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.
In particular, a mixed or split credit report can create quite the headache. In these cases, your information has been combined or mixed with someone else’s.
Reasons for such mix-ups include:
- A 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 can create 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 or similar names mixed on the CRA’s side. For example, John L. Smith and John M. Smith winding up with each other’s information on their respective reports. This is a very common mistake.
It’s not always easy to spot these mistakes, but it starts with looking at your report regularly and carefully. If you know you see information that does not belong to you, then call the CRA (Experian, TransUnion or Equifax) specifically to question the error and begin the process of resolution.
Sometimes, a credit pull for a new loan will uncover the mistake. For instance, mortgage lenders generally pull all 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. It’s not an ideal time to find a mistake, but at least you then know and can work to fix it.
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.
It’s a misconception, but credit reporting agencies don’t only organize information by Social Security number. Your name (or names if you’ve had several), addresses, date of birth, phone numbers and even the names of spouses or co-applicants can be taken into account.
With this in mind, it’s easy to understand how creditors can mix consumer files and, in sending information to the reporting agencies, cause mix-ups there.
You can do your part to avoid this by using a consistent name as much as possible; if you use your middle initial on one credit application, use it on all your credit applications. Pay special attention if you happen to be a Junior or Senior, as well.
Most importantly, be vigilant. Obtain a copy of your credit report at least once a year and certainly before applying for new credit.