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.