Duplicate Reporting

One of the more frustrating aspects regarding credit reports is finding what one believes to be duplicate accounts. If the same account is reporting to all three bureaus (Equifax, Experian, Trans Union) more than once then that can mean the credit scores are taking a double hit. If the account in question is derogatory in any way this can be especially concerning. What a lot of people do not realize is that some of these accounts may look like duplicate accounts, but they really aren’t. It’s all in the way the creditor reports them.

Let’s take, for example some collection agencies. Most do report to all three bureaus, but they do not necessarily report the exact same way to each bureau. The basic information: balance, high credit, payment amount may be the same, but the account number may be off just a little from one bureau to the next. For example, they may report to one or two bureaus with just the account number 12345678 but to the other bureau(s) they may report as SYNCB-12345678. The SYNCB part would indicate the original creditor. Because of this slight discrepancy the one bureau reporting with SYNCB will show up on a different line than the one without the prefix which is reporting to the other two bureaus. While this looks like a duplicate account as it is showing twice, it actually is not as each bureau is only reporting it once, so it is therefore only hitting the scores one time.

Another example would be in the case of American Express when there is one borrower on the account and one borrower who is an authorized user. In this case the account will always show up twice even though it is one account. That is because of the account number. The account number that shows on the credit report for AMEX accounts is not an account number at all. It’s a “customer identifier” number. Each borrower has their own…both the main borrower and the authorized user. So again, each bureau is only reporting each “identifier” number once for each borrower so neither are taking a double hit as far as their scores are concerned. Where this could become an issue though is for Debt To Income Ratio (DTI) purposes, as there really is only one AMEX card, it just has two users.

Charged off accounts that have been sold can also appear to be duplicate accounts. The credit report will have the account that was charged off showing as a charge off and have the collection agency it was sold to also reporting the account as a collection. This is not a duplicate. By law both can repot the account for seven years. However, once the account is sold or tuned over to a collection agency the original creditor should remove the balance. It will still show as “charge off” but the balance should be removed and there should be a note in the remarks that states that it was sold or transferred to a collection agency. If they are both showing a balance, then that is something that should be disputed with the credit bureaus. Because they are both derogatory that is a double hit to the credit score, but it is legitimate.

Student loans are another item that often looks like duplicate accounts. Sometimes it can look like several duplicate accounts. In most cases though they are not. A borrower may only have one or two student loans, but it could be showing on the credit report as five or six. That is because they are reporting by disbursement date. So, a $30,000 student loan that was disbursed in increments of $5,000 on different dates will show up six times on the credit report. They will all have slightly different account numbers that is usually just the last digit of the account number being different. All together they will add up to $30,000 but it will appear as more than one loan. This is not the case with all student loans, but it is true of many of them that have differing disbursement dates. As long as they are in good standing and don’t have any late payments this should not have much of an effect on the credit scores. If they do have late payments then having multiple accounts show those could be an issue and the credit scores could suffer dramatically.

What can appear to be duplicate accounts can be very frustrating in that most of the time they really are not duplicates. If there are accounts showing up that are actually duplicate accounts then the best course of action would be to dispute those directly with the bureaus, especially if they are derogatory. This is just another reason it is so important to really monitor your credit report every few months or so. At the very least, once a year.