HOW TO DIFFERENTIATE BETWEEN IDENTITY THEFT AND MIXED FILES?
Identity theft occurs when someone steals your personal information, such as your bank account number, Social Security number, or your credit card information, and uses your identity to commit fraud, like making unauthorized transactions or purchases. On the other hand, a mixed credit file occurs when credit agencies mistakenly combine your personal or account information with another consumer’s information.
Both result in the appearance of wrong information on your credit report. This information does not belong to you and will cause damage to your credit and reputation. Mixed files, however, can sometimes be good for your credit score.
Identity theft and mixed files seem very similar to each other. However, making the distinction between the two can be very important at times for deciding how to respond.
Identity Theft vs. Mixed Files
When identity theft occurs, you may receive texts or emails notifying you that you have made purchases at some random store. There would be unknown charges on your bank statements, and there may be new accounts and loans opened in your name that you do not recognize. These are the signs that your identity has been stolen.
On the contrary, to identify a mixed file error, you first have to request your credit reports from all three main credit bureaus – Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax, through annualcreditreport.com. Then, carefully check to see if the incorrect or unfamiliar accounts are shown on only one agency's report or if they exist on the reports of all three agencies. If they appear on all of the reports, this may be a red flag that someone has been creating accounts in your name because all of the reporting agencies received the information. Had it been a mixed file error, the incorrect information would only appear on the credit report of one of the agencies. If you see this, know that one agency had made an error or mixed your account information.
How to respond
In the case of identity theft, you should dispute the information to the credit bureau and put a fraud alert on all your credit reports to notify lenders and the credit bureaus that your identity may have been stolen and that they should stop opening more accounts in your name. In addition, report identity theft to the Federal Trade Commission.
When facing a mixed file issue, you have the right to dispute inaccurate information under the law to the credit bureau, and they must investigate the dispute within 30 days and correct the error.