It may surprise you to know that one in four American consumers have found mistakes in their credit files. And not simple mistakes either – sometimes, someone else’s credit information can show up in your report. When this happens your own credit could be in jeopardy and you may find it difficult to buy a home, lease a vehicle, open a credit card or even get a job.
If your credit file is mixed up, figuring out the problem and addressing it swiftly is key to getting back on track. But how do you get started? In this article we’ll address the many problems with a mixed credit report, how to fix it and how to move on afterwards, saving you time and headaches.
How did you find out?
The best way to determine if you’re the victim of a mixed credit report is to regularly check your credit file. By not actively searching for inconsistencies in your credit, your credit problem will unknowingly worsen over time. In fact, people often realize their credit report is mixed when they encounter situations like:
- Getting turned down for a new credit account.
- Noticing their credit score is unexpectedly low.
- Being told you have bad credit or having trouble renting.
- Receiving a collection notice, legal action or a bill for an unfamiliar transaction.
- Being alerted about an anomaly in their credit report by a credit monitoring service such as Credit Karma.
The next step is to determine the extent of your credit mix up – whether it’s one or two false reports, or a dozen or more. Remember: regardless of the damage, it’s important to thoroughly analyze your credit report and identify every piece of misinformation.
It’s also important to note that credit bureaus use a different algorithm when reporting information to lenders compared to when you request your report directly from the credit bureau. Therefore, you should obtain a copy of the credit report used by your potential lender.
After obtaining your report you can send a dispute letter to the credit reporting agency. Your dispute letter should include:
- Explanation of the Dispute: Explain why you believe this item is incorrect. Be specific. This is important to distinguish your dispute from a standard dispute about inaccuracies in your own credit history.
- Identification of Incorrect Information: Specify which items on the report belong to someone else. Include details like account numbers, dates and similar names, as applicable.
- Evidence of Responsibility. Make sure you demonstrate you’re not responsible for false accounts in your report. Ask yourself: are these accounts with creditors you’ve never dealt with? Is it possible they belong to a family member? Were you residing in a different location from where the account was established?
- Removal Request: Make your request to remove the false information from your credit report clear and explicit.
- Request for Separation of Mixed Files: You can also ask the credit agency to separate your credit file from the other individual’s information. This is a key request different from correcting a simple error.
Hopefully, the credit reporting agency will respond in 30 days and remove any misinformation so that you can restore your good credit. However, agencies often decline to remove harmful information from credit reports. If that happens you can send another dispute letter, especially if you have uncovered additional information regarding the mix up.
Take legal action
If your credit agency refuses to take action, what can you do? You can strike back and file a lawsuit against your agency.
If you need help fixing a mixed file problem, a false credit reporting lawyer can determine if you have a case and help you navigate the complex legal process of mixed credit report lawsuits. They can also decipher credit reports which are complex and jargon-filled and even discover if your situation stems from more serious issues such as identity theft. With the right legal help you can get the fastest resolution to your case.