What to do When a Credit Bureau has Incorrect Credit Information

“I was recently trying to purchase land and bank pulled my credit report I noticed Equifax that they had my sister-in-law and my credit all mixed together. They had her first name, my middle initial and our last name. In the Former name line they had me with my maiden name and her name. They morphed us into one person with my social security and her birthday. After making that discovery I checked the other two credit bureaus and they had the correct information, it is only Equifax that has this problem. So I photo copied my current driver’s license and my old driver’s license (with my maiden name), I sent a copy of my marriage certificate and a copy of my old social security card (once again with my maiden name) and a copy of my new social security card along with a letter. I waited for a couple of weeks so they could do their investigation. I got their investigation report in the mail a couple of weeks later and the only thing they took off was an address. They didn’t change the name or anything. So I was forced to call them. I called and was asked well did you send the information. I stated, yes I had. The lady said, “Oh well for some reason when we changed it, it didn’t stick.” I was mad but accepted this answer. I then went through the list of my creditors and told her which ones were not mine. She was pleasant and I thought everything would be great. A couple of weeks later and I got a new investigation in the mail and everything looked pretty good, just one credit card was not mine. I thought my troubles were done. Well my sister-in-law and her dad started working on getting my stuff off her credit and now things are more screwed up than ever. They sent stuff to me and when I opened it it says her name with all of my credit and it is jus such a mess they are making it worse. My credit score has gone way down. I haven’t been able to purchase the land because I would have been charged more in interest rates because of my lower credit score. I have had it with them. They are hurting both of us. My sister-in-law is a single girl of 20 and because of their bad reporting she has my mortgage on her credit, she can’t get approved for anything and because of the overwhelming accounts on my credit having all of her stuff on there my credit score is down about a 100 points. What can I do???”

You have discovered something that I learned a long time ago: credit bureaus are filled with wrong data and are often incompetent about fixing problems. Credit bureaus scavenge data from many sources without regard to its accuracy, and don’t seem to care when it results in harm. The Federal Trade Commission is the federal agency charged with enforcing rules on credit bureaus, but they have a lousy record of success. In fact, the major credit bureaus had lawsuits by the FTC against them almost constantly for the last several decades. They even notoriously screwed up the credit report of one of the members of the Federal Trade Commission making it difficult for him to buy a house in Washington DC when he was first appointed!

You have several things you can do. First, you can file a complaint with the FTC (www.ftc.gov); they don’t help you resolve individual complaints, but the information helps them in their lawsuits against the credit bureaus. Second, you can keep filing corrections with the credit bureau, and keep checking your report. Be prepared to file correction requests every time the bogus information reappears. Third, you can contact an attorney in your area who might be able to send the credit bureau a threatening letter; sometimes when these cases get escalated to the legal department at the credit bureau, the corrections happen more quickly. Fourth, you might want to consider talking to a lender who will use other credit bureaus, or whose underwriters will take into consideration the fact that the credit report is demonstrably unreliable.

Finally, keep a well-organized file folder of all the copies of your credit report, the letters you have sent requesting corrections, copies of the corrected reports, and copies of the newer reports showing the errors returning. You can use this history to show a lender in a detailed and well-documented fashion that the credit bureau’s records are untrustworthy and unreliable.