Mistaken Identities on a Credit Report: An All-too Common Problem for People with Common Names… (and Those with Unusual Ones, Too….)

In 2014, 38,313 men in the United States shared the name “James Smith.” It’s impossible to know if any of them were related to each other, or the 34,810 Michael Smiths and 34,269 Robert Smiths also walking around. But we can expect that they, and the 32,092 Maria Garcias and 30,507 Maria Rodriguezes, all have one thing in common: At one point or another, they’ve likely told someone, “No, that isn’t me. That’s a different Michael/James/Robert/Maria.”

On an average day, the confusion is probably a petty annoyance. However, if it relates to activity by someone with the same name showing up on a credit report, and is therefore damaging their credit rating, it’s no minor inconvenience: The technical term for this is a “mixed file,” when two consumers’ records are combined. But no matter what you call it, it’s a very common problem—even for people with more unusual names—that can affect someone’s entire life.

But what can you do?

Dispute the Credit Report

Contact each of three credit bureaus,  and request full records that you can review. Then, you can dispute any unknown accounts, and—once they’re removed from your account, in theory, they should no longer impact your credit score.

Contact the Social Security Administration

One of the difficulties in a “mixed file” case is that it’s hard to determine if this is a problem with the credit bureaus’ recordkeeping. So it’s important to contact the Social Security Administration (SSA) to see if your employment records have also been compromised.

Sue the Credit Bureaus

If the Credit Bureaus fail to revise your credit report, you still have options. It’s possible to sue a credit agency for failing to maintain your records correctly. And this is more than just repairing your credit. If your suit is successful, you can get financial compensation, even punitive damages.

No matter what the reason, from a mixed file to identity theft, errors on a credit report can have a serious effect on your life. But you don’t have to go it alone. Instead, contact an attorney who specializes in representing clients like you—to help you repair your credit and obtain the compensation you deserve.