Have you noticed that your credit score has suddenly dropped by a substantial amount, or started to see accounts that aren’t yours on your report, or have you recently been denied credit products and you don’t know why? You may be dealing with the results of a merged credit report.
This might sound catastrophic, especially when you consider how long it takes to build your credit, but don’t panic; we’re going to dig into what your credit report is if you weren’t already aware, as well as why they’re important. Then we’ll take a look at just what it means to have a merged credit report, how you can verify that’s what happened, and what you can do to fix it.
The first step is going to be understanding what exactly your credit report is, and why it’s so important. Your credit report is a comprehensive view of your recent credit history, as prepared by the credit bureaus. It contains all of the information about your credit accounts, loans, payment history, personal details, and more. Landlords, lenders, and even potential employers can use your credit report to evaluate your perceived financial responsibility and corresponding creditworthiness.
That last part is the most important thing to remember about your credit report. It is considered the most official account of your credit products and payment history, and so its accuracy is critical to your overall financial health. Having a healthy credit report ensures that you can access various credit products or loans when you need them, or when interest rates make those financial products prudent.
Inaccuracies on your credit report can have a substantial impact on your financial life. Even a single error on your credit report can mean you’re denied a loan, subject to less favorable terms if approved, and even face challenges getting a decent job or finding an apartment to rent.
Merged credit reports most frequently occur when a credit bureau combines your credit information with someone else’s by mistake. There are a few ways that this can happen, including similar names, Social Security number errors, and confusion over present and previous addresses. In some cases, merged credit reports can even be the result of simple clerical errors somewhere in the data entry chain, or insidious criminal activity like identity theft.
Having your credit report merged with someone else can have an array of consequences, some of which we’ve covered already. In addition to the lowering of your credit score and the potential inability to obtain credit products, loans, employment, or housing, it can even lead to criminal charges. Some unlucky consumers have even had to face accusations of fraud based on information that was added to their credit reports without their knowledge.
If you believe your credit report may have been merged with someone else, there are some signs that you may see that can confirm your suspicions. If you see any of the following, you may need to start a deeper investigation:
If you’ve confirmed that there is information on your credit report that isn’t accurate or that simply isn’t yours, it’s time to take action. Here’s what you’ll need to do to start fixing your credit reports and rebuilding your credit.
The first step to getting your credit report and credit score fixed is to get your credit reports from the three primary credit bureaus: Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. This should not cost you any money, as you’re entitled to a free copy of your credit report from each agency once every 12 months.
If you’ve already used up your freebies less than 12 months ago, there are apps like CreditKarma that can help you dig into your reports digitally.
Once you have your reports, you need to read them. Read every character, every line, and every page, of every report. You need to check for anything inaccurate, whether it’s an entire auto loan you didn’t take out, a payment recorded as missed that you paid early, or a simple typo in an address or name. Highlight all errors you can find.
Each inaccuracy will have an account attached to it, so what you’ll need to do is contact the credit bureau whose report the error is on, and file a dispute advising them that the error is there and needs to be corrected or removed.
To file a successful dispute, you may need to provide additional documentation, such as account statements or potentially official identification documents to prove you are the rightful consumer that the credit report refers to.
If you find errors that consist of entire credit accounts or loans that you haven’t taken out, reach out to those creditors or account holders, and advise them of the issue. In some cases, they’ll be able to offer additional help or resources to resolve your issues, in other cases it merely provides official documentation that you notified them of the error.
Once you’ve done the legwork, it’s not time to start slacking. You’ll need to keep an eye on your credit reports for at least the next several months to ensure the inaccuracies are either corrected or removed completely. You’ll need to be patient, sometimes changes can take 3-6 months to reflect on the credit report, but you’ll also need to be persistent in making sure that the disputes are heeded.
A merged credit report can be frustrating, potentially damaging, and even frightening. However, by following the steps we’ve laid out for you here, you’ll be able to fight those errors quickly and easily. If you go through the motions and the bureaus don’t update their records promptly, you could have grounds for legal action – contact Fair Credit today.