I often receive calls from desperate clients proclaiming that they are a victim of identity theft, someone having used their personal information to acquire credit and etc. After investigating their situation we determine that they’re a victim all right, but not from an individual preying on their good credit, rather the credit bureaus mixing their information or commingling someone else’s information with theirs. I’m not discounting the fact that there is a large amount of stolen identity out there, but more times than not it’s a system carelessly matching common indicators with two people and creating a whole new kind of nightmare. It would be kind of a cool statistic to know how many police reports are written on claims of identity theft, when it was system error the whole time.
I’ve even had clients come in with their credit report stating “deceased”! I’d just look at ‘‘em and say “I see dead people.” Uhhh… They weren’t laughing though…. Because In both cases the clients were in the middle of making a large financial purchase. I also had clients who have just given up, on trying to fix the situation and dealt with it for years. Many of which believing it was identity theft and not wanting to expose their relatives by filing a legal claim.
NCLC (National Consumer Law Center) reports mixed files occur largely because to the credit bureaus computers do not use sufficiently rigorous criteria to match consumer data precisely, even when such unique identifiers as SSNs are present. Similar names, addresses, dob and sometimes just a couple of digits difference in socials can create a mixed account. Many times I’ve seen just two of the identifiers matching with totally different socials create a mixed fie. And most common are relatives with the same name, (Jr, Sr, II, and III for example)
I was recently reading a concerned consumer’s comment to Experian in regards to this subject. Experian owned and admitted that the problem does occur but followed with that “it happens very rarely.” I’m not sure what their definition of rarely is, or if it’s more common in West t TX due to so many common names within our Hispanic culture. But I see or hear of the issue several times a week.
The challenge with mixed files is most of the time it’s not just one account that you’re dealing with. It’s usually going to be dozens. Contacting the creditors just leads you to what you already knew a confirmation that the account does not belong to you, but then they’re not able to do anything when it comes to correcting how the credit bureau is reporting. The credit bureaus will tell you to simply dispute each item that is not yours. Good luck with that. That’s a whole different subject that will make a good future blog.
To help prevent this from happening, always use your full legal name, including Jr, Sr and such if applies. Use a previous address when applying for credit if your current address is less than 5 years. Encourage your relatives that share the same name to do the same.
If you feel like you might currently have a mixed file or commingled, then get a copy of all three of credit bureaus. The bureaus will have identification information and history, check for social and DOB discrepancies as well as address history and employment. Many times this will identify the issues with the mix. Then identify each account that does not belong to you. I would contact each creditor and demand a letter stating that you do not own or are responsible for alleged account, and include a copy with each dispute to the credit bureau, including issues with identifiers and history. In that letter to the credit bureaus be sure and include two forms of identity, a copy of your social security card, a copy of a W2 showing your social, and 5-10 years of resident history. I would couple that with a phone call to the credit bureaus, and hopefully you like hours some soft rock mix. Then get prepared to repeat the process.
Just like being at the receiving end of “identity theft” you’re going to feel and deal with the same emotions, time, hours and frustration with a mixed and commingled account. Yeah, maybe technically you’re not a victim, but I promise you, you’ll feel violated.
Of course, what of kind of red blooded capitalist would I be if I didn’t plug my business? If time is precious to you, then contact our offices today .We have specialist that can untangle your commingled mess. I think it’s also important to know, if there is a deadline issue, we can get a rapid update directly through the credit bureaus within 72 hours and reporting correctly. -Dennis Hubbard
“We’re in the business to change lives!”