How a small typo ruined a Mass. couple’s credit


It all started with a small typo. But it quickly led to a big problem.In the span of a few weeks, a local couple faced multiple credit card declines because of that typo and yet could not find anyone with the power to help restore their credit.Mary and John Neale won’t ever look at a store credit card offer again – not after what they’ve endured the last few months. Their story began in March at the Lowe’s in Westborough, where John Neale was buying lumber and a Lowe’s employee offered him 20 percent off if he opened an “account.”Not realizing it was a credit card, he said yes but then was inexplicably declined.”I didn’t care. I didn’t ask for the discount anyway, so I went to the register,” John Neale said. A few days later, John received a letter from Lowe’s credit card vendor – Synchrony Bank – saying his request for a Lowe’s card was declined because they couldn’t verify his identity. Again, it didn’t really both him – until his wife Mary Neale made a trip to the mall.That’s when Mary Neale was offered a big discount at Macy’s if she paid with her Macy’s card. But Mary’s card was too old, and so the store clerk told her she needed to reapply. She agreed.”And then said, ‘It’s not going through. You’ve been declined,'” Mary Neale said. “Meanwhile, there are people standing behind me. They’re hearing all this and I’m mortified.”Macy’s declined Mary Neale’s application because John Neale was recently declined by Lowe’s. “So, now, I cared!” John Neale said, worried about the snowballing effect on the couple’s credit.John Neale went back to Lowe’s and was told the only way to clear the decline from his record was to successfully apply for the credit card.So, he applied again but was declined again. The reason he was given this time was because of the first decline.That’s when he learned he was originally turned down because the Lowe’s clerk had mistyped his Social Security number on the application.”I was declined because of a typo in the Social Security number that I didn’t put in,” John Neale said.Even though it was a Lowe’s typo, the store passed the buck to Synchrony Bank.It’s a good chance you’ve had one of their cards in your wallet because they provide credit card services to a wide range of major retailers. Nobody at Synchrony – including managers – seemed to have the power to help.Instead, John Neale said everyone blamed their computer system.”It is not acceptable to ruin somebody’s credit on a typo and say there’s nothing you can do about it,” John Neale said. “I just felt it was ridiculous. And it was a stalemate that shouldn’t be.”The credit reporting system “definitely is broken. The fact that they couldn’t override their own mistake,” Mary Neale said.The Neales say their story raises lots of questions about why it’s so difficult to fix a simple error in our credit reporting system. It’s similar to the problem Eileen D’Entremont faced last year when Kohl’s reported to the credit bureaus that she had died instead of her deceased mother. That error erased her credit score and made her ineligible for a loan. Exasperated that no one seemed to have the power to help, she turned to NewsCenter 5.”No one wanted to own up to this,” D’Entremont said. “They developed the vaccine faster than I’ve gotten this thing solved, and this is not right.”After the Neales reached out, NewsCenter 5 contacted Lowe’s, since the mistake began there. That night John got a call from company management saying they’d get Synchrony to fix the mess. A spokesperson for Synchrony Bank told NewsCenter 5 “we deeply regret” the issues faced by the Neales, and the bank immediately approved John Neale for a Lowe’s card.That means his second decline has been erased, and the bank told him it would file to remove the first decline, a process that can take up to 60 days.The Synchrony spokesperson declined to answer questions about why managers don’t have the authority to override declines based on human error.The Neales say they’re finished applying for store credit cards.”Even if they’re going to give me the item for nothing, I’m done!” Mary Neale said.

It all started with a small typo. But it quickly led to a big problem.

In the span of a few weeks, a local couple faced multiple credit card declines because of that typo and yet could not find anyone with the power to help restore their credit.

Mary and John Neale won’t ever look at a store credit card offer again – not after what they’ve endured the last few months.

Their story began in March at the Lowe’s in Westborough, where John Neale was buying lumber and a Lowe’s employee offered him 20 percent off if he opened an “account.”

Not realizing it was a credit card, he said yes but then was inexplicably declined.

“I didn’t care. I didn’t ask for the discount anyway, so I went to the register,” John Neale said.

A few days later, John received a letter from Lowe’s credit card vendor – Synchrony Bank – saying his request for a Lowe’s card was declined because they couldn’t verify his identity. Again, it didn’t really both him – until his wife Mary Neale made a trip to the mall.

That’s when Mary Neale was offered a big discount at Macy’s if she paid with her Macy’s card. But Mary’s card was too old, and so the store clerk told her she needed to reapply. She agreed.

“And then [the clerk] said, ‘It’s not going through. You’ve been declined,'” Mary Neale said. “Meanwhile, there are people standing behind me. They’re hearing all this and I’m mortified.”

Macy’s declined Mary Neale’s application because John Neale was recently declined by Lowe’s.

“So, now, I cared!” John Neale said, worried about the snowballing effect on the couple’s credit.

John Neale went back to Lowe’s and was told the only way to clear the decline from his record was to successfully apply for the credit card.

So, he applied again but was declined again. The reason he was given this time was because of the first decline.

That’s when he learned he was originally turned down because the Lowe’s clerk had mistyped his Social Security number on the application.

“I was declined because of a typo in the Social Security number that I didn’t put in,” John Neale said.

Even though it was a Lowe’s typo, the store passed the buck to Synchrony Bank.

It’s a good chance you’ve had one of their cards in your wallet because they provide credit card services to a wide range of major retailers. Nobody at Synchrony – including managers – seemed to have the power to help.

Instead, John Neale said everyone blamed their computer system.

“It is not acceptable to ruin somebody’s credit on a typo and say there’s nothing you can do about it,” John Neale said. “I just felt it was ridiculous. And it was a stalemate that shouldn’t be.”

The credit reporting system “definitely is broken. The fact that they couldn’t override their own mistake,” Mary Neale said.

The Neales say their story raises lots of questions about why it’s so difficult to fix a simple error in our credit reporting system. It’s similar to the problem Eileen D’Entremont faced last year when Kohl’s reported to the credit bureaus that she had died instead of her deceased mother. That error erased her credit score and made her ineligible for a loan. Exasperated that no one seemed to have the power to help, she turned to NewsCenter 5.

“No one wanted to own up to this,” D’Entremont said. “They developed the [COVID-19] vaccine faster than I’ve gotten this thing solved, and this is not right.”

After the Neales reached out, NewsCenter 5 contacted Lowe’s, since the mistake began there. That night John got a call from company management saying they’d get Synchrony to fix the mess.

A spokesperson for Synchrony Bank told NewsCenter 5 “we deeply regret” the issues faced by the Neales, and the bank immediately approved John Neale for a Lowe’s card.

That means his second decline has been erased, and the bank told him it would file to remove the first decline, a process that can take up to 60 days.

The Synchrony spokesperson declined to answer questions about why managers don’t have the authority to override declines based on human error.

The Neales say they’re finished applying for store credit cards.

“Even if they’re going to give me the item for nothing, I’m done!” Mary Neale said.



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