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Anomalous survey finding: mass underreporting of credit card debt

Survey findings from recent research reveal that, while many Americans report debt information concerning their mortgages, home equity loans and bankruptcies with a "striking level of accuracy," the same can't be said regarding their input on their credit card debt.

Put another way: Where credit cards are concerned, many consumers fudge the numbers on what they owe.

That is, they understate the true amount of their outstanding debt.

And they do so in a material way. The above-noted survey, carried out once every three years by a federal reserve bank branch, sifts through a significant amount of data solicited from and responded to by consumers across the country. To add a further measure of accuracy to the information that is received, notes a media article discussing consumers' self-reported debt, findings are given "a reality check by comparing them to bank data compiled by the credit bureau Equifax."

That double dose of analysis reveals this: Although the average household credit card debt reported by survey respondents is $5,700, Equifax data indicate that it is in truth much higher. In fact, bank-reported data supplied the credit bureau indicates that average household card debt is about $9,600.

Such a discrepancy reveals, well, what? That some Americans are purposefully understating debt because they just can’t deal with an unsavory truth confronting them? That others are simply confused and not keeping sufficiently close track of their spending and debt levels?

Researchers say that they're not sure why there is such a disconnect in the two sets of numbers reported.

And they further add, unsurprisingly, that more research is needed to better understand why so many consumers are underestimating their debt exactions.

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