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Financial Literacy - Credit scores
SPOTLIGHT
Evan Hendricks
The author of "Credit Scores & Credit Reports" sounds off about the current credit reporting system.
Credit scoring, demystified

Interview: Evan Hendricks

What causes mixed files to happen?
Credit scores & credit reports

Mixed files happen because of similarities first in Social Security numbers, and then in names. Addresses and geographical locations also will play a role. So, the first thing people have to understand is the use of what we call a "partial matching algorithm" to decide if you are you, or what information goes into your file that they're going to sell to a creditor. The general rule is if seven out of the nine digits match, they consider that a partial match, provided that some of the name information will match up as well. So, people who have only one or two digits different in their Social Security numbers and have enough common letters in their names and live in the same geographic region could be considered to be the same person by the computers, and that causes a mixed file.

If a consumer's file is mixed with somebody else's, will the consumer be able to see that on his or her credit report?

Well, if consumers get their report, they will be able to see that at a minimum, there are accounts on their credit report that they know are not theirs. What often happens is that in a mixed-file case, the address of the other person will either become your current address or your previous address. And that will be your hint that you're a victim of a mixed file. The same goes for identity theft, by the way, because the credit bureaus rely on what's reported to them by creditors. And so, if Leslie A. McFadden in Savannah has information coming in from Capital One and you -- I don't know what your middle name is -- Leslie B. McFadden, you have this two digits' difference in your social, then you're going to start seeing rotisserie addresses -- basically, where whoever reported most recently becomes the current address. The address can start flip-flopping if you get your credit report every month.

When to call an attorney
When should a person get an attorney?

I think that when you've gone though the dispute process, and you've sent in a dispute and you've attached the documentation such as your driver's license, copy of your Social Security card and any other information showing why the information is wrong, and they still don't fix it after a couple disputes, it's time. Or, if they do fix it and it's back on in a couple of months and you dispute it again. Once it goes wrong two or three times and you can't get any justice, then I strongly advise seeking an attorney that specializes in these sorts of cases. You find them at the Web site Naca.net, which stands for National Association of Consumer Advocates.

-- Posted: June 18, 2007
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