Credit Repair: Accounts Which Aren'ts Yours, On Your Credit Report

Do you know what to do if someone else's credit account shows up on your credit report? Here are a few helpful suggestions.

Everyone should obtain a copy of their credit report at least every year or two and review it for accuracy. Occasionally an error will occur and you may be surprised to find someone else's name and credit balance listed on your credit report.

If that happens, here are some steps to take to protect yourself and remove the mistake:

1. Contact the credit report company to report the fraudulent posting. There are three major credit report agencies in the United States (TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax). Ask how the error happened. It may be the representative you speak with can trace the problem to a computer glitch. For example, the computer may have combined records inadvertently so that your first name and street name get paired with another last name and zip code. John Harris of Maple Street in Wichita may get mixed up with John Harrison of Maple Terrace in Wichita. Such errors are not uncommon. But it is important that the credit agency find out if this is what happened, correct the mistake, and take steps to code your information in the computer so the mix-up does not occur again.

2. You also can contact the store or vendor that reported fraudulent or confused information. It may be the mix-up stems solely from the credit agency's computer system. Or it may come from the store where a transaction occurred in your name, the other person's name, or where both of you shop. Check with the store's customer service department to be sure your account information is accurate and secure. Explain the problem and ask that they double-check to be sure the second person's account information is not combined in their system with yours.

3. Follow up with letters to both the credit agency and any vendors who are involved. Keep copies of the letters for your file in case you need proof in the future that these steps were taken at the date indicated. Ask for a confirmation letter from the vendors that were involved and get an updated credit report from all three credit reporting agencies. Make sure they all have made the necessary changes.

4. Do not contact the person whose information was mixed with yours. Chances are he or she did not know about it and was not involved. But even if the person did it knowingly, there is nothing you can do on a personal basis. Leave the matter to the proper authorities.

5. Double-check new account applications and monthly credit statements to be sure your information appears correctly each time. Also check each month's credit purchases against the receipts or charge slips that you received at the time of the transaction. This will help you to catch discrepancies when they first occur, which can result in a speedier resolution. You will be glad you checked statements promptly if you find out someone has been charging items in your name or account number for a while.

Computers aren't perfect, and neither are the people who program or operate them. It is wise to check all printed materials that contain your sensitive personal information to be sure it is correct and remains confidential.

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