How Can I Separate the Credit Reports of a Father and Son?

Quick Answer

Family members with similar names or other identifying information can inadvertently have their credit files connected. By contacting Experian and giving information to separate one file from the other, you can correct this issue.

woman sitting looking at tablet screen
Dear Experian,

How do you go about repairing credit when it has been commingled with your son? Both father and son have the same name.

- ILB

Dear ILB,

Commingling credit histories, commonly referred to as having a mixed credit file, fortunately is rare in terms of the number of credit reports maintained by Experian and the other national credit reporting companies. When it does happen, it is most often because of the situation you describe—a father and son sharing the same name.

How Does a Mixed File Happen?

Mixed credit files are caused by two individuals sharing nearly identical identifying information, such as names, addresses, dates of birth and even Social Security numbers.

For example, a father and son may share the same name, with the exception of a generation indicator, such as Jr., Sr. or III. They may also share the same address, be born in the same month and perhaps on or close to the same day of the month. Surprisingly, their Social Security numbers may even vary by only one or two digits.

If the father or son applies for credit but does not provide the generation indicator or other identification elements, it can be quite difficult to distinguish between them, and so account information could appear on the wrong person's report.

I have also seen instances in which mothers and daughters have shared the same name. This is common in some cultures, and can result in the same difficulty.

The same can also happen with siblings, especially if they are twins who share the same date of birth and have similar names.

Can a Mixed File Be Prevented?

To help prevent the problem, Experian recommends that you always provide complete identifying information, and always use the same name and other identifying information when completing an application. It is essential that the generation identifier always be provided.

The best thing to do when you share a name with another family member is always use your full, given name as it appears on your birth certificate. It may not be the name you go by on a day-to-day basis, but it does help prevent a mixed credit file issue.

What Should I Do if I Suspect My Credit File Is Mixed?

If your credit file does become mixed, you'll want to dispute the information with Experian. If you haven't already done so, you can order your free Experian credit report online so you can review it carefully. The report will include instructions for disputing the information that does not belong in your credit file.

You can submit your disputes online, over the phone using the number on your credit report or by mail. If you choose to dispute online, be sure to include in your explanation that you believe your file is linked with another individual, such a parent or sibling.

In some cases, you may need to call the toll-free number provided with your credit report and ask to speak with an Experian agent to help identify which account belongs to each relative.

Having specific identifying information and reviewing the dates the accounts were opened often allows Experian to separate the files without having to re-verify the accounts with your creditors.

The good news is, once we are able to identify the accounts that belong to each party, we can permanently link them to the correct identifying information even if they continue to be reported with potentially confusing names or addresses.

Thanks for asking.

Jennifer White, Consumer Education Specialist

The purpose of this question submission tool is to provide general education on credit reporting. The Ask Experian team cannot respond to each question individually. However, if your question is of interest to a wide audience of consumers, the Experian team may include it in a future post and may also share responses in its social media outreach. If you have a question, others likely have the same question, too. By sharing your questions and our answers, we can help others as well.

Personal credit report disputes cannot be submitted through Ask Experian. To dispute information in your personal credit report, simply follow the instructions provided with it. Your personal credit report includes appropriate contact information including a website address, toll-free telephone number and mailing address.

To submit a dispute online visit Experian's Dispute Center. If you have a current copy of your personal credit report, simply enter the report number where indicated, and follow the instructions provided. If you do not have a current personal report, Experian will provide a free copy when you submit the information requested. Additionally, you may obtain a free copy of your report once a week through December 31, 2022 at AnnualCreditReport.