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Misidentification and lack of access to personal information leads to mistaken four-year debt pursuit

Early resolved case summary #2015-04

August 1, 2015

Lessons Learned

  • Organizations must ensure that personal information is as accurate, complete and up-to-date for the purposes for which it is to be used, especially when action is taken or decisions are made based on that information.
  • Individuals must be able to challenge the accuracy and completeness of their personal information held by an organization through timely access and be able to have it amended as appropriate.
  • Where appropriate, amended information must be transmitted to third parties with access to the information in question.

Complaint summary

A collection agency (the “organization”) was pursuing an individual for a debt owed on a credit card account. The individual asserted that it was not his credit card account. The individual claimed that the organization had been calling him at his home for several years and had disclosed his personal financial information to other members of his household.

The individual believed that he had recently been denied a loan because the credit card debt at issue was appearing on his credit report issued by a major credit reporting agency.

Although the individual had followed up with the organization  to find out how they justified attributing the debt to him, he was not satisfied with its response. He had requested access to documentation to validate the alleged debt, including documentation that showed: (i) that there was an initial agreement between the debtor and the original creditor (in this case, the credit card company); and (ii) that the organization had been authorized to collect the debt. He was not provided access to any such documentation.

He then filed a complaint with our Office alleging that the organization was failing to remove an inaccurate debt from his credit report.


Our Office contacted the organization and it produced a copy of the original credit application submitted to the credit card company for the account in question. Some discrepancies were noted on the application. As a result, the organization investigated the matter and advised that it had ceased pursuing the debt collection, that fraud was possibly involved, and that it would have the individual’s credit report corrected. The individual was notified of these measures and was satisfied with the outcome.

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