Imagine getting denied a credit card because someone else is on your credit report. I'm not talking about identity theft. I'm talking about a case of blended credit reports.
The Columbia Dispatch found that 1 in 17 consumer complaints (of 21,500) in 2009 to the Federal Trade Commission and 1 in 12 complaints (of 1,842) in 2009 and 2010 to state attorneys general involved the consumer's credit report being mixed with another person's.
The news report illustrated the mix-up by offering three tales of financial identity confusion.
One Ohio woman's credit report contained the bad credit of a woman living in Utah. Another found her daughter's poor credit history on her own report. And one lady named Brenda Campbell almost had her wages garnished because two other Brenda Campbells were on her credit report.
At this point, I'd normally say, pull your credit report and make sure everything on it is correct. (You're entitled to a free credit report from each of the three credit reporting agencies every 12 months at AnnualCreditReport.com.)
The report you pull will be based off your name, date of birth, Social Security number and current address. However, lenders often use only one or two of those identifying features to pull a credit report.
That means if a creditor pulls your credit report using your name and date of birth, there's a possibility someone else shares those features and their report will be combined with yours. In other cases, Social Security numbers or names just have to be similar for the mistake to occur.
This kind of botch typically happens to people who share the same or similar names and often are in the same family, says John Ulzheimer, president of consumer education at SmartCredit.com.
To help the credit bureaus keep records straight, make sure to fill in your credit application with complete information, he says. Don't forget the Jr. or Sr. and/or an apartment number, for example.
If the blunder does happen, Ulzheimer recommends disputing the process manually. Talk to someone at each credit bureaus -- TransUnion, Equifax and Experian -- and have them contact the lender of the disputed item. (Each bureau has a dedicated department for mixed files, which is separate from departments that handle run-of-the-mill credit report errors.)
(Of course, this is easier said than done as the Columbia Dispatch article showed the difficulties the three ladies had correcting their reports. If you run into a brick wall, consider a consumer-law attorney.)
"The good news is once something is identified as not belonging to a consumer, there is a way to red flag it, so it won't happen again," Ulzheimer says. "It's a permanent fix."
What's your worst/most unusual credit report problem? How did you resolve it?
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