Like other high school juniors, Olivia Lowery should be spending her spring break surfing the net for fun. " My favorite subject right now is advanced math I," Olivia said. She's not checking her Myspace page though; she's checking her credit report, a record she and her grandmother believes is already damaged. "She's about to go to college," Maple Lowery, Olivia's grandmother, said, "her whole future's ahead of her and it's already dented." The problems all stem from her social security number. The family noticed something was wrong years ago when Olivia's great-grandmother tried to claim her as a dependent. "They said that she couldn't file because somebody had already used my social security number," Olivia said. Olivia later filed for her free annual credit report and claims she could not get a copy because a reporting agency listed her as having a mortgage. "This kid just turned 18," Maple said," how can she have a mortgage."
That's when they called the KTAL Trouble Shooters. With Olivia's permission, we pulled up her Experian credit report at www.annualcreditreport.com. We found no errors and ,more importantly, no mortgage. That might seem strange but consumer protection expert and local attorney David Szwak had a possible explanation. "It could be a mixed file," Szwak said," she needs to carefully assess what those applications show." Szwak says that can happen if 7 of the 9 social security numbers match someone else's with a similar name.
Another question, however, remains unanswered: Who is claiming Olivia on their taxes? Olivia worries that she won't be able to move on until she finds out. "I just really want my social security number to be cleared up," Olivia said.
Here's the lesson we all can take from this: be sure to get a copy of your credit report from all three reporting agencies every year. You can do that at www.annualcreditreport.com. Dispute any accounts or notations that look fishy immediately. For more information on how to do that, visit myfaircredit.com .