IN 1999, Judy Ann Thomas of Elyria, Ohio, applied for a loan. But the bank mixed up her record with the file of a Utah woman named Judith Kendall — their Social Security numbers have seven digits in common. Because Ms. Kendall had a poor credit score, Ms. Thomas didn’t get the loan.
In the years since, as Ms. Thomas testified before Congress in May, she has repeatedly asked credit bureaus to correct her records, only to have her files re-contaminated. In 2010, when she applied for a job, the prospective employer questioned Ms. Thomas’s honesty after receiving Ms. Kendall’s records in response to a background check.
Ms. Thomas’s situation is not unique. Earlier this year the Federal Trade Commission completed a multiyear study of credit-report errors and found that nearly 20 percent of consumers had errors in at least one of their credit files, and that 13 percent saw an improvement in their scores when the errors were corrected.
Confused files, like Ms. Thomas’s, are also common. A 2012 study by The Columbus Dispatch analyzed 30,000 complaints to the F.T.C.; of those, 1,500 people reported that their files included someone else’s information. Nearly a third said the credit agencies did not correct the errors, despite being asked to do so.