Could you imagine being denied a loan because someone who shares your name tarnished your credit history? It could happen.
Credit reports are often mistakenly mixed-up, resulting in a financial nightmare for many who have paid their bills on time, according to an investigation by the Columbus Dispatch. It can take years -- and sometimes a lawsuit -- to unmix credit histories, and during that time victims can get turned down for jobs, credit cards, home and car loans, and student loans for their kids.
Credit histories can get mixed-up with those of relatives or of strangers with similar names, similar Social Security numbers, or no known similarities, according to the Dispatch.
About 1,400 consumers have recently complained to the Federal Trade Commission or state attorneys general about mixed up credit reports. One man even killed himself because his mixed up credit report "destroyed his life," he wrote in his suicide letter, according to the Dispatch.
Has your credit history ever been confused with someone else's? Tell us your story by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A credit report is a record of your financial activities put together by a credit rating agency. It lists your credit card accounts, loans, balances, how frequently you make payments, and whether you have been penalized for unpaid bills. It is the basis of your credit rating and can get you turned down for loans, credit cards and even jobs. A lower credit rating can land you with a higher interest rate on loans you do secure.
Credit reporting is riddled with flaws. Sandra Cortez of Denver was unable to buy a car in 2005 because her credit report had linked her to a Colombian woman wanted for drug trafficking, according to a separate Columbus Dispatch report.
Thousands of people also get denied credit because they are mistaken for dead. In fact, the Social Security Administration mistakenly declares 14,000 people dead per year, according to CNN Money. Bea Cohen, 81, of New Jersey, has been denied credit for years because lenders and credit rating agencies think she is dead, according to the New Jersey Star-Ledger.
This error doesn't only haunt the elderly. Corbin Russell, a high school senior, was denied student loans and a car loan because credit rating agencies thought he was dead.