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.