Seattle, WA — A Seattle woman is suing Experian credit reporting agency for creating a mixed credit file, combining her information with another woman’s.
The other woman has the same first name, but has a different last name and a Social Security number that is different by one digit.
Heidi Rene Johnson said it resulted in almost two years of fighting credit agencies, banks and debt collectorsover problems that are not hers.
Johnson first noticed something wrong when she was denied a Macy’s card, then heard from her bank that it was lowering her spending limit from $10,000 to $500.
When she looked at her credit report from Experian, it showed her information, along with that of a woman named Heidi Lopez.
She also started receiving calls from people looking for Lopez.
“I kind of felt helpless,” Johnson said.
She said she spent hours each week on the phone with various agencies, trying to clear her name. Some of itwas done the week of her wedding, and the calls to deal with the problem persist almost two years later.
Johnson and her husband are now expecting twins, and they purchased a house, which could be done onlywithout her name on the documents.
“We're just an average couple, just trying to make a family. and having a roadblock in front of you kind of slows you down,” said Johnson's husband, Ben Johnson. Johnson’s attorney, SaraEllen Hutchison, said mixed files happen because of the way in which credit agencies identify individuals.
“They take your first name and they take a partial Social Security number, and if those things match, then they can add an account to your credit file, even if the last names don't match,” Hutchison said. KIRO 7 reached out to Experian for comment on the case. A representative responded: “We cannot comment specifically on this case due to the pending status of the litigation.
Regarding the issue of mixed files, I can say that Experian has processes in place to prevent mixing of consumer credit information, but on rare occasions it does happen when there are anomalies in a credit file such as spelling or typographical errors in data furnished to us by creditors.
Other instances can occur when family members who live in the same household apply for credit using incomplete or inconsistent identification information, such as not using Jr. or Sr. to distinguish themselves from family members with the same name and address.
To prevent files from mixing, we place indicators on files where there is a chance this could occur and we can quickly resolve the situation by working directly with consumers to correct mixed file information.”
An Oregon woman sued Equifax in 2013 and was awarded more than $18 million in damages.
An FTC survey in 2013 showed that one in five Americans has some kind of error in at least one of their three credit reports. Five percent of Americans have errors that negatively impact their ability to obtain loans. Hutchison, who handles consumer protection cases, said the only truly free credit report can be obtained at www.annualcreditreport.com.
“I've always assumed that as long as you work hard, put your time in, your credit's going to be good,” Johnson said.
She and her husband hope the lawsuit will prompt others to vigilantly check their credit reports, and to have credit reporting agencies improve their methods of creating profiles and fixing mistakes.