I'm going to show you how to obtain a free LexisNexis background report on yourself.
The report will pick up almost every known record about you from lawsuits to liens, criminal records to credit reports — and so much more.
Why do you want it?
This report is used to set your insurance score, and your insurance score helps determine how much you pay for an insurance policy. Your score is supposed to determine the likelihood of you filing a claim.
The report I'm describing — called a Driver Discovery Record (among other names) — might even have inaccuracies in it. That's OK. You can correct any errors.
LexisNexis is no scam website. Its credibility is top-notch — but it's expensive. As I mentioned, this report is free — and I'll show you how to get it.
How I found out
I owe this one to a longtime citizen of my Watchdog Nation consumer rights movement. He's my computer guy Scott. And that's his business name, My Computer Guy Scott.
Scott Green set up my first computer in 1986, and he's been keeping me afloat in cyberspace ever since. Anyway, Scott likes to read the fine print on things.
Recently, he noticed on his auto insurance policy a fine-print disclosure that he could go to a specific website and get this free report.
He sent away for the report, and after receiving it, he told The Watchdog all about it.
I ordered mine.
Holy cow, as baseball announcer Phil Rizzuto used to say.
In last week's Watchdog column, I called for a Texas Consumer Privacy Act to protect our data from third parties.
And now I see this report. You know how people talk about going "off the grid?" Well, this free report IS the grid.
Inside the report
What's in it?
It starts with your entire family's driving record, accidents and tickets. But you knew that's in there. Your insurance agent discusses that with you when explaining why your rates are so high.
Then it shows who else pulled your records. (Mine shows a voter registration outfit and credit bureaus mostly).
It details residential history going back to 1985.
Property tax records going back 16 years.
Bankruptcy, criminal and deed records.
Lawsuits, civil filings, judgments and liens.
All your phone numbers, even unlisted ones. Any professional licenses?
Then comes the cherry topping on this monster: your credit report.
All I can say is: Texas, thank you for deferred adjudication on traffic tickets. Otherwise, our reports would be a lot worse.
What's it for?
LexisNexis explains on its website: "Insurance companies use credit reports, along with an insurance score, to accurately calculate risk. Studies have shown a correlation between the financial history of a person and his/her future insurance loss potential.
"As a result, insurance companies incorporate the use of insurance scores in their pricing and underwriting ... ."
My insurance agent, Janet Spracklen, tells me about two male twins.
"Exactly the same age, same college, same occupation, both married, live next door to each other," she says. "But the only difference may be one wife might have a speeding ticket three years ago. He's going to pay more for car insurance than his twin."
Spracklen explains, "You start out with a base rate, and then it deviates up or down based on a point system. Positive points can be a high value home or occupation. Negative points could be driving record activity or low credit score."
Our right to know
Ware V. Wendell, leader of Texas Watch, a consumer lobbying group that battles the insurance industry in the Texas Legislature, says: "Consumers should have the right to know exactly how insurance companies gather information about us and to easily dispute the information if it's wrong.
"Decisions based on incorrect information can end up costing working families real money."
Joseph H. Malley, a top privacy lawyer in Dallas, told me: "It would be beneficial for everyone to get the report, see who has requested it — and then freeze credit access."
(Search for my November column at https://bit.ly/2FzmoNT: "How to protect your identity with a free lifetime credit freeze on your file at the major credit bureaus.")
How to get the report
Before I give you the website for the free report, let me go over a few things. Every time I mention a website, some people get confused. They type in the wrong URL. They click on things I tell them to avoid. They pay when they shouldn't. Then they complain to me. Simon says follow directions, OK?
In this case, I know you're going to fret that you must apply with your phone number (even if unlisted), Social Security number and address. Don't fret. LexisNexis already knows that about you. Boy, do they!
The report will be mailed to your home address in approximately 10 days.
Also, you'll see on this website I'm about to divulge that you're entitled to this report if an insurance company denied you coverage, increased your rates, limited your coverage or canceled your policy.
I've tested it. You don't need to have had any of that happen to get the report. The website doesn't ask for a reason. That's why I call it a back-door method.
Besides, find me one person in Texas whose insurance rates haven't gone up.
OK, here it is: www.ConsumerDisclosure.com.