For the most part, credit bureaus do a decent job of ensuring they only have one credit report per person. However, sometimes there are often mixed credit files, duplicate credit files, and fragmented credit files. People tend to use the terms interchangeably but there are some differences. Knowing which one describes your specific credit file helps you better determine the right course of action.
What Is a Fragmented Credit File?
When a credit file becomes fragmented, it means that it is incomplete. There might be several holes of missing information in the file. This might manifest as missing files for a specific period or it might show as missing files for a specific area. For example, files could be missing from 2015 to 2020 or files could be missing for the entire time you worked at Starbucks. Fragmented files are also often called split files.
What Is a Mixed Credit File?
This situation is extremely rare, but when it happens, your credit file information becomes entangled with someone else’s. Similar names, shared addresses and similar Social Security Numbers are often at fault for this. In some cases, mixed credit files could signal fraud as someone else might attempt to use your information to build a new identity.
What Is a Duplicate Credit File?
When you have duplicate files, the credit bureaus have more than one set of reports for you. For the most part, duplicate files do not present a big risk as credit agencies can merge the information. When separated, however, it could also coincide with fragmented information. Duplicate files can sometimes happen after name changes or other big life events.
Do These File Errors Create Problems for Consumers?
Duplicate files pose the least threat for consumers, but it’s always best to rectify any errors you encounter. These are some of the problems that could arise from mixed, duplicated or fragmented files.
Lower Credit Scores
If entire periods of your credit usage are missing, your credit history might seem newer or more sparse than it really is. This can severely impact your ability to secure big loans at favorable rates. It could also lead to much lower credit scores than you would otherwise have. In the case of fragmented and duplicate files, it could also generate multiple scores.
If your credit score becomes mixed because someone is trying to take over your identity, this could spell trouble for you. Law enforcement might have a difficult time separating the actions you took with your personal identity versus what the other person did. In some cases, you could be held accountable.
Sometimes, when you create a new account, companies require that you verify information in your credit history to prove who you are. If information is missing or it includes data from other people, you could end up looking like the imposter for your account. This could restrict your ability to get loans or do business.
In some cases, missing information could actually work in your favor. Several people have reported delinquent payments suddenly disappearing from their files. There are so many reasons this could happen that it is always worth looking into. Even so, a missing delinquency could actually increase your credit score until the credit bureaus correct the error.
How Can Consumers Check for Credit File Errors?
In the worst-case scenario, you discover something is amiss when you try to get a loan or open another credit card account. Ideally, you do periodical checks to ensure the credit bureaus have your information reported correctly. Here are some ways to keep an eye on your credit data.
Set Up Alerts
If your credit history becomes mixed because of identity theft, it will take a few steps to get there. Your bank and several free credit report apps can help you set up alerts. When you have alerts set up, you can know when these and other changes occur:
- New credit lines
- New addresses
- New employers
- Name changes
- Credit score changes
Request Free Annual Reports
Each consumer with an American credit history has the right to receive an annual free copy of their credit information from the bureaus. It’s a good idea to make a habit of requesting this information and looking for discrepancies. If you find any, dispute it as soon as possible. The more serious the discrepancy, the more urgency you should treat it with.
Check Your Credit Score
If you check your credit regularly, few changes surprise you. You know your credit score dropped after you went shopping for a new car or that it climbed after you paid off the last of that big credit card bill. When you don’t check your credit score regularly, identifying unexplainable changes might become harder. Once you have your credit history file discrepancies resolved, you might still need a boost to get that number up again. Find out how our tradeline bundles at Coast Tradelines can help.