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I recently applied for a credit card that my wife has. I was responding to a great offer that I believe this credit card company sent me based on my good credit score and so on.

When I applied online, they told me to call a number because they needed more information.

When I did, they had me wait 20 minutes and then came back and told me they needed proof of my income tax return.

This is really strange.

The only thing I could think of is that they saw in their company databases that I discharged a debt with them via Chapter 7 over a decade ago and are demanding more info of me than they would anyone else.

Does this sound accurate? Can anyone confirm that this is a thing?

Either that or based on my surname they surmised that there is no way I make the income I say I do.

Again, can anyone confirm this as a practice?

I have another credit card with another company that also got discharged. They did not put me through this.

I am based in the United States by the way.

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  • Is this a rare example of an "is this a scam" question where the answer is actually "no"?!? Jun 24, 2021 at 13:47

3 Answers 3

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A number of lenders - American Express and Discover are most notable for this in recent years - may ask or require you to verify your income via an IRS 4506-T form.

Typically, they'll do this if they're uncertain about your credit profile in some way; a high claimed income, a history of bankruptcy, a low credit score, a thin credit file, etc.

Because the information comes directly from the IRS, they can trust the income more than your self-reported income you entered into the credit card application. (Yes, you can lie to the IRS, but that's a felony.)

As you have a history of bankruptcy - with this lender - I'd suspect that's why they're a little leery of you. It's up to you whether the new card is worth the invasion of privacy here.

While bankrutpcy does indeed fall off your report after about a decade, depending on type, no law forbids individual lenders from keeping their own records on you. American Express is noteworthy for having a very long memory for their "blacklist", and they may make you pay them back before they'll issue a new card.

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    @Daniel It's very clearly not illegal. law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/11/524 "Nothing contained in subsection (c) or (d) of this section prevents a debtor from voluntarily repaying any debt." nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/… "bankruptcy laws do not prohibit you from voluntarily paying debts after the discharge"
    – ceejayoz
    Jun 22, 2021 at 16:42
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    @Daniel Amex's Optima program involves an exchange; you voluntarily agree to pay a debt they can't legally force you to pay any more, and in exchange they let you back in. Feel free to waste money getting a lawyer to explain all this again, though.
    – ceejayoz
    Jun 22, 2021 at 16:49
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    My understanding is that Optima cards were a one-time thing. Amex's general policy is that if you have ever not paid any of your debt in full, due to bankruptcy, settlement or charge-off, you will be banned for life. Amex had offered settlements for years without disclosing this fact, they were sued, and forced to offer a card to those who were banned without proper warning.
    – user71659
    Jun 22, 2021 at 17:32
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    @Daniel There is nothing requiring a private company offer anybody credit, as long as their criteria is not on the list set by law (Equal Credit Opportunity Act, e.g. race, gender, marital status, etc.). While the Fair Credit Reporting Act imposes certain rules about aging out bankruptcies, a credit record is not "authoritative," is maintained by a private company, and no law says that creditors may only consider what is on a credit record.
    – user71659
    Jun 22, 2021 at 22:17
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    @Daniel you can’t say “is clearly illegal” and then also claim “legislation has not caught up” - either it’s illegal or it’s not. Perhaps try thinking about it this way: you shoplift from a family business. They know, but don’t sue you. Instead they refuse you purchase from their store until you pay back the cost. That’s legal: nothing forces them to allow you to buy their products. They’re not discriminating based on any protected characteristic.
    – Tim
    Jun 23, 2021 at 8:25
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Surprisingly common

If your credit score/report is not stellar they may ask for proof of income. Income tax returns are probably the easiest way to do this.

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The only thing I could think of is that they saw in their company databases that I discharged a debt with them via Chapter 7 over a decade ago and are demanding more info of me than they would anyone else.

Yes, it is extremely likely that this is the reason, although there could be other reasons as well. They have you on file as having discharged your debt, and will use the most stringent means available to assess the risk of lending to you again. Using IRS forms is a means of ensuring the truthfulness of your claimed income.

Remember, they are in no way obligated to lend you capital / extend a line of credit to you. Similarly, if you do not like their terms, you can walk away.

Either that or based on my surname they surmised that there is no way I make the income I say I do.

No. This assertion is absolutely absurd. I hope for your sake that this was supposed to be a joke.

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    the assertion being absolutely absurd? Wow. What world do you live in? Have you ever heard of redlining? Steering? All acknowledged practices under a court of law. With that said, I no longer believe it was that they have me in a database as discharging my debt, I believe more than before, that they refuse to believe I make as much as I make, not sure for what reason, I was just speculating, but if my assertion was absurd there would not be an Equal Credit Opportunity Act passed on the part of Congress, unless they are all absurd as well.
    – Daniel
    Jun 24, 2021 at 0:16
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    I think you meant to write "assess." The word you wrote is a plural noun with a very different meaning. :)
    – reirab
    Jun 24, 2021 at 3:38
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    There's also AI (incorrect training thereof). In one case an AI was pretty good at recognising Russian tanks, They then found out that it had "learned" that if the trees near the tank were pine trees (possibly of particular sorts), the tank was likely to be a Russian one. Oops.
    – nigel222
    Jun 24, 2021 at 12:08
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    Well there you go, Daniel, you answered your own question in your response to me, but somehow still got it wrong. The Equal Credit Opportunity Act (of 1974 - nearly 50 years ago) is precisely why your assertion is absurd. Or maybe you have a time machine you didn't mention. You basically said "Is it this huge red flag In my file at that company, or is it because of my race?" 1. It would be obviously illegal to discriminate based on race, 2. That practice would be far more expensive for them due to litigation than losing more money extending credit to you. It was absurd.
    – tlock
    Jun 29, 2021 at 5:08
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    Did they dislike your surname when they extended credit to you the first time (the one you never repaid that they had to eat)? Does your wife share your surname? Sounds like they didn't dislike it when they approved her. The assertion was absurd, but doubling down on it was worse.
    – tlock
    Jun 29, 2021 at 5:18

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