Dealing With a Card That Is Not Yours on a Credit Report

Numerals on Credit Card
••• Bryan Mullennix / Getty Images

Checking your credit report at least once a year—more often if you’re planning to apply for a major loan— is important. Primarily so you can discover any accounts that don’t belong to you but are appearing on your report. When you do find an account that isn’t yours, how you handle it is crucial. If the account has a high balance or negative status, your credit score could be affected by it.

How Did the Wrong Account Get on Your Credit Report

Sometimes a human error is the blame for the wrong accounts showing up on your credit report. Someone may have transposed the numbers in your social security number. Or, there may be someone with a name similar to yours and your credit profiles got mixed up. Other times, these accounts are the result of fraud or identity theft; someone may have opened a credit card account in your name. It is especially true if there are multiple accounts on your credit report that don’t belong to you.

How to Remove False Accounts

Fortunately, there’s a fairly straightforward process for clearing your credit report of accounts that aren't yours. Sometimes the process works the first time, other times you may have to repeat or take another course of action to clean up your credit report completely.

Start by ordering your credit reports from the three major credit bureaus – Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. If you’ve already ordered one, pull the other two credit reports to see if those reports contain fraudulent accounts, too.

Dispute the account with the credit bureau that has the account listed on your credit report. You can do this online, by phone, or via mail. Sending your dispute via (certified) mail gives you a paper trail that can be beneficial if the credit bureau doesn’t resolve the dispute in your favor.

Federal law gives you the right to file a lawsuit against a credit bureau that doesn't stick to the law. If you have any proof supporting your claim, you can mail, fax, or upload this proof. Make sure you send a copy and not your original documents.

Ideally, the credit bureau’s investigation will return in your favor, and the account will be removed from your credit report. You can add a fraud alert to your credit report if you think there's a chance the thief could open more accounts in your name.

Dispute the account also with the company that listed the account on your credit report. You’ll want to have the account closed to prevent any future billings made to the account in your name. Having the company flag the account as fraud will help to get it removed from your credit report.

What to Do If the Account Isn't Removed

If your dispute is unsuccessful, it’s likely because the business confirmed to the credit bureau that the account does belong to you. Working with this business to prove the account is fraudulent is the best next step to take next. Speak with a manager, supervisor, or even a vice president or president at the company, providing evidence that the account does not belong to you.

Complaining to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau may help you get the account marked as fraudulent and removed from your credit report. While the CFPB doesn’t force a company to take any action in your favor, having a government agency involved may inspire the credit bureau and the information furnished to take a closer look at your account. Companies with a history of behaving badly face penalties from the CFPB.

You have the right to sue a credit bureau that doesn’t remove a fraudulent account from your credit report after you’ve disputed. It is why it’s important to keep copies of all your correspondence with the credit bureau. If nothing else works, contact a consumer rights attorney that practices in your state to discuss suing the credit bureau for damages under the Fair Credit Reporting Act.