Imagine the following scenario: You understand the importance of maintaining good credit and, as such, have worked hard to keep your credit in the best condition possible. You always pay your bills on time, you pay off your credit card balances each month, you’ve never missed a mortgage loan payment and you avoid applying for new credit too frequently.
You may be especially at risk for the possibility of a mixed credit file if you have ever shared an address with someone who has a similar name as yours.
Because of your hard work, you rightfully assume that your credit is in good shape and you don’t think twice before applying for anything. Unfortunately, when you apply for credit, you are in for a bit of a shock. Your credit scores are lower than expected and your credit reports are full of accounts that belong to someone else, someone with a name that is very similar to yours, possibly even someone you know. You are not the victim of identity theft but instead you have a mixed credit file.
How Mixed Credit Files Occur
Each of the three major credit reporting agencies (CRAs) maintain around 220 million consumer credit files, give or take. That is a lot of information to keep straight and, as you probably have already guessed or perhaps even experienced yourself, credit reporting errors are bound to occur. One such error is known as the mixed credit file.
If a mixed credit file happens to you, it means that your credit file has been mixed or, in industry speak, "comingled" with a credit file that belongs to another person. Typically when this occurs your data has been confused with someone who has a similar or identical name. You may be especially at risk for the possibility of a mixed credit file if you have ever shared an address with someone who has a similar name as yours. For example, Josh Williams Sr. and Josh Williams Jr. are more likely to experience mixed credit files. Even siblings with similar names could potentially experience this type of credit reporting error.
A Different Kind of Credit Reporting Error
Mixed credit files represent a different type of credit reporting error that may make them especially difficult to get corrected. Typically, when a credit reporting error occurs, you may be able to get the mistake corrected by submitting a dispute to the CRA(s) that informs the agency that it’s possibly reporting incorrect information about you. Yet, mixed fixes are not always easily corrected with a simple dispute.
To correct a mixed file, you must get someone at the CRA itself to suppress the incorrect information, removing it from your credit report.
If you submit a standard dispute, the account (or accounts) in question may simply be verified by the lender or collection agency (aka data furnisher) as accurate, or inaccurate. In the case of a mixed file, however, the data furnisher is not causing the error. The data itself is typically correct. However, that correct data is simply showing up on an incorrect credit report.
Mixed files occur because a CRA has accidentally placed information belonging to one consumer onto the credit report of another. The data furnisher cannot fix the problem because it did not cause it in the first place as it’s reporting nothing incorrectly. To correct a mixed file, you must get someone at the CRA itself to suppress the incorrect information, removing it from your credit report, but more importantly, preventing it from showing up on your report again in the future.
The problem of mixed files will become a bit easier to correct, thanks to the National Consumer Assistance Plan (NCAP), an initiative launched by Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. In an effort to make credit reports more accurate, the CRAs have agreed to escalate the handling of "special disputes," such as mixed files, to employees with specialized training and authorization to resolve such issues more effectively. In order to see if you have a mixed file you can pull copies of your credit reports for free at Annualcreditreport.com.