Finance Globe

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Inaccurate Credit Reports - Mixed and Split Files

Your credit report may not be completely accurate.
It's not uncommon for consumer's credit reports to have inaccurate information.

These mistakes in your credit report can mean higher interest rates, larger down payment requirements, and less competitive loan administration fees.

Catching those inaccuracies before you take out a big loan can save you big bucks. Check your credit report at least once a year, and especially before any major loan purchase, such as a home mortgage or auto loan.

All three of the major CRAs; Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion, in addition to the creditors that submit your information, are run by people and computers. Humans make mistakes, and inaccuracies in your credit file can be due to simple clerical errors, or by confusing the social security numbers of joint account holders or spouses.

Mistakes in a credit file can also be caused when the computer doesn't recognize that two different people with the same name are being treated as the same person in the credit report. Also, files can be split due to the system's limited memory capability, resulting when the computer program attempts to manage larger files.

Mixed credit files
Inaccurate credit files may be mixed, meaning that your credit file simply got mixed up with someone else's credit file. This can happen when someone else has the same name as you; credit reporting agencies (CRAs) don't actually go first and foremost by your Social Security Number.

It may be another family member with the same name, or even a complete stranger across the country. Fathers and sons with the same name commonly run into this problem, and should use the appropriate suffix, i.e., Jr., Sr., or III when they apply for credit.


I actually found out that my credit file was mixed, years ago, when I applied for a major loan. I didn't know that it was mixed until the loan officer asked about a mortgage I had for a property in another state.

I was in my early twenties at the time; he knew it was unlikely that I had a mortgage that originated when I was a preteen, and told me that it was probably someone else's information. I contacted the reporting agency, found out it was actually a relative named Mary, and also found that there were several other accounts listed in my report that were hers. They immediately fixed the inaccuracies.

The obvious problem with a mixed credit file is that it contains accounts that simply aren't yours. This won't always hurt your credit score; it's quite possible that it may even cause your credit score to be artificially enhanced. But it's still important to have your credit file un-mixed.

The accounts that don't belong to you can make you look like you are already over-extended with your credit accounts and prevent you from gaining additional credit. There is also the possibility that the other person may someday default on those loans, and your credit score will suffer from that.

Split credit files
Split files, or fragmented files, may occur if the CRA's memory system becomes overloaded with so much information on you that they just split it into two separate files. This can mean that creditors won't get your complete credit history when they pull your report. You'll have a report that creditors see, and one that they may not see, if they don't know to request the rest of your credit file.

Split files may result when someone checks their own credit report so often that the multiple soft inquiries begin to bump the older trade lines off the credit report. Some consumers intentionally do this to eliminate hard inquiries, attempting to increase their credit score. This can backfire; good trade lines can also be bumped off if the accounts aren't currently active.

Sometimes, your credit file may be split because the CRA doesn't recognize that you are the same person who has gone by different names. Using nicknames can cause confusion with your credit report, and may result in a split file. Always use the same name when applying for credit.

Having a split credit file means that your creditors may only see part of your credit history, and it's impossible to know which part they will see. You'll have a different credit score for each file, and the score of one file may be significantly different from the other.

Mortgage lenders often catch that a consumer has a split credit file, since they tend to be very thorough in looking at your credit history, and usually check reports from all three CRAs. Creditors who only pull a report from one CRA are less likely to realize that you have a split credit file.


Look for warning signs that your credit file may be inaccurate or incomplete.
Check the personal information section of your credit report from all three CRAs.

Your credit report should include your name and any other past versions of your name, including a marriage-related name change. If you have applied for credit in the past under a different name, and that name is not listed, it may be a warning that your file is split.

If your report shows your name with a different middle initial, that should alert you that your file may be mixed with some one else's.

Check that all previous addresses are accurate. A listed address that you did not live at is a warning that your file may be mixed.

An address that is not listed at all may indicate that your file has been split, but each CRA may have different past addresses listed, especially if you've moved around often. Your file may be split if you've applied for credit while living at a particular address, and that address is not listed.

Check the trade lines in your credit reports.

Creditors may not report to all three CRAs, so it may be difficult to determine if your file is split. Smaller debts from smaller creditors may only be reported to one CRA. Larger debts, like mortgages, are typically reported to all three CRAs.

A small difference in your credit scores from each CRA is normal; a big difference, more than 30 points or so, may be an indication that your credit file is split.
Accounts that were not opened by you may mean that your credit file is innocently mixed up with some one else's, or may be the result of a bigger problem, identity theft and fraud. Either way, dispute the items with the CRA.

Dispute inaccuracies with the CRA.
The procedure is the same as with any other type of credit report dispute; contact the CRA who lists incorrect information about you, and tell them which accounts you believe are inaccurate.

Some credit pros recommend doing this the old-fashioned way, with certified mail and written documentation to be sure the CRAs react within their 45 day time-limit.

Due to my resistance to organized record-keeping, I have dealt with an item by disputing on-line through the CRA's website, and one item by phone. My own experiences have been successful, and the CRAs cleared up inaccuracies without much more effort other than my original dispute.

Doing it by phone is the easiest way when questioning about the possibility of a split or mixed credit file; a two-way conversation will quickly clear up obvious inaccuracies. Have a current credit report handy, so you can give them the detailed information that they need.

TransUnion may be contacted at 1-800-916-8800 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 1-800-916-8800 end_of_the_skype_highlighting, but Equifax and Experian will have a contact number listed on your credit report.

Go to each CRA's website for more detailed information, as well as to dispute on-line:
www.transunion.com
www.experian.com
www.equifax.com


You are entitled to a free credit report from all three CRAs once a year. The free reports do not include your credit scores, but you can purchase your scores when you order your free reports. Go to www.annualcreditreport.com to order.


Sources:
ftc.gov
cardratings.com
debtsmart.com
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Friday, 23 August 2019

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