Credit reports contain errors on a regular basis. So, before applying for new credit or beginning your credit repair journey make sure that all of the information contained in your credit report is yours.
Reasons for such mixes include:
- Common name. For example, a father and son who live at the same address, or who don't add Sr. or Jr. when completing credit applications.
- Loan officers make clerical mistakes. For example, spelling names wrong, transposing social security numbers when pulling the credit report, or even entering incorrect addresses.
- When reporting data to the Credit Reporting Agency (CRA) personal information is entered incorrectly. For example, an address at which you never lived.
- If married, the social security number of the incorrect spouse is entered. This is not good because each credit report should be individual. What can happen is a merged credit report resulting in incorrect scores.
- Co-signing for children or other people. Sometimes the lender will match the social security number with the wrong person.
- Individuals with the same name mixed at the CRA's side. For example, John L Smith and John M Smith all is the same except the middle initial. This is a very common mistake.
It is not easy finding these mistakes, but if you know you see information that does not belong to you, then call the CRA specifically to ask, "Is my file mixed?"
Mortgage lenders pull three bureau credit reports through different systems. Sometimes the system has the capability to pull in mixed reports or split files, which will show the conflicting information. This is something consumer reports don't always show.
Experian:Experian is the best for this because the mix can show two ways.
- It will show additional names and addresses and possibly incorrect accounts that are not obvious. If the consumer gets the chance to review the credit report and knows something is not right, then the consumer will have to write directly to Experian and provide a copy of a driver's license (with DL number marked out) and request to un-mix the file.
- Sometimes it is obvious showing additional social security number of the other individual mixed on the file. Fix the same way by writing to the CRA with request to un-mix the file.
Equifax: On the mortgage side when the files are split, the files are received as Equifax 1 and Equifax 2. What is different is that on the credit report are two credit scores, one for each file. But it is all merged on the mortgage reports. These are very complicated.
- It may very well be all of the consumer's information that just got split because two names were used. For example, a married name verses maiden name. If that is the case, Equifax advises to add both scores and divide by two for the end score to be used. But also follow up informing Equifax that the file needs to be re-merged.
- Other splits may be by common name, for example father and son, where there are two people making up the files. These need to be unmixed.
- Consumers using and pulling their personal credit report on a daily basis from monitoring services can cause problems, compiling soft hits to the credit report. If the file gets too large, Equifax cannot handle it and will result in a split file. Some accounts will show on one credit report while other accounts show on another credit report.
- TransUnion: Like Equifax, TransUnion doesn't show additional social security numbers, only additional names, addresses, and possible accounts that don't belong. The consumer must contact TransUnion with a copy of their driver's license in order to update the file.
So, depending on the vender and software used, besides the type of creditor, different things can result when trying to pull credit reports. Sometimes it just looks like you have no credit history, and other times it mixes other people's credit reports right in with yours. If creditors don't know to look for the warning signs, they will flat out decline credit because they think it was all your credit that was bad.
The CRA's don't go first and foremost by the social security number. Listed below is how the repositories assign importance to this information (from most important to least important). Notice the SSN is not the most important (Information provided by California Association of Mortgage Brokers, Orange County Chapter, Shedding Light on Credit Scoring by the NAMB Credit Scoring Committee Chair, March 12, 2002):
With this in mind, understand that it is quite easy for the creditors to mix consumer files.Even if you catch this and fix it completely, it can happen again.
You must take precautions to just use one deviation of spelling your name, especially if you have a father and son with similar names living at the same address.
Finally, be sure to obtain a copy of your credit report at least once a year or 60 days prior to applying for credit so you can catch and fix mistakes in time.