The Headaches Caused by Mixed Credit Files
With all of the technology available in today’s world, one has to wonder how false and inaccurate information ends up in his or her credit file. When defaulted credit card debts or Court Judgments or unpaid medical debts which are not yours show up in your credit file or credit report, the result is turmoil, stress, and the loss of your good name and reputation as a trustworthy consumer who pays his or her bills on time. It can also have devastating effects on your financial future. Here is a quick glance at how this happens, what to look for, and what to do if it happens to you.
Three major credit reporting agencies in the US – Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion more or less hold your financial welfare in their hands. They hire vendors to collect information (including court-ordered judgments) then distribute that information to loan officers, potential employers, insurance companies and other entities with whom you hope to conduct business. The information these agencies report about you and your credit history can have direct and profound consequences for you. For example, if you are looking to purchase a car or a home and you need a loan in order to complete the transaction, the bank or potential lender will request your credit file from one or all three of these credit reporting agencies and make its decision regarding your loan application based on the information shown in your credit file, and it will assume that information is accurate, even if it is inaccurate.
If incorrect information has mixed into your credit file, it is likely that the credit history of someone with the same or similar name as you or with similar identifying information to you such as date of birth or social security number has been included in your credit file. This dynamic can also occur when you have a father and a son with the same name, one a Jr. and one a Sr., and their credit information gets mixed. For a detailed report about mixed credit files and the heartache they cause to their victims, note this excellent report from the Columbus Dispatch:
Once the derogatory information of another individual is mixed into your credit file, the process of getting it removed is difficult, complicated and oftentimes frustrating. The first step is to obtain a copy of your credit report. The law requires that Trans Union, Experian and Equifax provide you with a copy of your report for free one time per year. There are many companies which advertise on television, radio and the internet that offer services which claim that they will provide your credit reports “for free.” However, I recommend that you avoid those services. The best way to access your credit report is the old-fashioned way: through the regular mail. While it is takes more time to receive it, you typically received a more complete copy of your report when you order it via regular mail, and you don’t have to agree to any terms or conditions in order to access the report. This can be important later on, as the on-line terms and conditions oftentimes include an agreement to submit any claims or causes of action against the Credit Reporting Agencies to arbitration. Click here to access the form you need to use in order to request your credit report by mail.
If you are more comfortable with the idea of accessing your report on-line, you should go to www.annualcreditreport.com to obtain a copy your report. It is an interactive website, and you will actually get your report for free at that website with no solicitation for other services.
Once you have your report, you should review it and highlight all of the inaccurate information. The process of getting it corrected is complicated, as it is dictated by the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). Your disputes should be sent in writing via certified mail with return receipt requested and not made via either the telephone or the internet. The disputes should provide as much detail as possible and any documents which support your claim should be included with the written dispute. Frankly, given the difficulties associated with making the dispute and following up as necessary, you should confer with an experienced consumer advocate in order to determine your best strategy once you have discovered that you have a mixed credit file problem.
Bob Healey is a licensed attorney and principal with Healey Law, LLC, a full-service St. Louis law firm, specializing in handling cases for accident and injury victims, injured workers, and consumers who have been abused or mistreated by debt collectors, banks, mortgage companies and credit reporting agencies. With 4 convenient locations in Chesterfield, Downtown St. Louis, North County (Bridgeton near DePaul Hospital) and South County (on Tesson Ferry across from St. Anthony’s Hospital) the attorneys at Healey Law, LLC have over 25 years of experience representing clients in the State and Federal Courts in both Missouri and Illinois. For more information visit: http://www.healeylawllc.com