You might call it consumer’s worst nightmare: You've done all the right things to earn a good credit score, like paying all your bills on time. But then, you suddenly find out your credit score has been drastically lowered, because of a mistake made by one of the big companies that compile credit reports on you.
NBCLA discovered that your all-important credit score, is not always accurate. And some consumers tell us, fixing the problem isn’t easy.
"I've never had a late payment on anything--any utility, any home loan, car loans, credit cards," says Nicole Martinez of Sylmar, California. And that's why Martinez earned a stellar credit score of over 800. Because of her high score, banks have given her one platinum credit card after another, and she had no problem getting a home loan this past summer. Then suddenly last month, she got a letter from Bank of America, saying they were slashing her $22,500 credit limit, to $700, because of a "history of delinquency with other creditors."
"At first I was shocked," says Martinez. So she immediately got copies of her credit reports from the three big credit reporting agencies: Experian, Equifax, and Transunion. The first two of those agencies showed no negative items in her credit history. But the third, Transunion, showed pages of delinquent loans and overdue payments that Martinez says are not hers. “I found that there are other names listed on the report that are not mine, and other addresses, and about thirty accounts that aren't mine,” Martinez told NBCLA.
Transunion apparently combined another person’s bad credit history with Nicole Martinez’ history, by accident. That other person’s first name was also Nicole and she lived in the same city as Nicole Martinez.
But Martinez says it's been very difficult trying to get Transunion to fix their mistake. "They really gave me the runaround," she says. Martinez says she was passed from one supervisor to another, and that Transunion finally told her “there's nothing they can do about it except open an investigation that could take 30 to 60 days."
NBCLA found other consumers, from coast to coast, complaining that the same thing happened to them: a credit reporting agency accidentally combined someone else's bad credit with their good credit, damaging their credit score. Says Nicole Martinez, “I have a 700 dollar credit limit now. You know, what happens if I need to buy a car? And my credit score has gone from over 800 to like 510." Which is bad."
Fortunately for Nicole Martinez, the problem with her credit history suddenly got fixed, only after NBCLA contacted Transunion about her case. The day after we asked the company to explain what happened, Transunion called Martinez and told her they’d removed the erroneous credit information from her credit history. Transunion told NBCLA, “Situations like this are rare, and when one does occur we work diligently to resolve it to the consumer’s satisfaction, as we have done for Ms. Martinez.”
Still, Nicole Martinez has some advice for all consumers: check your credit report from time to time. And if you spot any delinquent payments or negative marks that are not yours, call the credit reporting agency immediately, and complain.