Thoughts on data editing

It has been made painfully apparent that I might have some strong feelings about metadata editing. OK, some very VERY strong feelings.

As my staff will tell you (and tell you I repeat this to the point of annoyance), I take the following approach:

RULE #1: If it’s not wrong, leave it alone. Always. 

When editing, follow these three metadata editing steps:

  1. Fix errors. If something is wrong, fix it or remove it. Fix spelling errors, incorrect controlled vocabulary/identities, etc. Delete anything blatantly incorrect.
  2. Enhance. ADD value to the record to make it more findable. Add controlled data points (codes, controlled vocabulary, identities, relationship terms, etc.)
  3. Make it pretty. But ONLY if you have time to do so. It doesn’t matter how pretty the data is if no one can find it. Frankly, the user isn’t going to care if the note isn’t phrased “just so” as long as it has the information they need. Likewise, while all caps are annoying, they don’t impact indexing or findability (normalization…remember NORMALIZATION of all variable fields happens in indexing/searching) so just let it go. LET IT GO.

Don’t get me wrong. It took a LONG time for me to get to the point of letting go of the instinct to make everything pretty. I mean, I went into cataloging/metadata to channel my OCD in a positive/healthy direction. But I realized that my energy is better spent adding value and figuring out how to improve the system than on the little details that have no impact on findability.

And remember, sometimes you’re adding controlled data points for future use.  Just because your current system can’t use it, doesn’t mean it doesn’t have value. It just may be that the value can’t be realized in the current environment. Identifiers and controlled vocabularies and controlled data points (fixed codes) are what make the intertubes go ’round. Think about what your data will be able to do once it’s no longer silo-ed with that added data value.

Ultimately, always ask the following: IS IT FINDABLE?

If the answer is no, FIX IT and make it findable.

If the answer is yes, but not very well or it’s missing stuff…then ADD VALUE to make it more findable.

If the answer is yes, then just leave it be.

And if the answer is yes but I want to make it pretty, then BACK AWAY FROM THE KEYBOARD.

Spend your time and energy wisely. As with everything else, you want the best return on investment. And if you follow the main rule, and the three steps outlined above, you’ll see a positive impact on the findability of resources, without working overtime.

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The beginning of the end?

OK, at least I hope it’s the beginning of the end of this identity theft saga.

I spent over 2 hours on the phone on Friday trying to sort out what happened and fix it. Plus an additional hour or so on Monday. And a lot more time waiting for confirmation letters (I’ll be waiting on those for a few weeks more).

First I called the IRS. After spending a good 40 minutes on hold (OMG hold muzak is awful), I spoke with a very nice and very helpful woman. I was just trying to find out what I needed to mail them to dispute the tax adjustment. In what ended up being FABULOUS news, because I have all the paperwork, including the Federal court case number and the names of the two women that conspired and stole my identity, we were able to resolve the issue over the phone. I don’t owe the IRS any back taxes for forgiveness of a fraudulent loan.

I’ll still be holding my breath until I get the confirmation letter from the IRS that all is resolved. In three to five weeks. Natch.

Next I called the lending agency that filed the loan forgiveness using my Social Security Number. More time on hold with maddening muzak. After a good 15 minutes, I explained the issue to the receptionist. The woman who answered the phone was sufficiently horrified by the situation. After some back and forth and putting me on hold a few times to find out who to transfer me to, she asked me who I spoke with back in Dec. 2006. I gave her the name of the woman, and lo and behold, she still works there. SHE STILL WORKS THERE. Whoa. Unfortunately she wasn’t in on Friday, so I left a detailed message of the situation, reminding her that we spoke in Dec. 2006 about this same case, and for her to call me on Monday.

On Monday morning the woman from the lending agency called to get some more information. She does remember me and the situation and the ensuing court case (they filed a bunch of documentation with the courts). Needless to say she was very surprised to hear from me having assumed all was over and done with when the women were sentenced in 2008. Gee. I thought the same thing.

Apparently they were mandated by the courts to file 1099-C Cancellation of Debt forms for a number of accounts. The fraudulent account got mixed up in that. I’ve sent her all the relevant info about the 1099-C (date of file, etc.) on my IRS letter so hopefully she can figure out how an account closed due to fraud got mixed up in the court requirement. I also sent her the employee ID# for the lovely woman I spoke with at the IRS so she can fix the IRS issues on their end. She also promised to find a way to flag the fraudulent loan account so it never happens again. NEVER EVER. Somehow they have to figure out how to mark in their system to NOT file any paperwork with my Social Security Number. They can’t delete SSNs from their system (why, I’m not entirely sure…something about their antiquated system not letting them – they can correct, but not delete) but they should be able to permanently flag the account. She will mail me a confirmation letter detailing the situation and what they’ve done to fix it.

I still can’t fully exhale even now that things are in process to repair the latest issue and I’ve confirmed there will be no lasting damage. I don’t know when, if ever, I’ll really be able to trust that it’s all behind me. If nothing else, this has taught me to never ever let my guard down.

What you can do:
IRS Identity Protection
Federal Trade Commission Identity Theft Info

If you’re a victim:
DO NOT DELAY. Act immediately. Alert your bank(s), credit/loan companies, and the 3 credit reporting agencies to flag your accounts, file a police report in the jurisdiction the fraud/identity theft has taken place, file an affidavit, and document everything. Keep your documents. I dug my 3 inch file out of a box of old files and it’s what has kept the pain of the process this time to a minimum. I can guarantee I will keep it forever now.

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Where’s the end?

Have you ever had one of those things in your life that you just want to flip to the end of the book and make sure it all turns out OK? That it really does end? Yeah. One problem: I don’t know how long the damn book really is. Where is the end? Near? Far? Someone please tell me how many pages are left!

In the mail yesterday I received something from the IRS. This didn’t freak me out. I assumed that it was related to end of year W2 stuff. Heaven knows I’ve been receiving enough emails at work reminding me to check my information so my W2 is correct. Worse case scenario I’m being audited for some reason.

I was wrong. So very very wrong.

In the envelope was a bunch of paperwork telling me that they’ve made an adjustment to my 2013 taxes and I now owe them $1,200. Confused, I start reading the information as to where the extra income came from. I don’t remember making any extra money that would have any impact on my income.

Then I read the line of the company that filed the 1099-C and what it was for. Cancellation of debt. A company I don’t know. In St. Louis.

YOU HAVE GOT TO BE F*$&^@# KIDDING ME.

I screamed so loud I scared my dog and cat. I have no doubt my neighbors heard me.

It’s one of the companies the 2 women who stole my identity back in Sept. 2006 took out a loan from. This is the “forgiveness” of the fraudulent loan. The fraudulent loan is on MY taxes. Someone in that company didn’t remove my Social Security Number from their files. So when they filed their “forgiveness” paperwork they used my SSN and it got hooked into my taxes and now the IRS wants me to pay them money for the forgiveness of the fraudulent loan. It doesn’t even make sense. There is no logic to this whole damn case. <insert second scream of frustration here>

I have copies of all paperwork I mailed to the 3 companies the affidavit and the Federal case number and all the correspondence with the credit agencies and more. It’s a 3 inch thick file all related to the identity theft. These two women took out nearly $50,000 worth of loans in my name. The women were caught. They were found guilty and sentenced by the Federal courts in 2008. All the companies involved were supposed to delete my SSN from their records and change the name associated to the legal names of the women, effectively deleting any trace of me and my legal identity from all of their records. That’s the law. It’s been a nightmare for me. I’ve had random debt collection agencies contact me. My credit rating was messed up for years. You can read all about the saga on this blog.

I hadn’t had anything related to the identity theft show up since 2008. I thought I was in the clear. That I could put the nightmare to bed. That I could finally repair my credit and move forward with my life.

But the nightmare is back.

So now I have to make a bunch of phone calls and file a bunch of paperwork to try and sort this out. All because someone didn’t do their job and follow the law and remove me from their records. I’m so angry right now I can’t even find the words to fully express it.

I have no idea how long this particular book in my life is. I want to trust that it does have an end. That everything eventually turns out OK. I really wish I knew how long the book was and if the ending was near or far.

Frankly, I think I’d rather be audited.

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