Not Me! How to Handle Mistaken Identity

Mistaken identity is a serious credit issue. A mistyped Social Security Number, wrong address or charge account could have a dramatic and unfair effect on your score. As no stranger to credit misadventures, I had my own brush with mistaken identity just a few hours ago. What was supposed to be a simple blood draw at a local laboratory turned into an issue that threatened my financial health as well. After checking in with the technician behind the counter, I was met with the following information:

mistaken identity

“I looked up your account and found $725 of unpaid bills from 2011,” the technician said. “You’ll need to pay these before we can perform your blood test today.”

Surprised, I looked carefully at the printed copies of unpaid labs. While my name was on the slip, it also listed a mysterious home address and tests that I had never heard of. What’s more, I checked my credit last week and saw no negative marks or cases of identity theft. Clearly, these bills were not mine.

What to do? When faced with a misunderstanding, sometimes a quick explanation is all you need. On the other hand, a difficult creditor could pose greater and more costly risks. Read on to learn how to handle cases of mistaken identity. These steps will help you uphold the truth and protect your reputation.

When mistaken identity issues arise:

  • Be clear.First and foremost, it is important to assert yourself. When presented with a case of mistaken identity, say something like the following:“Yes, I see that this person has the same name, but this isn’t me. I have never lived at that address and I did not order or receive that item or service.”
    If a simple statement doesn’t do the trick, get specific about your identity and whereabouts:
    “I have never lived in Kentucky or visited the site in question. In fact, I was living in Chicago at the time of this bill receipt and couldn’t possibly have made these charges in person. See? My driver’s license clearly states my home address.”
    Evidence is the best defense against mistaken identity. State the truth and assert your willingness to provide proof. Creditors can’t deny substantiation.
  • Ask for verification.The average creditor uses Social Security Numbers as a measure of identity verification. In my case, the laboratory did not keep SSNs on file and merely used names and birthdates to confirm identity. If you find yourself in a similar situation, say something like this:“I’m not the only Sarah Szczypinsk in the United States, and although it’s surprising to find another that shares my birthday, you cannot tie these bills to my account without additional identification. Show me a document that lists my SSN in reference to these charges.”While a creditor can file negative items on your credit report, they can’t keep them there without proof. Demand further research before your situation escalates and your credit suffers. If you fear future damage, contact your attorney immediately and ask them to step in on your behalf.
  • Keep your current information safe. A shady creditor may try to attach mistaken charges to your account by using new information. In my case, providing an insurance card could have saddled me with $725 of someone else’s bills, damaging my credit and resulting in a stressful road to recovery. The bottom line: Don’t give creditors any new info or ammunition. Keep account numbers, addresses and other contact information to yourself.
  • Don’t get sucked in. Here’s a life lesson that also applies to personal finance: When you are right, don’t argue. A dispute is a two-sided conversation, which means you can end it by choosing not to participate. Explain your case clearly and politely, but don’t stick around to fight a useless battle. Walking away was the simplest and best course of action in my case. I plan to keep an eye on my credit reports in the future and follow up with my Lexington Law attorney to ensure that my accounts remain clean and accurate. Choose the same decisive route and focus on the facts rather than the noise. Your credit score (and blood pressure) will thank you.