Queen of the Day Oregon Woman Wins Millions For Doing "What You're Supposed To Do" Parry Ernsberger

When Julie Miller was denied credit from a bank in 2009, she wanted to know why. She contacted Equifax, the company that had prepared her report, to investigate. What Julie learned about her report made Equifax seem like a careless teenager sneakily scrawling their parents’ credit card information on the back of a recycled receipt. There were mistakes — and lots of them.

After receiving a copy of her credit report, Miller found false identifying information, an incorrect Social Security number, a false birthday and false, derogatory collection accounts that she was not responsible for. D’oh. Julie then entered the life-draining Black Hole of outsourced customer service, where souls go to die. You know the one. The one where you’re on hold for 17 minutes before you can get anyone on the phone, only to repeatedly spill all of your personal information to three different departments over the course of an hour (all the while being intermittently bombarded with white noise torture tactics in the form of Kenny G hold music) and ending in an empty promise that a “supervisor” will call you back within 24-48 business hours. Hell. On. Earth.

Julie started disputing the false information in 2010, according to her complaint, and was denied credit by yet another bank that same year before Equifax was able to “process” her information. Once they were able to identify the root of the problem (her info had become “mixed” with another person’s), they passed the buck and told Miller she’d have to take it up with the creditors. “Not our problem,” basically.

But it WAS Equifax’s problem, and after Miller tried 8 (yes, EIGHT) times to get her report corrected, she took them to court in 2011.

“We found that when complaints would come in, they’d run them through a scanner and then send them overseas,” says Justin Baxter, one of Miller’s attorneys. (Miller’s particular request was once sent as far as the Philippines for processing by a subcontractor.)

Miller won her suit, and she won BIG. The jury awarded her $18.6 million in damages — an unprecedented amount that may partially be due to our increased sensitivity to (lack of) information privacy, according to Baxter.

ABC News points out that “the mixing of Miller’s credit data with another person’s meant that at the same time Miller was being sent the other person’s un-redacted personal information, her own unredacted personal information, including her social security number, were being sent to others.”

But Baxter also thinks that Miller won the money because she should have, plain and simple. She repeatedly tried to get Equifax to correct their errors and was backed into a financially restrictive corner on several occasions before taking them to task.

“She did what you’re supposed to do,” Baxter says. “She didn’t go running straight to the courthouse.”

Isn’t it nice when justice prevails?

Featured image via Shutterstock

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  1. this sort of happened to me. My mom and my names are very similar (2 letter difference) neither of us have middle names…so our SS#s were linked as the same person..and it was noted that our names were just a common mispelling of each other (which even if that WAS the case, why would they allow it?) so we called them and fixed it…at least i havent seen anything that makes me think it hasnt..tho it kinda happened again yrs later when my mom moved but i didnt and they figured we were the same person again (mailman didnt read the name right) and fowarded all my mail and info to my mom’s place in another state…so now my permanent record claims i lived in GA for a yr….untrue…

  2. My dad once decided to start his own business, but for some odd reason he wasn’t able to because of someone else’s current status.
    Dozens of people with different social security numbers, birthdays, middle names and even his twin brother popped up. The government had linked their accounts to his. Calling didn’t solve much, so he stopped by and had to come back for three days straight as errors kept streaming in.

    Asking for hospital records is also one of those annoyances. He gets data that doesn’t belong to him. It’s not only bothersome to receive the wrong documents time and time again, but it’s also a breach of privacy as he could read the entire medical history of similarly named people in the neighborhood.

  3. I know this is off topic but…….I like how people think that when they call a customer service phone line they are the only ones calling it. There a literally hordes of people calling that number and there aren’t enough people to take each individual caller. Wait your turn. Someone called before you and they have every right to stay on their call with customer service as long as necessary. Plus, those service reps aren’t the be all-end all of solutions. They don’t have any power. They still need to slog through a few managers and decision makers to try and get any where near a solution. And that smaller group of managers and decision makers is being pulled in a hundred different directions to help the other equally important customers. So chill out and wait for other customers who called first to get service. And they will be waiting behind the customers who called before them. There isn’t a single service rep for each individual customer. Let’s be realistic.

    • “Chilling out” is a weird suggesting regarding the fact that you just exactly pointed out where the problem lies when calling customer service. Because whose fault is it that there aren’t enough people to take each individual caller? Or that they don’t have any power? Or that they need to slog through a few managers and decision makers to try and get any where near a solution? Or that that smaller group of managers and decision makers is being pulled in a hundred different directions to help the other equally important customers?

      It’s the company’s fault for providing a lacking service and NOT the customer’s. So while I always try to stay friendly when I’m talking to customer services, I do understand that people get upset when they have to wait forever to talk to someone who then isn’t even able to help.
      It’s a general problem that won’t be solved by the paying customer’s ‘chilling out’ but by changing the way customer service is organized. If you as a firm provide a service, product etc. people pay for and there is a problem with this service/product, you are responsible for tending to these problems in an organized effective way.
      And NO ONE is blaming the people who called first…that’s a weird way to look at this. It’s the whole system that’s at fault…not the customers – no matter who called first.

  4. Good for her!!! I am at this time going through something similar with the same “trio” of companies. It is possible I have talked to people contracted by their company on 4 different continents, but definitely have not gotten any answers regarding the misinformation our files contain. Maybe I’ll mention a lawsuit, since they have lost big now, they might just get the job done in this century. It’s so unfair that we as consumers are subjected to this idiocy and unless we have uncounted hours to spend on the phone it’s just our tough luck if these companies do not correct and/or update our files. It’s infuriating!!

  5. that’s amazing and shows how important it is to regularly check your credit and finances.

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