Finding out that your credit report has been merged with someone else’s information usually occurs at the most inopportune time. Often it’s when you’re considering the purchase of a home or car, taking out a student loan, or possibly looking for a new job or apartment. However, it’s not until after credit applications are denied, or credit scores lowered, that most consumers review their credit reports. At that point, when errors are discovered, damage to one’s credit may have already taken place.
Read more below:
How do credit files get mixed?
There are a variety of reasons why credit files get mixed. With the amount of information handled by creditors and the credit bureaus, mistakes are bound to happen. For example, information from an application may be keyed into a file incorrectly. Digits on a social security number may be transposed, or a name misspelled from an application. Those errors can pass from the original creditor through to the credit bureau. Or, the credit bureau mistakenly may combine credit files of two or more different consumers into one file. Unfortunately, the errors may not be discovered until the consumer reviews his or her report…usually after applying for new credit.
Common errors on mixed credit files
-Share a common family name, such as Smith or Jones
-Name suffixes – i.e. Sr., Jr., III
-Similar Social Security Number or Birthdate
-Co-signers on loans
-Unidentifiable accounts resulting from identity theft
-Public record listings – judgments, liens, foreclosures.
Correcting mis-merged or mixed credit files
If you believe someone else’s information has been mixed with or merged onto your credit file, a written dispute must be sent to the reporting agency. Disputes for information on credit reports should be sent directly to Transunion, Experian or Equifax. If errors appear on an industry specific agency report, such as ones used by employers, insurance companies, banks, or landlords for screening applicants, the dispute must be sent directly to that agency. Correction of mis-merged or mixed credit files is similar to disputing errors on credit files. Consumers should follow these important steps:
Obtain current copies of your credit reports from Transunion, Experian and Equifax, or the industry specific agency.
Write for a current copy of your complete report. Your letter must include two forms of identification to validate your ID and address, such as a current driver’s license and utility bill.
Highlight items on your report that are incorrect.
Gather documents that confirm your identity. You must be able to distinguish yourself from the other person, such as a birth certificate, social security card, passport, driver’s license, account statements with your address, or paystub from your employer. Provide copies of documents that specifically relate to the error(s) on the report.
Also, if you know who the mixed information belongs to, such as a relative, let the credit bureau know. This may help in their investigation and enable a faster resolution to your dispute.
Prepare a dispute letter for the reporting bureau. The letter must state that your file has been mixed with someone else. Clearly identify the mistakes and provide relevant documents that show the error(s). Request that the bureau correct your file. Ask for written confirmation that shows the correction has been made.
The credit bureau has 30 days to address disputes
The reporting bureau has 30 days to respond to your written dispute. If errors are not corrected, you may need to send a second dispute to that bureau, and possibly provide additional documentation. Or, you may need to write to the underlying creditor, explain the problem and request corrected information be sent to the reporting bureau.
Can I sue the Credit Bureau or Credit Furnisher?
The Fair Credit Reporting Act is a federal law written to protect consumers from inaccurate or incomplete information listed on credit files. When credit bureaus or credit furnishers do not take steps to correct errors on credit reports, the consumer may consider filing a lawsuit against the reporting bureau or creditor furnisher.
Flitter Milz in Action
Flitter Milz nets $360K Award in Mixed-File Case:
Hutchins v. Mountain Run Solutions, LLC
A U.S. federal court recently awarded $360,000 to our client, a young man whose life was upended by a debt collector who refused to remove an inaccurate account from his credit report despite our client’s numerous requests. The case is Hutchins v. Mountain Run Solutions, LLC and can be found here.
Our client is a young professional who noticed a collection account he didn’t recognize on his credit report. The account – which dragged down his credit score – belonged to his father, who shared the same name but had a different date of birth, SSN, and address. The son made three disputes to the credit bureau Experian and the debt collector, Mountain Run Solutions, claiming the debt was not his and asking for an investigation, only to have his requests to investigate ignored. He was forced to sue.
Mixed files like this, as recognized by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, are a big, big problem in the credit reporting industry.
After a damages hearing in federal court, the court entered judgment against the debt collector, awarding $180,000 to the son for the mental and emotional toll the negative credit caused him. The court also said punitive damages were warranted for the debt collector’s knowing and willful violation, adding another $180,000 to the award for a total of $360,000. (The claim against the credit bureau was resolved out of court).
Seek Qualified Legal Counsel
If someone else’s debt or a stranger’s account is on your credit report, Flitter Milz can help. Whether your credit file has been mixed or mis-merged with a family member, someone with a similar name, or a total stranger, your consumer rights may have been violated. Contact Us for a no cost evaluation.
Pictured: Cary Flitter (center), Andy Milz (left), Jody López-Jacobs (right).