Calling All Twins: Make Sure Your Sibling Pays Their Bills

Twinning equals winning, at least much of the time. Ask a twin whether they enjoy being irrevocably linked to an identical or very similar sibling, and you’ll probably hear some crazy twin stories about fooling friends, tricking teachers, and having a built-in best friend. But there are some occasions when being a twin is a disadvantage—just ask Laura Heaps, a 36-year-old from Ellesmere Port, England.

Heaps was between homes, having sold her residence and moved back in with her parents as she awaited the construction of a brand-new house. When she applied for a mortgage, the loan officer informed her that credit agency Equifax had issued a poor credit report, thanks to several payments in arrears and one account that was in default. As a result, Heaps wouldn’t qualify for a mortgage loan—despite having excellent credit that included the timely repayment of four previous mortgages.

Bemused, Heaps did some digging. When she looked at her reports, she saw a bank account, a credit card, a retail store charge card, and a mobile phone contract that were completely unfamiliar to her. All of these debts, Heaps realized, had actually been incurred by her twin sister.

It took a long time, caused a great deal of frustration, and required dozens of phone calls to various agencies, but Heaps finally got her credit report cleared up. But how did the mix-up happen in the first place?

Twins generally share the same surname and have at least one residential address in common. Additionally, their National Insurance Numbers—the U.K.’s version of a Social Security Number—are issued sequentially, with a difference of just one letter or digit by which to distinguish one twin from the other.

Similar situations occur when individuals share the same given name with a parent or child, with only a middle initial or a suffix such as “Jr.” or “Sr.” differentiating them. All it takes is for one data entry clerk to fat-finger one number, and the results can be devastating.

An error on one’s credit report (and the consequently low credit score) can lead to tremendous headaches at best, and financial ruin at worst. What’s more, these reports can affect nearly every aspect of a person’s life.

All hope is not lost, however. Consumers who have found their credit erroneously altered as a result of mixed files may be entitled to compensation (as well as any legal fees incurred during the pursuit of said compensation).

If you think a mistake has been made by a creditor or even a credit reporting agency, don’t delay. Contact an attorney with a track record of resolving credit issues such as errors on credit reports, mixed files, data breaches, and other credit-related nightmares.