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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18 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
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
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
cslinz62

Well, I have good credit & I earned it on my own without a man. Mine is in the low 800\'s without ever having a mortgage. I\'m proud of that. I don\'t think my middle name which is common has anything to do with my score. However, I know a name can knock you out of a job interview if the interviewer doesn\'t like it. A homely face with an education can get knocked out of a job because the interviewer thinks their poor & ignorant. I\'m speaking about me. Homely & brains makes it for a long hard road in life. Sometimes I either wish I was born attractive or born stupid.

October 22 2013 at 5:50 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
lyleva

These credit scores are close to jokes. I don't need them and never use them.

October 22 2013 at 5:00 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to lyleva's comment
napajack

You don't know a whole lot about personal finance do you? Credit scores are not for your use. They are for those who may, or in your case, may not loan you money.

October 22 2013 at 6:13 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
jeffcrashed

Nah..."I" screwed up my credit, not my middle name...it's all numbers anyways...

October 22 2013 at 3:30 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply