If you’ve been working on your credit lately and you’re seeing entries on your credit report that you don’t recognize, or if you’ve started to get communications about debts or accounts that aren’t yours, you may have a mixed credit file. A mixed credit file can cause seemingly endless headaches and credit-related setbacks.
Whether you’re unsure if this is what you’re experiencing, or if you are positive this is what you’re dealing with, you’re not alone.
We’re going to take a comprehensive look at mixed credit files and what exactly they are, as well as how they can happen. Most importantly, we’ll cover the step-by-step process to get them fixed and off your report. If all else fails, we’ll point you toward a resource that can help you take legal action to take your credit back.
A mixed credit file happens when your credit report contains inaccurate information that belongs to someone else with a similar name, social security number, or other identifying information. The result is incorrect negative items on your credit report, which leads to a lower credit score, and an inaccurate representation of your overall creditworthiness.
This can result in widespread difficulty in your financial life. These incorrect items not only lower your credit score, but can also lead to being denied for critical financial products, like auto loans, or mortgages. The damage doesn’t stop there, however, because since leasing agents and potential employers also frequently run credit checks, you may be prevented from obtaining an apartment, as well as from the job you’d need to pay for it.
There are many different ways in which someone else’s information could get mixed into your credit report. Here are 3 of the biggest reasons:
Credit bureaus, creditors, lenders, and any other business that utilizes credit reporting have the potential to mix up information during manual data entry.
If someone uses your personal information to open new accounts, take out loans, or make other purchases, this is considered fraud. Still, these illegitimate items become mixed in with your legitimate credit history.
Individuals with the same, or very similar names are more likely to see mixed credit files. The same goes for those who have social security numbers that are similar.
The first step in getting your financial life back is to get the most current versions of your credit report from all 3 major bureaus: Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax. You are empowered by the Fair Credit Reporting Act to receive one free copy of your report from each agency, every year. To do this, go to the official annual credit report site. Another option is to use one of the many popular credit monitoring apps, like CreditKarma, to review your credit reports in real-time.
Once you have your credit reports, you’re going to have to review them with a fine-toothed comb. You’re looking for any discrepancies between your accounts and what’s on your credit reports. Look for inaccurate personal information, like names, addresses, and SSNs. Look for unauthorized or unknown accounts, whether open or closed, inquiries, and even public records, like bankruptcies and liens. Every item you find should be noted, so that you can refer to it later, during the dispute process.
After you’ve thoroughly reviewed your credit reports and noted all errors or inaccuracies, you’ll need to start the official dispute process. You can file disputes online, by mail, or over the phone. To have a successful dispute, you should have the following:
Once you submit a dispute, the credit bureau has 30 days to investigate the issue and respond to it. If it’s determined that the information is not accurate, they must correct it and notify the other bureaus of the inaccuracy. In the case of fraudulent accounts, the information cannot simply be corrected, so once they are verified to be fraudulent they should be removed entirely.
You will need to be persistent in some cases, as some items won’t be removed or corrected after the first dispute. This is not uncommon, but you also shouldn’t be filing the same dispute 3-4 times for the same typo or an obviously fraudulent account. Keep following up to ensure all corrections have been made.
Once your disputes have been filed and you’re starting to see some of the problematic items and accounts removed from your credit report, you might think it’s time to relax and put your credit on autopilot. This could not be a more potentially dangerous course of action.
You will need to monitor your credit continuously, at least by getting your free annual credit reports and addressing things yearly. More efficient options are to hire a credit monitoring agency or service, which typically charges an annual fee or monthly subscription charge, or use a credit monitoring app to get up-to-the-minute credit alerts.
Fixing a mixed credit file on your credit report is a critical step in fixing your credit and maintaining your overall financial health. By making sure you stay on top of your credit reports, and filing disputes as soon as inaccuracies are noted, then monitoring to make sure they’re fixed, you can exercise a significant amount of control over your credit and financial future. If you’ve gone through the standard channels and still can't get the errors fixed, reach out to Fair Credit for credit-related legal advocacy.