Consumer reporting agencies sometimes merge one consumer’s credit files with those of another person who has bad credit. The consequences to the innocent consumer can be severe to the point the consumer cannot obtain any credit at all. Such problems were one of the major reasons for the Fair Credit Reporting Act was enacted.
In February 2013, 60 Minutes aired a report on problems with the credit reporting agencies. The report focused on mixed file cases. Watch it Now.
The FCRA requires the agencies to follow reasonable procedures to ensure maximum possible accuracy of the information concerning consumers. The problem is that the agencies use computer programs to match the data they receive from furnishers of credit information (mainly banks and debt collectors) to the right person. The agencies have a conflict of interest in this regard—they want their subscribers – the same banks and others that furnish credit information—to obtain credit reports on persons applying for credit. So the agencies establish fairly “loose” matching criteria allowing for errors in the data furnished to them. For example, instead of requiring an exact social security match, the agency may be satisfied with 7 of 9 of the digits. This leads in some cases to a mixing of files.
Consumers whose files are mixed have sometimes had a hard time getting the agencies to unmix their files. We represent consumers who tried on many occasions to get the agencies to unmix the files and were unable to get them to act.
The damages in mixed file cases can be substantial. Someone who has no access to credit really cannot function in our economy.