Credit report errors are surprisingly common. CNN Money recently cited a study of 1,000 participants and 3,000 credit reports by the Federal Trade Commission, which showed as many as 42 million Americans had errors on their credit reports.
One time, my credit report had a major error. Most credit report horror stories involve identity theft. A person reviews their credit report to find an unexpected balance on a credit card they don't recognize. They find out someone has stolen their identity and credit, and damaged their credit as a result. My credit report horror story, however, involves an alias and a husband.
Ten years ago, I bought my first house, which was possibly the most financially sound decision of my 20s. I bought the home from a couple. Co-incidentally, the wife's first name was the same as mine, except she spelled it differently. Her last name, which was her maiden name, was obviously different from mine. She was about ten years older than me.
A couple of months after I closed on my home, I routinely pulled my credit report and score to check for any errors. Apparently, buying the house from a namesake had given me a completely different identity. In my credit report, the former homeowner's wife was listed as my alias (I was not married then and never had one). And, to the dismay of my family and me, there, listed as my spouse, was the former homeowner.
Once I got beyond the shock of the alias and the husband, I started looking for additional signs that my credit history was hopelessly commingled with my namesake. Were there accounts that were not mine? Balances on accounts? Thankfully, based on my employer information, prior addresses, open and closed credit accounts, mortgage, and recent credit checks, it seemed my identity was still intact. I also pulled credit reports from the two other bureaus. There were no errors in those.
I needed to be certain my namesake's identity had not be mixed up with mine. I emailed her husband, explaining the awkward situation. He ensured me that the credit report error had been only on my side. Even then, I put a fraud alert on my credit report and opted out of credit card solicitations, which would prevent opening any new accounts under my name. I also contacted the post office of my small town and asked them to make sure my mail was not forwarded to my namesake's new address.
I wrote to the credit bureau, which had made this egregious error, that they had put me in a financially vulnerable and socially awkward situation. It seemed inexcusable that they had confused me with another person solely on the basis of a common address, which was her previous address and my current home. She spelled her name differently, had a unique social security number, was married and not my age. There should have been no confusion.
Thankfully, my purported double identity was short lived. The credit bureau promptly removed the alias and spouse information. Credit reports for the next several years showed me without an alias until I finally married my one and only husband.
Ten years later, I can laugh about the alias and the husband on my credit report. But to this day, I remain extremely careful with my credit card use. I diligently check my free credit report twice a year at annualcreditreport.com and I advise everyone to check theirs for potential credit report errors.
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More from this contributor: First Person: I Charged My First Home to a Credit Card
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