The Mixed-Up Files of Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion: What Happens When You and Your Neighbor Have the Same Name

Is your name James Smith? If so, you’re not just not alone, but as far from alone as it’s possible to be. That’s because this is the most common combination of first and last names in the world. And chances are you’ve developed a way to distinguish yourself, at least in your social circle or career. Maybe you go by Jim, Jimbo, Jamie, J.J., or even Smitty. Perhaps you always add your middle initial when introducing yourself, or you prefer to be called by your middle name (unless it’s Michael, the second-most common name when paired with Smith.) Nevertheless, your name can cause fairly frequent confusion.

Now let’s say that you live in a big apartment building, at #901. Let’s also say that there’s another James Smith who lives at #910. You probably get his mail; he likely gets yours. But what happens when you run your annual credit report and find that although your other details are accurate, the debt-related dollar amounts are completely incorrect?

A Common Source of Errors: Mixed Credit Files

According to the FTC, one in every five Americans has an error on one of their credit reports. Pretty shocking, huh?

Many of these are due to a mixed credit file, which is like a mash-up of two different credit reports. This scenario can lead to some confusing, damaging, and even ruinous consequences—especially if the other Mr. Smith’s credit report shows delinquencies, defaults, high amounts of the wrong type of debt, or not enough debt.

Mixed credit files crop up most often in cases of men who are named after their fathers or grandfathers. However, it’s not uncommon for two identically (or even just similarly) named people to discover that their credit reports are erroneously jumbled. If their mailing addresses are also the same, save for the unit number, the chances are even greater that their files will get mixed up—and even more difficult to straighten out.

Getting Out from Under Credit Report Errors

Finding errors on a credit report is one thing; getting them corrected is something else entirely. The burden of proof will be on you. It may require financial documents dating back several years and can itself be a lengthy struggle. When you dispute a mixed credit file, you will want to arm yourself with:

  • Your Social Security card
  • Picture ID, such as a driver’s license or passport
  • Bank statements
  • Something that shows your current address and, if applicable, your addresses from the previous two years
  • Canceled checks that verify payments to creditors

Additionally, it is a smart idea to seek legal assistance. Credit report errors are difficult to prove, especially if your biographical details mirror someone else’s. Any missteps on your part will delay or derail the process. And don’t forget, there are three major credit agencies that you might need to contact. An attorney who has experience battling these agencies to resolve mixed credit files will be an invaluable ally.

The Consequences of Mixed Files and Poor Credit

Whether you incurred the debt or Jamie Smith in #901 did, a poor credit score can take a huge toll on your everyday life. In the future, it will be difficult to obtain employment, housing, mortgages, auto loans, utility services, low-interest credit cards, and even bank accounts. As a result, you could be dependent on others for years to come—unless you have an experienced attorney who will fight to resolve the errors on your report.

If you need legal help because of a mixed credit file, contact the Law Office of Adam G. Singer at (212) 842-2428 for a complimentary consultation.