The major credit bureaus -- Equifax, Experian, and Trans Union – generate credit scores and credit histories based on information contained within the consumer's credit file. If the the data in that file becomes corrupted or includes information about another consumer, that mistake can influence the consumer's credit score, and ultimately whether that consumer has access to credit. This article is about one specific kind of credit error - mixed files.
1. Two People, One File
A mixed file occurs when a credit bureau puts credit information for two or more people into a consumer's report. Because consumers have unique Social Security numbers, most people find it difficult to imagine that mixed could occur at all. But "mixed files" are not only common, they are one of the most well -documented errors, and they have been occurred since before Congress passed the Fair Credit Reporting Act in 1970.
The underlying idea behind a credit report is that a creditor can access a single report that provides a report containing information about a specific consumer. Federal law mandates that credit bureaus must follow procedures to assure the "maximum possible accuracy" of the reports that it prepares. Those report should reflect the complete credit history of a consumer, and that consumer only. This means that each report is unique to the consumer and should be delivered only in response to a request for that consumer's file: One consumer, one report. Files that include data about more than one consumers violate the federal standard for credit reports.
The problem for consumers with a mixed file is that credit bureaus' computers cannot are distinguish between consumers, because they are programmed to be over-inclusive. This leads to a misattribution of credit data to the wrong consumer. This means that a credit report may now contain information about more than one consumer rather than the required One-to-One relationship.
2. It's About More than Credit Data
This misattribution of credit data causes problems for the consumer whose file now includes information about two consumers. Most often, this means that the consumer's credit file reflects that the consumer is carrying more debt than they actually owe. Additionally, the payment history underlying that debt follows the debt, potentially leading to an inaccurate picture of the consumer's payment history. If credit information belonging to another consumer shows up on you credit report, you should dispute this immediately.
But credit data isn't the only thing that can be misattributed. Credit bureaus regularly misattribute identification information, public records, and the history of inquiries into the credit file. The misattibution of this information can not only effect your credit score but can also cause the mix to become worse and misattribution of more credit data. So, if you find identification information belonging to another consumer on you credit report, that data should be dispute this immediately.
3. Mixed Files Are Common for People with Common Names
Credit bureaus mix files when they are able to correlate multiple points identification associated with a specific credit account. Most often, mixed files happen to people with common names who share multiple points of personal identifications (known as "personal identifiers" or "demographic information"). This is true especially where these individuals live in close proximity. For example, people like
- John Smith
- William Jones
- Christopher Stevens
might be confused with people of the same name, living close to them. This is equally true for across the spectrum of ethnic communities. So for instance, people with names like
- Jose Lopez
- Lee Kim
- Ali Muhamed
might just as easily expect to be victims of a mixed credit file. This is all the more true where these individuals live in tightly knit ethic communities where these names are common.
4. Family Members Can Mix As Well
People with common names are the only ones who can have mixed files. Individuals within the same family who share a name or sequential social security numbers can also expect to have their credit files mixed. This happens because the credit bureaus regularly look to former addresses and social security numbers to help with matching consumers to their credit history. Because family members may share the same former addresses, this can become a point of correlation between the credit history of two distinct consumers.
Additionally, when looking for matches of social security numbers, the credit bureaus consider a match 7 out of 9 digits to be a "complete" match. Thus, for consumers in the same family who obtain sequential social security numbers, the credit bureaus ignore any differences and consider them to be a complete match. Thus, even though those numbers and their owners are unique, the credit bureaus treat them as a single number.
So, if you have a similar social security number to your parents or siblings, you are a likely candidate for a mixed file.
5. Mixed Files Look Like Identity Theft
Most often when two consumers have been mixed by the credit bureaus, it results in the misattribution of credit to one of the consumers. This means that one consumer will likely see credit accounts and identification information on their consumer report that they don't recognize as belonging to them. Because this is information that the consumer does not recognize, this can easily be mistaken for an identity theft, event though no fraud has occurred.
In order to determine if an unfamiliar account is the result of identity theft or mixed file, the best source of information is the creditor who opened the account or provided the data to the credit bureau. If the originating documents show that a different person applied for the account, then most likely the error is the result of a mixed file. On the other hand, if the application shows data that relates to you, then it is most likely an identity theft.
Is your credit file "mixed" with someone else?
If your credit report contains information about another consumer or accounts that you do not recognize, you may be a victim of a "mixed" credit file. If you would like to review your credit report with a credit report attorney,
Work with a Michigan Mixed Credit File Lawyer
If you think you are a victim of a "mixed file" or have someone else's accounts on your credit report, our firm can help. For more than 20 years, the law firm of Lyngklip & Associates has represented mixed credit victims and been a resource for Michigan consumers who need the help of an experience credit lawyer. For more information, see our Mixed File page.
To learn more or to schedule a free initial consultation with a Michigan credit reporting lawyer, contact our law firm today or call (248) 208-8864.