Mixed credit files can be a real headache for consumers.

When this happens, it puts a serious damper on how someone is treated by lenders, landlords, and even potential employers. Someone who might otherwise have a perfect credit history could be deemed a credit risk just because of a mix-up that isn’t their fault whatsoever.

Thankfully, there are some things you can do to protect yourself from a mixed credit file situation. And, if you find yourself a victim of a mixed credit file snafu, there are actions you can take to speedily remedy the error.

One way to help fortify yourself against the possibility of a mixed credit file scenario is to learn what it is, how it happens, and who is most at risk of having it happen to them.

Let’s begin by defining a mixed credit file, and then we’ll move into some of the most common traits of those who are most likely to be affected by this unfortunate error.

What Is a Mixed Credit File?

Essentially, a mixed credit file occurs when one person’s credit information becomes erroneously attributed to someone else. Identifying consumer credit information can include first, middle, and last names, phone numbers, addresses, and even social security numbers.

There are three major credit bureaus in the United States—Equifax, Transunion, and Experian—and they’re responsible for maintaining credit reporting data on all US citizens. Their job is to ensure that credit reporting information is accurate and updated as credit reporting information changes over time, a service that is used by banks, lenders, and anyone else who might be interested in someone’s creditworthiness.

How Mixed Credit Files Happen

The three credit bureaus referenced above receive credit reporting information provided to them by businesses that extend credit to consumers.

The businesses reporting this information aren’t always 100% accurate, as human error does happen. Furthermore, the employees of the credit bureaus themselves are also prone to human error.

mixed file credit reporting errorWhen you combine these mistake-making probabilities, it’s only a matter of time before someone, somewhere makes an error and a mixed credit file is born. Even though there are automated measures in place to help stop these errors from happening in the first place, the sheer volume of credit data that flows through these bureaus makes it impossible for total accuracy all of the time.

Also, credit bureaus may not use every piece of identifying information to maintain a credit file for someone.

Who Is Most at Risk?

According to Equifax, persons most at risk for having their credit file mixed with someone else’s have common names, similar social security numbers as someone else, or close enough birthdays or addresses.

For example: let’s say Michael Stevens was born on April 3rd, 1980. His social security number might be 958-29-4938, and he might live at 383 Maple Avenue.

So, in Michael’s case, the credit bureaus might only use his first name, last name, and 7-8 digits of his social security number to build his credit file. Credit bureaus almost never use a consumer’s full SSN.

It’s possible that there is another Michael Stevens whose social security number is 128-29-4938. That’s only two digits off from the original Michael Stevens, but it’s close enough that the bureaus could conceivably make a mistake and, suddenly, the original Michael Stevens learns that his credit file contains information that came from someone else’s credit file.

What Can Be Done About It

Unfortunately, mixed credit files are quite common. And, the credit bureaus do an OK job at rectifying these errors when they happen. But, this isn’t always the case.

One of the best things you can do if you’re a victim of a mixed credit file is to contact the credit reporting agencies directly and make them aware of the problem. During this process, you might be required to submit identifying documentation to prove that you are who you say you are. This can mean submitting certified copies of your birth certificate, social security card, or other means of identification.

A much more effective and faster method of resolving a mixed credit file situation is to hire a consumer advocate attorney like Matthew Osborne. A credit attorney can write letters on your behalf, make demands that carry more weight, and even represent you in lawsuits if necessary.

Whether or not the legal team at Matthew R Osborne, PC can help you depends on the specifics of your unique situation. To learn more, we suggest contacting our office to schedule an initial consultation.

For more information on what to do if you become the victim of a mixed credit report, click here.