Credit reporting errors are astoundingly common. The Federal Trade Commission estimates there to be 40 million mistakes present on the credit reports of Americans. In fact, 1 of 5 consumers has a potentially material error in their credit reports. Let that sink in!
One extremely serious type of error is called a “mixed file.” A mixed file occurs when the credit histories of two different individuals are merged into a single report. The result is a credit report that contains information belonging to two different consumers as if they were the same individual.
Mixed file errors typically occur because the credit reporting agencies don’t use sufficiently rigorous criteria when “matching” consumer data. For example, the credit reporting agencies don’t require exact matches for addresses or Social Security numbers. Even more shockingly, when it comes to women, the credit reporting agencies often don’t even require matching last names.
That means its possible that someone with a name like Amy Poehler could even have a credit report mixed with a name like Amy Schumer. (We wish we were joking!). While combining those two "Amys" may make for one funny comedian, the combination of two individual's credit reports isn't a laughing matter. It can be a nightmare for consumers trying to fix the problem without assistance.
If your credit report is merged with a person who has terrible credit, it could torpedo your credit score and wreak havoc on your life. You might have issues obtaining a lease or a mortgage. You could be prevented from obtaining a home loan, as well as a credit cards student loan or car loan. If that wasn’t enough, you may be bombarded with debt collection calls for debts you don’t owe.
Given the prevalence and harmful nature of mixed file error in credit reports, it’s important for you to obtain free copies of your credit reports from each credit bureau once a year at www.annualcreditreport.com. If you find information on the report that doesn’t belong to you, here's how to initiate a dispute with the credit bureau that has mismatched your data. If the credit bureaus don’t correct the mismatched data or if we can otherwise help, contact us.
Ruth is the founder of Jackson Lee | PA, a consumer law firm recognized for slaying the toughest legal issues. In addition to being an attorney and wife of one, she's a mom to four future world-changers. Drop Ruth a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.