Tag Archives: Inaccurate Reports

Inaccurate Credit Reports Because of Mixed Credit Files and Merged Credit Files

A mixed credit file or a merged credit file occurs when another consumer’s credit information is placed erroneously on your credit report.  Despite the fact that the responsibility for the debt is that of another consumer, a credit reporting agency will attribute that information to your credit report.  This situation can lead to disastrous consequences because the information can cost you a mortgage, a job, or to pay higher interest rates.

As you would expect, both furnishers and credit reporting agencies can be the source of the incorrect credit account that appears on your credit report.  Mixed credit files and merged credit files occur for consumers because of the manner that credit reporting agencies acquire and organize their data.  Originally, furnishers provide information to credit reporting agencies about consumer accounts.  Furnishers provide this data electronically by including identifying information like name, address, and social security number.  If the information provided by the furnisher to the credit reporting agency is incorrect or missing, then the credit reporting agency can match the information to the wrong consumer’s file.  Incorrect file matching occurs because the credit reporting agencies do not maintain one file for each consumer.  The credit reporting agencies maintain pieces of individual data in their records and then associate and match similar data based upon complicated algorithms that are proprietary secrets.  While these algorithms are closely guarded secrets, we know some information about the process through discovery in litigation of mixed and merged credit file cases.  Typically, a nine for nine social security number match is not required to associate one piece of credit information with a particular credit file,  and other criteria like name and address are factors into the decision as to which file to place a credit account.  A name and address alone may be enough for incorrect data to match to your file and cause a completely different credit file to ultimately merge into your credit file as part of the computerized matching process.  Accordingly, people with common names have a higher chance to be the victim of mixed and merged credit files.  Inappropriately merged credit files typically occur when an existing credit file begins to more closely match your credit file with the credit reporting agency. Identity theft victims also can have the identity theif’s actual bad credit merge into the good credit of the victim.

Common mixed credit file and merged credit file causes include:

  1. Transposition errors in social security numbers.
  2. Incorrect name being attributed to a social security number.
  3. Different versions of your name like nicknames and maiden names.
  4. Mismatching information related to Jr., Sr., and III suffixes

Correcting inaccurate credit information as a result of mixed credit files or merged credit files is accomplished in the same manner as any other credit report inaccuracy.  Please review my previous blog post on how to dispute inaccurate information information on your credit report.

If you would like to contact me with any questions, or potential referral to a lawyer in your area, please contact me at 571-313-0412.

How do I get a free copy of my credit report?

The FCRA requires certain credit reporting agencies to provide you with one free copy of your credit report per year. The important thing to remember is the correct website to visit in order to obtain your free credit report. The website is:

www.annualcreditreport.com

When you visit the website, you will need to know basic details about your financial life in order to answer security questions. Initially, you will enter obvious items like your name, address, and social security number.  As you enter a specific credit reporting agency website, you will answer more difficult questions about your financial history to verify your identity.  Examples include prior street address names and numbers, monthly payment amounts for certain debts, and maybe even the names of prior roommates.

You do not need to purchase anything to obtain a free copy of your credit report.  You may be solicited for optional items like credit scores and credit monitoring, but you need not purchase anything in order to see your free credit report.

Because their are three main credit reporting agencies, I like to review one free report every four months by staggering the individual reports that I obtain for free.  A good reference point is near your birthday with scheduled reminders to get another free report four months later.  By viewing credit reports in this fashion, you are getting periodic snapshots to make sure that no new inaccuracies are on any credit report.

I would print off and maintain in your records the copies of the reports that you obtain.  This creates a baseline snapshot of your credit file if you are ever the victim of identity theft, a mixed credit file, merged credit file, or multiple credit files.  Monitoring the contents of your credit file is important in protecting your future.  Do not delay, get a free copy of your credit report today.

 

What happens after you send your credit dispute letter.

After you have mailed your credit dispute letter and supporting documentation to a credit reporting agency (CRA), the process typically results with your letter being
outsourced to another country like India, Costa Rica, Jamaica, or the Philippines
for processing.  Whether you disputed credit information with Equifax, Experian, Trans Union, or another CRA will ultimately determine the particular country in which your dispute is outsourced.  When the CRA receives the credit dispute letter, it normally has the dispute letter with attachments scanned into its system.  Next, the CRA has the foreign-based processor review the letter and documentation to identify your particular type of dispute and select a code number that best describes your particluar dispute. At this point, the CRA must notify the furnisher of your dispute. The FCRA presently requires that the CRA must notify the furnisher of the dispute within five business days of receiving your credit dispute letter.  The CRA will send notice of your dispute through an electronic system known as E-OSCAR via a form called an Automated Consumer Dispute Verification form or “ACDV”.  The furnisher of the disputed credit information will receive the ACDV and has a duty to conduct a reasonable investigation of the dispute.

I think that it is helpful to imagine your credit dispute letter running on two parallel train tracks, one with the CRA and one with the furnisher of the information.  When the CRA reviews your dispute, if it determines that the disputed information is inaccurate,
incomplete, or cannot be verified, it has to delete the item of information or change the information as appropriate given the results of its reinvestigation.  The time required for a CRA to complete its investigation depends on certain factors and can be extended, but a good rule of thumb is that a CRA has about thirty days to complete the investigation of your credit dispute.  In addition, the furnisher of the disputed credit information also has a responsibility to investigate your dispute.  The furnisher should make a detailed inquiry into its records to assure that the information reported is full, complete, and accurate.  Often times the furnisher will only check its computer records to determine if it has already made a decision regarding the disputed account and will not conduct the thorough analysis required.  After the furnisher completes its investigation, it will send a response to back to the credit reporting agency.

When the investigation of your credit dispute letter is concluded, the CRA must send you notice of the results of the reinvestigation. The results of the reinvestigation will typically be mailed to you unless you have authorized some other method of notice.  The notice of the results of the reinvestigation should also include notice that you may request a description of the procedure used to determine the accuracy of your disputed
information.  It can be a good idea to request this information from a CRA if incorrect information remains on your credit file or if the source of the information is of dubious origin.  You will also receive notice of the right to have previous users of your credit file notified of the disputed account.  Finally, you also have the right to place a statement of dispute in your credit file describing why you believe a certain item of information is incorrect.  As with the credit dispute letter you send, you will want to keep a copy of the results of the reinvestigation of your dispute letter. If you have many disputes with multiple CRAs, you will probably want to purchase a multi-pocket file folder as your records will become numerous. If your disputed credit report information remains on your credit report following the initial credit dispute letter, I would recommend that you contact an attorney that specializes in credit report litigation.

 

How you can dispute inaccurate Equifax, Trans Union, and Experian credit reports.

Under the FCRA, a consumer must initiate the dispute of an inaccurate credit report directly through a credit reporting agency (CRA) in order to trigger the provisions of the act. This means that you must send your credit report dispute letter including documents related to your dispute to the CRA (typically Equifax, Trans Union, and Experian). You may also want to provide a copy of the dispute to the furnisher of the incorrect information, but providing the information directly to the furnisher will not trigger your FCRA rights.  After the CRA receives the dispute, it has a duty to send a notice of the dispute to the furnisher of the information.  Under the FCRA, both a CRA and a furnisher have a duty to conduct a “reasonable investigation” of the information that you have disputed.  Because reasonableness can often be in the eye of the beholder, I believe that certain information will probably increase the chances that an investigation of your credit report dispute will be resolved in your favor.

First, I believe a good dispute letter should clearly identify your name, address, social security number, and date of birth.  By providing this information, you reduce the chance that the CRA can claim that they could not locate your credit information in their data base.

Second, you should clearly identify the account(s) that you are disputing as well as describe the facts supporting your position why the credit reporting is incorrect.  Often times a CRA can claim that they do not want to resolve disputes between you and a third party furrnisher.  To minimize this argument, you can identify the facts that demonstrate why your position is clearly correct and reference as many documents as necessary to demonstrate why the information reported is inaccurate.  You should also include the supporting documentation as part of your dispute package. Letters, invoices, and/or contracts involving the furnisher of disputed information can make for good proof of your argument.  In the event that you are a victim of identity theft, you should also include an identity theft affidavit, police report, and/or identification of the police report number with the investigating officer named.

Third, I would include a statement that describes how the inaccurate credit reporting is hurting you and request that the CRA take immediate action to solve your problem.  Whether that means correcting an inaccurate account, deleting a judgment that is not yours, or removing a false criminal conviction from an employment report, you should request that the CRA stop reporting the inaccurate information.  If you have lost a job because of an inaccurate employment credit report or lost a mortgage because of an inaccurate credit report, I would tell the CRA in the dispute letter.

Finally, I recommend that you personally sign your letter, make a copy of the signed letter including the attachments for your records, and mail the letter via both first class mail and certified mail return receipt requested.  The Federal Trade Commission also publishes information that you can consult when disputing inaccurate information which is located at http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/credit/cre21.pdf.  If you ever have any questions, you can also contact me.