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Drivers say south sound dealerships ran credit checks without permission

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Two south sound drivers said different auto dealerships pulled their credit reports without their permission.

Lori Coffin went to Titus-Will Toyota in Tacoma looking for a new 4 Runner.

Coffin had financing, so she didn’t need to have her credit checked.  But she said the salesman presented her with paperwork to sign called a five liner.

“We aren’t running your credit. and he’s like no this isn’t a credit check. We just have to report you to homeland security and make sure you’re not on the terrorist list,’” Coffin explained.

“Four times. Point blank. We are not running your credit.”

But when the Lori and her husband returned home with their new car, they both received alerts from Credit Karma that Titus-Will had checked their credit report.

“You did not have my consent,” Coffin said.

The Coffin’s called the dealership, demanding answers.

“It was their sales manager that called my husband because he was ready to drive the car back and give it back to them,” Coffin said.  “He was pretty upset.”

KIRO Radio host Gee Scott said the same thing happened to him at Auto Nation Renton Honda.

Scott had pre-approval and just one request.

“I said great, just don’t run my credit,” Scott said.  “’Oh no, no, no.  We won’t run your credit.’ Ok, cool.”

Then, he too got a notice about an credit inquiry.

“Somebody’s got to answer for this,” Scott said.  “You just can’t run somebody’s credit.”

As part of the Patriot Act, auto dealers have to get some personal information to run a check to see if a customer is on a terrorist list.  But experts said dealerships don’t have to run your credit for that check.

Becky House, from the non-profit American Financial Solutions, said any inquiry into your credit has consequences.

“You might lose some points because of that inquiry,” House said.

That can stay on your credit for up to two years.  House said to watch your credit during the car buying process.  If there’s an issue with your report, address it immediately.

“If you have an inquiry that you don’t agree with, that you’re saying I did not give permission for them to do this, really, in that situation, you’re going to have to go directly to the credit reporting agency,” House explained.

Lori Coffin was able to speak with the folks at Titus-Will and they explained to her what occurred.

“A mysterious button was pushed that prompted the wrong response in pulling up my credit,” Coffin said.  “I got a letter from the CEO or the owner saying, handwritten, saying they apologize and they’ll retract.”

Coffin is happy her credit score is repaired, but that’s about it.

“We took a ding but it was restored, but the thing is, it’s still a huge inconvenience and my thing is, in retrospect, were you not going to do anything until Jesse showed up?”

It is illegal to run someone’s credit without the customers approval, but many times these cases are unintentional.

In Lori’s case, Titus-Will sent letters to all three credit bureaus to correct their report.

In Gee’s case, Auto Nation Renton Honda said there was a misunderstanding between Gee and the salesman.   The spokesperson said the company apologized.  Gee said he has not received any apology.

Full statement from Titus-Will Toyota:

At Titus-Will Toyota, we feel tremendous gratitude that so many people in our community look to us when shopping for their next new or used vehicle. The modern day car-buying process includes measures of compliance and due diligence in order to protect the interests of lenders, dealers, our customers—even our nation’s security—from various detriments, including identity theft, other forms of fraud, and terrorism—farfetched as the latter may seem to the ordinary citizen. These measures require open communication and often the sharing of very sensitive, personal information, which furthermore, allows us as a prudent business transacting high-value merchandise to verify the identity of our customer and his/her creditworthiness. We know that our customers place their trust in us to handle their personal information responsibly, and in the overwhelming majority of cases, these measures work as intended and result in everyone’s best interest. Nonetheless, in such rare cases that these measures should have a detrimental effect on one of our customers, such as an unintended credit report inquiry, we are certainly willing to review the circumstances and, if appropriate, send a request of corrective action to the applicable credit bureau. It is our understanding that all three major credit bureau companies are/have been receptive to such requests.

Mishandling of such sensitive information violates the trust cultivated between the dealership and its customers. Working with a reputable dealer—one who values this trust—is key. At Titus-Will, we believe car-buying should be a positive, successful experience! It’s this type of experience that we aim to provide, and it’s what has kept our customers coming back to us for the past 80 years.

We were able to meet with Mr. and Mrs. Coffin and they appreciated our sincerity and response to their concern and we provided copies of letters we sent on their behalf to the credit bureaus regarding the inquiry made. 

Dawn Walston

Vice President, Titus-Will Toyota

Full statement from Auto Nation:

Mr. Scott visited the store on 7/20/2018 and worked a deal on a 2005 Toyota Camry, the vehicle was priced at $XXXX+ Tax, Doc and License for a total of $XXXXX Sales Manger  met with the customer to discuss the vehicle and pricing, the customer informed Him that he was pre-approved through his lender for $X amount and did not want to come up with any cash to cover the difference. We suggested that we may be able to offer other financing that might allow him to buy the car without any cash down but that we could not discount the car.

Shortly afterward the sales rep turned in a credit application completed by the customer, Arthur ran the customers credit in an attempt to get a better financing option.  At one point the customer did communicate to the sale rep that he did not want to have his credit run unfortunately Arthur was unaware of this and based on the completed application and the fact that the customers pre-approval was not enough to purchase the car he ran credit. We typically do not have customers fill out a credit application unless they are applying for credit.

Arthur did follow up with the customer to apologize for any misunderstanding ask if there was anything we could do to assist.

-Marc Cannon, Auto Nation

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