Credit reports dictate many aspects of our lives, both personal and professional. Consumers must remain vigilant about their reports and familiar with their rights. Your history as a consumer includes important information ranging from your financial habits to criminal records. That information can impact your eligibility for loans, employment, housing, and more. For that reason, it’s vital that any inaccuracies in your report, such as information belonging to another person, are quickly spotted, and resolved.
What’s in my file?
A credit score is a standardized numerical system that summarizes a person’s credit worthiness based upon his or her history. Fair Isaac Corp.’s (FICO) credit scoring system is the most common model that assigns a number between 300-850 to a person’s credit history. The scores reflect the following:
- Exceptional 800-850
- Very Good: 740-799
- Good: 670-739
- Fair: 580-669
- Poor: 300-579
A score on the lower end of the spectrum can make it more difficult for a consumer to procure a loan. Further, a person with a low score who does obtain a loan may pay more in interest. The good news is that checking your credit score is now easier than ever with most major credit cards offering free credit monitoring.
A full report includes credit history, credit card account information, balances, available credit, and payment history.
Established in 1970, the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) promotes efficiency, accuracy, and privacy of consumer information. The legislation gives consumers the right to dispute any finding in their reports and expect those results to be reviewed in a timely fashion.
It’s important to regularly check your report. Everyone is entitled to a free credit report from each of the three major reporting entities each year. Simply visit AnnualCreditReport.com and select Experian, Equifax and/or TransUnion information. Because you have exactly 12 months to wait between the request you make at each institution, you may want to space out the requests. You can request all three at once, but if you’d like to check the information more regularly, use your free yearly report for each institution a few months apart.
What is a mixed credit report?
It might seem unlikely that such highly privileged information could slip easily into someone else’s report, but it happens more than you think. In fact, mixed files are some of the most well-documented errors that have been occurring since before the FCRA was passed in 1970.
A mixed report violates the FCRA, which requires one report per person. The following are common issues with credit reports:
- Credit Data
- Identification Information
- Public Records
- Credit Inquiry History
What causes a mixed credit report?
Unfortunately, there are several ways a report can be comprised. The following are a few of the most common causes.
Consumers with Similar Names
Credit bureaus may mistake individuals with common names who also share major points of demographic information. For example, two people named John Smith who live near one another.
Data Entry Errors
With the amount of information handled by creditors and credit reporting agencies, it is easy to understand why mistakes can happen. A typo in a person’s name, a Social Security number with an incorrect digit, or a first named swapped with the last are among a few of the most common.
Family Members with the Same Name
John Smith Senior and John Smith Junior might find their information mixed due to their names and familial relationship.
How do I fix a mixed credit report?
To fix a report problem, start by disputing the information with the credit agency that issued the faulty report. If you were denied employment, housing or credit, the FCRA requires disclosure of the source of the information. Each of the major consumer reporting agencies has its own dispute process which requires you to submit a dispute by mail, over the phone, or through an online portal. When submitting a dispute, it is helpful to include a detailed description of the inaccurate information and any documents that support your position.
I’m having a problem with my credit agency. What can I do?
If you’ve filed a dispute, the agency has five days to rule the dispute as “frivolous” (not worthy of investigation). The FCRA requires full investigations within 30 days of receiving the request. Then, they must advise all financial institutions, background check agencies and others who utilize the information.
If you believe you rights under the Fair Credit Reporting Act have been violated, you should contact an experienced consumer law attorney. Maginnis Howard offers free consultations for FCRA claims to North Carolina residents. For more information, contact our office at (919)-526-0450 or submit a message through our contact page. Our office may ask you for documents to appropriately assess your case.