What is a mixed credit report?
The credit reporting agencies collect information about you and store it in their databases. Equifax, Experian, and Trans Union all have their own database. This is why you have three different credit reports. The databases contain hundreds of millions of bits of raw data, referred to as credit files. Most consumers have more than one credit file. Credit files are used to generate credit reports. A mixed credit report is the result of a credit reporting agency’s inaccurate merging of credit information and/or an entire credit file belonging to one consumer into the credit report of another consumer.
When your credit history is requested, the credit reporting agencies sort though the millions of bits of electronic data stored within their databases. Search results defer depending upon the search terms used. For example: the results for a search for Jane Doe may vary from the results for a search for Jane A. Doe. The searches pull the credit files assumed to be yours, and merges all of the credit files in to a credit report.
Using the image below, imagine that all of the blue credit files are yours. The red credit file belongs to someone who has the exact same name as you. In this instance, the databases algorithms (the database rules) inadvertently merges the other person's credit file with yours. As a result, you have a mixed credit report.
Why do mixed credit reports happen?
There are many possible causes for the merging of credit files, but all of them relate in one way or another to the algorithms used by the consumer reporting agencies. A mixed credit report could be caused by an improper algorithm just as it could be caused by the inaccurate reporting of a consumer's personal information.
Why so many credit files?
Numerous credit files may exist 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. (One way may be by first and last name, and the other way would be by first, middle, and last name).
- 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.
Even though federal law requires credit reporting agencies to disclose any and all information relating to an individual consumer, numerous credit files often results in incomplete reporting. 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 increases in likeliness of inaccurate information being reported.
What to do if you have a mixed credit report?
If you suspect your credit report contains information belonging to someone else, dispute the information right away. For sample complaint letters and step-by-step instructions on how to dispute your credit report, click here.
Example of a Mixed or Merged Credit Report: The case of Angela Williams v. Equifax
Angela Williams filed a lawsuit against Equifax alleging that her Equifax credit report included more than two dozen negative accounts which did not belong on her credit report. The negative accounts actually belonged to another consumer named Angelina Williams. In addition to sharing almost identical names, Angela and Angelina also shared another important similarity - their social security numbers were almost identical except that the last two digits were reversed. Angela sent numerous disputes to Equifax trying to correct its reporting over a period of more than a decade. From time to time, Equifax would remove some of the inaccurate accounts from her credit file but those accounts would later appear in other versions of her credit report. Often times, when Angela would request a copy of her credit report, Equifax would return only incomplete credit reports since Equifax's database had created many different credit files for Angela; sometimes those files were put together into one report and sometimes they were not. As a result of this inaccurate reporting, Angela alleged she was repeatedly denied credit. In November 2007, Angela's case made its way to a Florida jury who entered a verdict in her favor and against Equifax for $219,000 in actual damages and $2.7 million in punitive damages.