A mysterious stranger has trashed my credit rating

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My credit card provider has reduced my credit limit by 98%. When I asked why, they advised me to check my credit reports. It turns out my TransUnion and Equifax details are full of records for someone with the same first name as my own, but the surname Henderson. My name is Anderson. We have different names, different dates of birth and different addresses. It seems we did once live on the same street, but at different numbers and in different years. This stranger seems to have got finance for a BMW, failed to keep up payments and has recently been credit checked by doorstep loan companies and I’m worried that he might also be able to view my personal records. I’m about to exchange on a property and this may mean I lose it.
Full name withheld, London

This is very disturbing, and not an isolated case, according to the Information Commissioner’s Office. Your mysterious alter ego lives at the other end of the country and is 10 years younger. There would appear to be nothing to link you and, indeed, Henderson does not make an appearance in your records with Experian, the only credit reference agency to which you subscribe.

TransUnion didn’t attempt to explain the error and merely apologised for the “inconvenience”. It says: “We have explained that the information has been separated and his credit file corrected.”

Equifax blamed a lender for mistakenly submitting an address associated with both you and Henderson. That raises more questions since, although you may have lived on the same street at different times, you’ve never had an address in common.

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What it does show, is that third-party carelessness, or even a typo, can trash a credit rating with grave repercussions for mortgage applications, insurance, mobile phone contracts and even a job hunt.

It took two weeks for your data records to be separated and Equifax says the process can take up to 28 days since the company responsible for submitting the incorrect data has to rectify the error first.

A “notice of disassociation” has now been applied to prevent the mismatch recurring. It is, in my opinion, a serious data breach which could have exposed either you, or Henderson, to fraud, but the ICO says it would only investigate if neither the lender who made the initial mistake, or the credit reference agencies, corrected it.

Equifax has paid you £350 in compensation. TransUnion is still inching through its complaint-handling process which, it warned, could take up to eight weeks.

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