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How Sr. can ruin your credit

By Janna Herron ·
Monday, May 7, 2012
Posted: 5 pm ET

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


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

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?

Follow me on Twitter: @JannaHerron.

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May 22, 2012 at 8:14 pm

Credit reporting agencies are and have been in bed with the credit card companies, insurance companies and banks for years, just like the phony stock reviews leading up the financial collapse.

By keeping your score LOW the credit card companies (insurance companies, utilities and more) can keep your rates HIGH. Do you not think this looks like a criminal conspiracy?

Used to be something negative was there for about 3-years, which was okay. Then it was 5 years, then 7 years and NOW it is 10-years! All, again, to keep your score LOW and your interest rates HIGH.

And this actually hurts not only YOU but businesses that might want to sell you something and cannot because they then want too much interest from the late payment 8 YEARS AGO that their internal finance people use to jack up rates--but it really hurts sales to people that just walk out!

May 12, 2012 at 9:21 am

My credit card story is that I don't use one. I got to retire at age 40 because I am CHEAP and the thought of paying an annual fee and revolving interest makes me want to ralph.

That's the reason Equifax and the others run so many people's lives.

If you want to buy something, save for it FIRST and it will be much cheaper.

May 11, 2012 at 3:32 pm

I refuse to allow credit bureaus dictate my life. Some of the banks and corporations are the biggest thugs ... and yet these bureaus & feds give them a "free pass."

May 11, 2012 at 1:57 pm

How in God's name did we reach the point where our lives are being run (and run over) by Equifax, Experian, Transunion, et al? We sat by and idly let our Social Security numbers be used by corporate America as a determinant in having access to: credit cards, bank accounts, cable, phones, utilities, transporation, mortgages, etc. Is this a part of the Social Security Act, or is this the brainchild of some corporate dog to facilitate "thumbs up" or "thumbs down" on applications. So, my friends what do we do about these abuses of power? Why do we worship at the Shrine of the Credit Reporting Bureaus??

May 11, 2012 at 5:08 am

around 2004 i started to recive double bills from charge accounts i already paid off or combined them into other cheaper interest rate charges... the ones i refinanced kept sending me was a nightmare...i should have had only 3 accounts and suddenly i was up to 6...i called the charge companies and did all i knew how to husband then got so made at me and accused me of taking cash advances out and over spending...and my 34 year marriage ended as a result of this...PLEASE BE CAREFUL..READ YOUR STATEMENTS..KEEP RECORDS...DON'T TRUST THE CREDIT CARD COMPANIES...ALSO...there are 6 other people living in my area with the same name..middle and all...SO PLEASE PAY ATTENTION BEFORE YOU LOSE IT ALL LIKE ME....DO NOT TRUST ANY FOREIGN BANKS OR ONES THAT KEEP CHANGING AND MERGING EITHER...

May 10, 2012 at 11:08 pm

i have an address on my credit report, that was supposed to have been removed. it was at one time, now it is there again. these people do have too much influence in our lives. i agree with anthony, there needs to be a class action suit. why should we suffer at the hands of a bunch of morons that don't care? this is not fair to us. they don't pay attention to name, age, birthdate, or social security no. if the name comes up, that is where they stick the negative stuff. GET A CLASS ACTION SUIT GOING!!!!!

May 10, 2012 at 10:40 pm

Credit Reporting bureau's do not care! My father and I are 32 years apart in age. We share the same first and last name, but have different middle initials. I have to fight all three agencies every few years to take off the same errors as in previous reports. Some errors are positive and some negative, but my opinion is they are not mine good or bad. Credit reporting bureaus have too much influence on people's lives. The government needs to institute stricter regulations on how credit agencies report and obtain their information. I agree with Anthony, a class action suit would be the right step!

Anne Rice
May 10, 2012 at 8:46 pm

Credit companies can be very sloppy about checking names. My late husband's first wife's name (follow that?) was very similar to mine. As a result, I was once denied credit because I had a bad record dating back to before I was born! I questioned the store manager very sharply about this but he just kept repeating, "Look, lady, that's what it says."

I went elsewhere.

May 10, 2012 at 8:24 pm

The three credit reporting agencies have an obligaation to consumers to verify accurately whom they are providing credit reports on. This information is paramount to consumers, and rightly so, like banks, they are held to a greater standard. Maybe a class action would wake up these people. Or, better yet, let's fire up some of the Federal regulators to do an inspection
of their business practices. Hello, have we forgotten Banks??

May 08, 2012 at 4:04 pm

I have the issue with Jr/Sr with my dad, who only recently started putting "Sr" on his applications. As a result, I have a store card on my credit record that has been open since I was 6. Since there is no negative activity, I have left it there.