Q. I recently considered refinancing my mortgage, and the bank saw someone else’s credit report was merged with mine. It showed their name, address and eight outstanding accounts with a total of $345,000 of debt that was not mine. I reported this to the three credit bureaus. Experian sent a mostly corrected report but did not remove applications for credit I did not make. TransUnion also did not remove the credit inquires. I have not heard from Experian. What do I do now?
A. A merged credit report can be messy to fix.
Typically, when your report is merged with someone else’s, it’s not because of fraudulent activity but rather, it’s a mistake by the credit reporting agency.
The three credit reporting agencies, Experian, Equifax and TransUnion, are required by law to report accurate information in terms of the history of your accounts, said Charles Pawlik, a certified financial planner and chartered financial analyst with Beacon Trust in Morristown.
“If you have notified the agencies, they are required to investigate the items you are disputing, and rectify any inaccurate marks, including credit inquiries made/applications for credit that are associated with the debt that was not yours and was merged onto your report,” Pawlik said.
You should keep calling each of the agencies on an ongoing basis until all items are corrected and properly reflected, but he also recommends you send a letter to each of the agencies that details what happened.
“In addition to a general description of what occurred, the letter should include details relative to each of the items on your report that are inaccurate/that you are disputing, explains why they are inaccurate, provides specific details around what has been corrected thus far and the items that still need to be corrected, and requests that the remaining outstanding items be corrected expediently,” he said.
Pawlik said you should follow up by disputing the remaining items directly with each agency online by providing the requested personal information to access your credit report online, and then identifying the items that you are disputing. Then give all your supporting information.
If your follow-up requests to have all items associated with the merging of someone else’s credit on your report via phone, mail and e-mail are not successful, you have some options.
One would be to work with a consumer credit counselor or credit counseling agency that can assist you, Pawlik said. You can find additional information about disputing credit report inaccuracies and identify a reputable credit counselor or agency through the National Foundation of Credit Counseling (NFCC).
You could also file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).
Pawlik said you should continue to check your accounts on a daily basis to ensure there is no unauthorized activity.
“Having the fraud alert on your credit report is a good step to take if you believe your information has been compromised,” he said. “The fraud alert lasts for 90 days and can be renewed.”
With a fraud alert, businesses are required to verify your identity before extending new credit and will usually call you to do so, he said.
Another option if you believe you have been compromised is to put a credit freeze in place.
“With a credit freeze, no one, including yourself, can access your credit report to open new accounts,” Pawlik said. “You will receive a PIN number that must be used to freeze and unfreeze your account to be able to apply for new credit. It is important to continue to remain vigilant relative to your credit.”
He said these steps should help you to get your score back to where it should be as quickly as possible, and ensure that your credit report is accurate going forward.
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