Having debt on your credit report is a fact of American financial life. But what happens if the same debt is listed multiple times on your report?
As the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau (CFPB) has explained, this is not a “harmless error.” That’s because credit bureaus don’t recognize all these entries as duplicates showing the same debt. Instead, the credit bureaus presume that each debt is legitimate and unrelated to the others. And so, when determining your credit score, the credit bureaus will add up all the debts listed on your account—including any duplicates—to determine your total financial liability.
Therefore, just like any other error on your credit report, those duplicates can lower your credit score and end up costing you money in higher interest rates on credit cards and loans.
How Do Duplicate Entries Occur?
The national credit bureaus receive data from countless sources, and this information is compiled into a credit file on an automated basis. (No one is checking to ensure the information they receive is correct.) The bureaus pull data from major vendors, banks, and others who have first-hand, direct relationships with you—such as credit card companies. And the bureaus also get data from other data compilers and third parties such as debt collectors.
Given that, it’s possible that multiple sources are reporting the same information, and there is just enough variance in each entity’s description of the debt that the credit bureaus’ automated systems perceive all these entries as unrelated debts.
Another way that multiple entries can appear is if a debt has gone to debt collection. Large companies often assign a single debt to more than one debt collector. Since debt collectors also report accounts to the credit bureaus, their competing reports can make it look like you have multiple outstanding debts, even though they all relate to the same credit.
And it’s always possible there was some error, either in the submission or processing of the data. A computer glitch causes a double entry, the vendor submits the same information twice, and so on.
No matter what the cause, the effect is the same. Your credit report has errors, and this can hurt your ability to get credit, even hurt your ability to get a job, rent an apartment, or buy a home.
And no matter why it happened, you have the right to challenge the error, and the credit bureaus are required to fix your credit report.
If you have had any issues with the national credit bureaus, including duplicate entries on your credit report, contact an attorney specializing in representing clients like you. The Credit Report Law Group can not only help you correct your credit record, but the firm can also help you obtain compensation for any damages you have sustained.