this case, your D&B score) as it is an indicia sent down from God Almighty as to your worth in life.  And thus, monitoring this all-important number is of the utmost importance.

Really?  Don't think so.  Go sell crazy somewhere else.

If you think about it, it is a pretty good deal - for them.   Like with Angie's List, they set up a mechanism whereby you (or your company) is evaluated and assigned a score or rating.   Then they sell you access to your own rating and then they sell you monitoring services of your rating, and then even sell you ways to enhance your rating.

A royal scam?  Perhaps.   Consider this:  Suppose I wrote you a letter saying that I have been spreading malicious gossip about you to all of your friends behind your back.   For a fee of $50, I will tell you what gossip I have been spreading, and for another $100, I'll tell you all the nasty things your friends have been saying.  And for $25 a month, I will update you on the latest rumors, innuendo, and outright lies spread about you.  But if you are willing to pay me $500 a month, I'll say only nice things about you and tell people stories about you that you ask me to tell them.

Sounds like a good deal, right?  Or isn't that a form of blackmail?  It is a fine line, and of course, these companies are very careful to skirt it and stay on the "legal"  side of things - or claim to be so.  They don't spread malicious rumors, of course.  But you have to pay, usually, just to find out what IS being said about you. The characteristics of all of them are the same or similar, whether it is Equifax, TransUnion, Credibility Corp, or Ripoff Reports, or Angie's List.
1.  They collect data about you or your financial trustworthiness or other indicia of honesty and square dealing.

2.  You often have to pay to see this data - or to see a score they create based on this data.

3.  They sell you a service to monitor this data, and/or

4.  They offer you, for a fee, to publish your own data, or update the information they have.
Maybe it is just me, but I see something horribly wrong in all of this.   Congress did, too.   Under the law, Credit Reporting Agencies have to disclose - to consumers - for free, once a year, their credit report data ( - and under the law, they have to correct errors in that data for free (or risk being sued).

But that is for consumers.  For businesses, the issue is murkier, and some businesses report that various online "consumer review" lists have bashed them without providing any opportunity to correct the record - unless they want to pay to have the record corrected or to become "premium members" and advertise on the site.

Needless to day, I am not signing up for "Credit Protector" anytime soon.  I really don't give a rat's ass about my credit rating at this point in my life, as I am debt-free.   And if someone doesn't want to engage my services because of a D&B report or an Angie's List posting, that's fine with me - I don't want to work for hysterical idiots.

But some folks are not so blase about it.    People worry what is being said behind their backs, and an e-mail purporting to sell you this data will trigger a response from many folks.  It is like a knee-jerk reaction - "What are people saying about me behind my back?" - as if we were all thrown back into High School yet again.

My advice?  Walk away from all of these gags.  Once you start caring what other people think of you, it will never end.   You will spend more time grooming your image than actually living.   And since you will be so concerned about your image you will not be yourself - you will become something else, entirely.

And unfortunately, a lot of people go through life this way.  It is sad.