“John, I was at a car dealership last weekend looking for a new car.
The dealer said he might be able to get me a zero percent financing deal if I had high enough credit scores.
I gave him permission to pull my credit report and check my score. When he did he came back and told me that I had two credit reports and two credit scores from one credit bureau.
What gives? Is that because of fraud?”
This may be the first time I’ve written about this topic…ever.
What the Minter is referring to is a duplicate credit report or, in insider industry speak, a “dupe.”
Duplicate credit files are not common, and by not common I mean extremely uncommon. Still, it’s not a good thing to have more than one credit report at each credit reporting agency.
Credit scores are calculated at the individual credit report level
That means if you have two credit reports at, say, TransUnion then those two credit reports are each going to have their own credit score/s.
That’s bad because the data on your two credit reports aren’t going to be the same, which means your scores aren’t going to be the same.
There could be considerable differences in credit scores calculated off your duplicate credit reports and you don’t want a lender to see one that’s considerably lower than the other and make an adverse decision as a result.
Multiple credit files can be evidence of co-mingled credit reports
A co-mingled credit report, also called a “mixed file”, means your credit data is being confused with credit data belonging to a different person with a similar or identical name.
The mixed file is by far the most difficult credit report problem to get corrected.
Most credit report errors are caused by the furnisher (normally a bank or a collection agency) sending something incorrect to the credit bureaus.
That’s normally easy to correct if the furnisher acknowledges the errors and makes the correction. That’s not the case with mixed credit files.
A bank or a collection agency sending something incorrect to the credit bureaus does not cause mixed credit files.
Mixed files are caused when the credit bureaus’ matching logic (the logic used to connect you with data sent by lenders to the credit bureaus) thinks you and someone else are actually the same person.
This is a complex problem that isn’t easily corrected.
The data being sent to the credit bureaus isn’t incorrect. It’s just being placed on the incorrect credit report.
The only way to fix this, permanently, is to have someone manually go through your credit report with you and identify each and every item that belongs to you and each and every item that does not belong to you.
Then the credit bureaus can block or suppress the incorrect items so that they never show up on your credit report again.
File size limitations
You probably didn’t know this but there are some credit reports that cannot be infinite in their size.
That means if you have so much stuff on your credit report you may have maxed out and anything else/new won’t fit and will create a second credit file in your name.
This can be caused really for no other reason than consumer irresponsibility.
There are actually some consumers who apply for every single credit card offer that comes in the mail and end up with hundreds of credit inquiries and max out their credit file.
This is not a theory, it’s a real problem.
In fact, there are some credit repair companies that try to leverage file size limitations and believe if you add a bunch of inquiries to your credit report that you’ll “bump” something else off of it.
It’s called, not surprisingly, “bumpage.”
What they don’t realize is that by loading up a credit report with inquiries you may actually cause a consumer to have a second credit report rather than bumping something off the report as if you were causing it to disappear in thin air.
Unfortunately this isn’t as easy to correct as a simple credit report error.
If you’ve got a maxed out credit report then there is no other option except for a second credit report.
If you’ve got a mixed credit file then your challenge is finding someone at the credit bureau to spend quality time with you to correct your file and then block the offending items from showing up again.
This is why I always tell people to not give their children the same name, even if it’s differentiated with a suffix like “Jr” or “Sr.”
And no, just because you have a different Social Security Number that doesn’t mean you’ll avoid a junior senior mixed file.
John Ulzheimer is the Credit Expert at CreditSesame.com, and a credit blogger at SmartCredit.com, Mint.com, and the National Foundation for Credit Counseling. He is an expert on credit reporting, credit scoring and identity theft. Formerly of FICO, Equifax and Credit.com, John is the only recognized credit expert who actually comes from the credit industry. The opinions expressed in his articles are his and not of Mint.com or Intuit. You can follow John on Twitter here.