If you find information on your credit report that doesn’t belong to you, one of two things happened: Either someone stole your identity, or there’s an error in the credit reporting system. You definitely don’t want the problem to be identity theft, but fixing credit report errors can also be a complicated, frustrating endeavor.
Lisa Marie Allen of Fremont, Calif., knows this from experience. When she got a new job, her employer ran a credit check and saw 10 negative items on her credit report. Allen was shocked, not to mention concerned someone had stolen her identity, according to ABC 7 San Francisco, which reported her story. It wasn’t a case of fraud: Her credit history had been mixed with that of another Lisa Marie Allen.
Allen was dealing with something called a mixed file, which often happens to people with common names. In Allen’s case, it seemed the other Lisa (who reportedly lives in Texas) had $350,000 in debt that was showing up on California Lisa’s credit reports. The two not only share a name, they also had the same Social Security number, further muddying the difference between the women.
California Lisa straightened out the problem with the Social Security Administration, ABC reports, but the cleanup wasn’t as swift with the credit reporting agencies. She eventually had to hire a lawyer for help clearing her reports of information that wasn’t hers.
Ideally, consumers can manage something like this themselves, because each of the credit reporting agencies provides clear instructions on their websites for disputing inaccurate credit report information. For some reason Allen never figured out, the dispute process wasn’t working for her. She’s not the only one who has struggled to remove inaccuracies from credit reports, even though it seems like it should be a straightforward process. It’s frustrating, but persistence is key to maintaining an error-free credit report. That’s one of the many reasons you should check your free annual credit reports regularly.
Her issues are now resolved, ABC reports, but while she waited for her corrected file, Allen couldn’t open a bank account or get a car loan, her lawyer told ABC. Credit reporting errors are fixable, but they can be costly in the meantime, which is why you want to know of any issues as soon as they arise. One of the most effective ways to watch out for such problems is to get your credit scores every month, which you can do for free on Credit.com.
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