DEFINITION of ‘Mixed File’
A credit bureau record that contains more than one consumer’s information. A mixed file is an erroneous file; a proper credit bureau file should only contain information on one person. Mixed files can occur when two people have similar names, Social Security numbers, addresses or other identifying information.
INVESTOPEDIA EXPLAINS ‘Mixed File’
Some clues that you might have a mixed file include:
- a slight variation in the Social Security number that appears on your credit report;
- a slight variation in the spelling of your name (a variation you know you haven’t used to apply for credit);
- or a slight variation in your address or birthdate.
Data that’s not just slightly different, but completely different, from your own is another red flag. The most obvious sign is one or more accounts that you don’t recognize. Any of these irregularities could indicate a mixed file. They could also be harmless typos that you made when applying for credit or that a financial institution made when reporting your account to a credit bureau. They could also indicate that someone has stolen your identity. The only way to find out whether you’re facing a serious problem is to immediately dispute these variations with the credit bureau and try to figure out why they have occurred.
The best way to avoid having a mixed file is to keep an eye on your credit reports. You’re allowed one free credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus each year; if you stagger your requests, you can get one bureau’s report every four months. Review each report carefully to make sure they don’t have any mistakes. If they do, dispute them immediately to begin the process of getting the incorrect information removed from your report. Even if you’ve had the good fortune to find your less-than-stellar credit file mixed with that of someone who has never paid a bill late, you never know when things could change, and you don’t want someone else’s negative credit history to affect your ability to get a loan.
If you learn that you have a mixed file and dispute the accounts that appear on your credit report that don’t belong to you, the credit bureau should contact the company associated with the account to verify that it isn’t yours, then remove it from your credit report. The credit bureau should then suppress that account so it won’t return to your credit report next month when the company reports its data to the credit bureau again. If the credit bureau doesn’t take the necessary steps to correct your mixed file, you can sue.