At any given time, the national consumer reporting agencies maintain hundreds of millions of consumer "credit files" in their databases. According to some estimates these files relate to approximately 250 million credit active consumers across the United States. This means that many consumers have more than one file in a consumer reporting agency's system. Having more than one file on any one consumer serves as a catalyst to incomplete and inaccurate data being relied upon in the creation of a consumer report (commonly known as a “credit report”).
Numerous credit files may exists on a single consumer for the following reasons:
- Consumer reporting agencies may not have enough information to say with the highest degree of certainty that each of the credit files should "merge."
- The various creditors' records do not always identify an individual consumer in the same way.
- Consumers may use two or more names in their credit activities (such as nick names, maiden and married names, names with and without generational suffixes).
- Consumers may have two or more addresses (such as home/school, work/home or vacation or second homes).
- Creditor's records may misspell or invert letters in names, street addresses, or social security numbers.
Therefore, information coming into an agency's database from different sources does not always perfectly match which in turn results in numerous credit files existing on a single consumer.
When your credit history is requested, the credit reporting agencies sort though the millions of bits of electronic credit data. Search results can defer depending on the search terms used. For example: the results of a search for Jane Doe may vary from the results for a search for Jane A. Doe. Depending upon the search terms, the credit reports obtained from different sources may vary and be incomplete.
Even though federal law requires credit reporting agencies to disclose any and all information relating to an individual consumer, numerous credit files can cause incomplete data to be reported. Incompleteness is not the only concern consumers should have. Take into account that there are many inaccuracies contained within the credit reporting agencies databases, and the more files to sort through and match also increases in likeliness of inaccurate information being reported.
It is difficult for a consumer to know if they have more than one credit file. You may know this is happening to you if you have been provided with different results when requesting your credit score, credit report, and credit history.
If you think you are not getting your full credit file you may have a claim to discuss with a credit reporting attorney.