When a Father's Debts Appear on a Son's Credit Report

A son's credit report shows a father's derogatory items. How to fix errors on a credit report.

When my husband printed his credit report from all three credit bureaus, he noticed that they think that he's also his dad. He and his dad share the same name with different middle names. Two of the credit bureaus also reported two judgments and two other collections that we are not aware of. One of them is called Monroe Recovery Group and we can't figure out who this is. We know that his dad has had financial struggles and has been delinquent on a couple credit cards. So we know that those two judgments are most likely his dad's and was reported mistakenly as my husbands. They've been on his record for about 4 years and he wasn't aware of it. There were no letters sent to my husband so he never worried about his credit. Now who's at fault for this? The credit bureaus? Or the collection agencies? What should we do? A friend suggested getting a lawyer and suing the credit bureaus for not verifying information before ruining someone's credit. I mean c'mon they have different SSNs and different DOBs, so how can they make such mistake????????? Please advise! Thank you! I'd also appreciate if you can provide any information on who we should contact regarding this and how we should take action. We live in Michigan.

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Bills.com Team


As you realize, credit reports are often inaccurate. The General Accounting Office reports that of the 52 million free credit reports requested of the credit reporting agencies (commonly called “credit bureaus”) through AnnualCreditReport.com, 25% of those reports resulted in a dispute. Of those disputes, only 25% were verified as accurate.

The fact that a father’s delinquent accounts appear on a son’s credit report is not surprising. The two have similar names, probably lived for years at the same address, and likely frequent the same retailers and bank. I have seen this situation several times with children named after a parent.

It is easy to see how this mistake is made by the credit bureaus. When they receive information from a creditor, they attempt to identify the debtor by first looking at the name, then the address, social security number, and date of birth, in that order. Depending on the information supplied by the creditor, the bureaus may not have all of this data to review. Since the father and son’s name match, the creditor will next look at the address. If the address listed by the creditor matches one of the current or former addresses appearing on a son’s credit report, then the bureau will dump the father’s information on a son’s credit report, in some cases even if the SSN and DOB do not match.

In fact, the bureaus may even add a father’s SSN and DOB to a son’s credit reports. This may sound strange, but I have seen credit reports with three and four different Social Security numbers listed as belonging to a single consumer, which is supposed to be impossible. A father’s accounts may appear on a son’s credit reports because, in addition to a shared name, the credit bureaus have associated a father’s DOB and SSN with the son’s credit report. If you share a name with another family member, look at the SSNs appearing on your credit report — one may not be yours.

Fixing Credit Report Errors

Unfortunately, there is no easy way to fix the problem of a father’s derogatory credit items appearing on a son’s credit report (or vice-versa). The consumer must dispute the incorrect listings, which is a very important step to resolving this situation. There is no foolproof way to prevent a credit bureau from reporting a father’s accounts from appearing on a son’s credit report (or vice-versa).

However, you may be able to work with the credit bureaus to try to stop derogatory items from being repeatedly placed on credit reports. First, obtain a copy of your report from each of the three major U.S. credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion). You can obtain a free copy of your reports once every 12 months by visiting AnnualCreditReport.com.

Review your reports to see if another family member’s Social Security number, date of birth, or address appear on your reports. If they are, contact each of the bureaus listing the inaccurate information, explain your predicament, and ask them to correct your credit file. By law, the credit bureaus must work with you to remove incorrect personal information from a credit report. Having another family member’s information removed from a credit file should reduce the likelihood of that person’s financial problems from negatively affecting your credit rating in the future.

Consider placing a consumer statement on your credit report that explains the situation and states which specific accounts appearing on your credit report belong to another family member. While a statement will not necessarily improve your credit score or help you obtaining a loan, it will be seen by anyone who pulls a copy of your credit report. In some cases, these statements can cause lenders to take a closer look at a consumer’s credit worthiness when making lending decisions, which should help you given your otherwise good credit history. You can read more about placing a consumer statement on your credit report.

Fair Credit Reporting Act

Study the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act to understand your legal rights in the matter. If the credit bureaus do not comply with the FCRA, you may have a cause of action to file a lawsuit against Experian, TransUnion, or Equifax.

Federal law (US Code Title 15, §1681c) controls the behavior of credit reporting agencies (CRAs). The specific law is called the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). Under FCRA §605 (a) and (b), an account in collection will appear on a consumer’s credit report for up to 7½ years. To determine when an account will be removed by the CRAs (TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian and others), add 7 years to the date of first delinquency. The date of first delinquency is shown in credit reports. Subsequent activity, such as resolving the debt or one debt collector selling the debt to another collector, is irrelevant to the 7-year rule.

Some debts have a reporting period longer than 7 years, including:

  • Tax liens: 10 years if unpaid, or 7 years from the payment date
  • Bankruptcy: 10 years from the date of filing (15 U.S.C. §1681c)
  • Perkins student loans: Until paid in full (20 U.S.C. §1087cc(c)(3))
  • Direct and FFEL loans: 7 years from default or rehabilitation date (20 U.S.C. §1080a(f)(1) and 20 U.S.C. §1087e(a)(1))
  • Judgments: 7 years or the debtor’s state statute of limitations on judgments, whichever is longer

The FCRA 7-year rule is separate from state statutes of limitations for debt issues.

Even if nothing else works, these accounts should fall off of your credit report with the passage of time.

I encourage you to keep a close eye on your credit profile, and to continue working to keep your credit report accurate.

I hope this information helps you Find. Learn & Save.





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  • LS
    May, 2012
    I have my fathers derogatory accounts on my credit report as well. Unfortunately, he passed last August. Does that effect my ability to remove any inaccuracies on my report do to us having the same name?
    0 Votes

    • BA
      May, 2012
      You should dispute the items that appear on your credit report that are your father's debts. Explain in your dispute that the accounts are not yours, but were his. The accounts were likely tied to his social security number.

      You can also contact the creditors directly. Their contact information should be listed at the back of your credit report. Explain your situation and ask them to contact the bureaus and remove your father's accounts from your records. This process will take some time and effort, but you should be able to get these items removed.
      0 Votes

  • MC
    Apr, 2012
    I have a situation on my credit report where my fathers debts are showing up on my credit report. What can i do to have them removed because it is making my credit score really bad, i am trying to get a place for my family and i cant because of this situation. Please tell me what i have to do to have it removed?
    0 Votes

    • BA
      May, 2012
      Your father's debts should not appear on your credit report. Read the Bills.com article about disputing incorrect information on your credit report and follow the steps described.
      0 Votes

  • KB
    Jun, 2011
    I have an unusual circumstance that I need help with. A credit card was opened in my name six years ago. The name, address and phone number are all correct on the account. However, the social security number is not mine. It is very close, but it is not mine. I learned of this account when a collection agency sent me a letter threatening to sue me for the $4000+ balance. They have since sued me, and we have been to court now 3 times. The next appearance is days away, and is now a "trial". Am I responsible for an account opened up in my name and all other personal information if the social security number is incorrect? The judge said that the collection agency has proved what they needed to, but time and again, they have yet to show any charges other than late fees and overages. They do not have a signature card, proof of social security number that it was opened with, or even a signed agreement. This has fortunately never hit my credit score (because it was not in my ss#) but the collection agenecy DOES have this listed on my report as an amount due to them. What do I do? Am I responsible for this card that is not mine? What do I tell this very impatient judge?
    0 Votes

    • BA
      Jun, 2011
      If you did not open the account in your name, then your identity was stolen. First, read the Bills.com resource Identity Theft. Second, consult with a lawyer in your state immediately about the pending trial and the identity theft. Yes, a lawyer's time is not cheap, but losing a court case and having a judgment filed against you for a debt you do not owe is very expensive indeed.
      0 Votes