Do You Have a Fragmented Credit Report?
Fragmented credit reports are rare but can happen from time to time.
There you are, humming along nicely, when all of a sudden the Finance and Insurance Manager (a.k.a., "The F&I Guy") at a local car dealership tells you he pulled all three of your credit reports from the same credit-reporting agency.
Wait a minute: Three credit reports from one agency?
Of course, this makes zero sense and the knee-jerk reaction could be that you've been a victim of identity theft. Don't worry, fraud probably isn't the problem.
Fragmented Credit Reports
If you've got more than one credit report at any one credit reporting agency, then you have what's referred to as a fragmented credit report or, more informally, "dupes, duplicate files, frag files, or multiple files." They all mean the same thing, which is that you've got a problem.
Fragmented credit reports are rare but can happen from time to time. The credit reporting agencies don't house your credit report in their systems. Instead, they house billions of bits of data that are only compiled into a credit report when a lender (or another party) asks for it.
When the data bits (accounts, public records, collections) are compiled into a credit report, it's possible they won't all end up in the same single report belonging to you. They could end up on different reports, all belonging to you.
This happens for of a few different reasons. First, some credit reports do not have infinite size limitations. If your file is too large, the credit bureau cannot compile and deliver it, so it breaks it into two smaller and more manageable sizes.
Second, if you've changed your identification enough you could end up with two or more credit files connected by a common identifier, such as a Social Security Number.
For example, if you're Sally Taylor and Sally Taylor-Smith and Sally Ann Taylor and Sally Ann Taylor-Smith, you might end up with duplicate credit reports. The credit reporting agencies can combine them, but you've got to know about it before you can ask them to do so.
Fragmented Credit Reports Are Bad for Your Credit Score
The bad news when it comes to multiple credit files is credit scoring. Credit scores are calculated at the file level, not at the consumer level. That means if you have three credit files at TransUnion, you'll have three credit scores at TransUnion. And none of these three scores is likely to be accurate because they were calculated based on different data.