How Your Middle Name Could Screw Up Your Credit Score

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Britain Spy Files (FILE -  This is a 1971 file photo of the late  F.B.I. director J. Edgar Hoover. Overstaffed, overconfident an
AP Photo/FileFormer FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover

By Jeannne Kelly

In the movie "J. Edgar," there is a scene when the main character is denied credit at a men's clothing store because "John Hoover" owes the store money. Dicaprio's character explains that he was named after his father, John, but he also sometimes goes by the name Edgar. When pushed to choose just one name, he signs his name J. Edgar Hoover.

Many of us were born with a standard name sequence: Our first name is the name we go by, then our middle name is rarely used (unless mom is yelling at us!), and then our last name. For example, John Edgar Hoover might typically go by "John." But that's not the case for everyone, as was the case with the founder of the FBI. Someone could be called by their middle name ("Edgar," in our example).

Unfortunately, this has the potential to keep you from having the best credit possible or even to hurt your credit, just as it did for Hoover.

Although credit reporting agencies try to allow for it by reporting a primary name and aliases, it's not a perfect science to collect every variation of a person's name. Here's how it could affect you:
  • Bad credit from others could be reported as yours. As depicted in the movie, the main character may have had very good credit but his name was saddling him with his father's bad credit.
  • Big changes could eliminate all credit history. A woman who goes by the name Mary Anne Smith at 123 Main Street may get married and move into a home she co-owns with her husband, and now she's Mary Jones at 456 King Street. Will the credit reporting bureau recognize that both names belong to the same person? You want to make sure your name change is updated with your creditors and always confirm your name is correct on your credit reports.
  • Name variations might not be reporting to your credit. If Mary Anne Smith also had a credit card that was issued under her middle name ("M. Anne Smith"), then the credit reporting agency might not realize that these are one and the same person.

In all three examples (and numerous others), names can create an additional layer of complexity that might affect your credit.

Yes, credit reporting agencies are becoming increasingly better at matching that information (since they often match multiple pieces of information like name, address, and phone number all at the same time) but even that system is not perfect.

Therefore, if you have any loans or credit cards that are issued with variations of your name, or if you have changed your name or occasionally go by your middle name, then you will want to pull your credit, check all of your existing accounts against those reported on your credit report, and alert the credit reporting agencies to any aliases you might be using.

Don't let J. Edgar Hoover's problem keep you from getting the credit score you deserve.

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27 Comments

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serg.smith

Why do ignorant people write these articles? it must be a child, not to understand that in order to get credit, you have to give the credit companies access to your private social security number.

When Social Security was first pitched to the American people, they assure everyone that the Social Security number is only to be used for Social Security purposes, absolutely nothing else, it's the law.

But when you sign a credit application requesting your social security number, you are signing away your private rights and allowing the credit companies to use your SS number for tracking purposes. Absolutely no has a right to know your SS number by law, but when we sign a credit application we voluntary give up those rights. We all know you won't get any credit if you don't provide this number, so we all give it up...

October 23 2013 at 12:33 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
gasenginenut

social security numbers

October 23 2013 at 8:51 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
hagglkdave

Maybe J. Edgar would have had better luck at a women's clothing store.

October 22 2013 at 11:21 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to hagglkdave's comment
mac2jr

There is a difference between being Gay and being a Cross-dresser..

October 23 2013 at 2:18 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Jo

J. Edgar Hoover didn't have a problem; the STORE had a problem with not cross-checking John Hoover with John Edgar Hoover's ADDRESSES.

Even if you go by only one name, check yourself out on a google-type search. I find myself cropping up under all sorts of variations of my name in no fewer than 35 states, 30 of which I have NEVER set foot in.

October 22 2013 at 11:15 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Keith

I'm proud to say I PURPOSELY DESTROYED MY CREDIT SCORE, and have been debt free for over 5 years now, and I am GLAD that I did. I don't owe anyone anything. Thats called FREEDOM. If you have a mortgage, car loan and a credit card, YOU ARE A SLAVE, not free. Welcome to reality, now what are you going to do about it? Oh by the way, there is no law that enforces repaying credit on credit cards. There's a free step towards Freedom for you.

October 22 2013 at 8:49 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
mac2jr

"...if you don't like it then pay off your credit cards and close the accounts. That'll teach them a lesson....." ---- Good Advice, but it does NOTHING to help you except get you reported to the Big Three Credit Agencies who will then 'screw' up your credit, which 'screws' up you chances of getting a mortgage, other credit, and a job. We need to 'eliminate' the Credit Agencies, and reform the banks. As for BofA and the ex-MBNA now part of it, they treated their customers as 'number$' and nothing more. A sorry state of affairs for the USA.

October 22 2013 at 7:39 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
mac2jr

Most credit card companies have a division that will or may work with you, but some of the people are fully UNEDUCATED in what to do for you, or how to help you, or have the authority to do so... at MBNA {now Bank of America}, we, the employees, of every department (including outside contractors) had to spend a day answering phones and fielding customer problems, we received less than 10 minutes training on this, but had the financial life of many in our hands throughout the day.... this happened every day, and if you think the janitor was the expert on your account, you were right.....

October 22 2013 at 7:36 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
mac2jr

The Arab countries may have the solution, an eye for an eye, and cut off your hand if you steal from another's pocket. Yes, people should not have gotten so much in debt, but people, even very well off people sometimes end up in situations that caused debt that was not considered; example coming down with Cancer a week after getting laid off from a job where your job was sent to China and therefore, you have NO Medical Coverage.... This can bankrupt you instantly, and therefore, all those bills you had NO problem paying are now a problem, but the shame is that FELLOW CITIZENS, FELLOW AMERICANS, are then ripping you off with these scams... I have personally documented over 400 scams in the USA alone, and that does not look good for a law biding Christian Nation that is trying to tell the rest of the world how great its people are......

October 22 2013 at 7:34 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to mac2jr's comment
Jo

So much in debt? I might agree about credit cards...but one can no longer save the money to buy a house outright and the price of a decent car today is FIFTEEN TIMES what my parents paid for their first house, just after WW II.

October 22 2013 at 11:17 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
rkeeeballs

My middle name is...Estameeleewhalameeleeoowalawalaeeleeeepbiddily oatinboatinroboatayattenbottonshhhhhhh...will that really effect my credit score ?

October 22 2013 at 7:15 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
rkeeeballs

Thought they went by SS#....

October 22 2013 at 7:12 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to rkeeeballs's comment
Jo

They do....more fluff articles with no basis in truth...

October 22 2013 at 11:18 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply