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Your middle name could be hurting your credit

If you don't go by your first name, or if you've recently changed your name, you have all the more reason to check your credit report.

By Oct 22, 2013 1:50PM

This post comes from Jeanne Kelly at partner site on MSN MoneyIn 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. He 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.

Leo DiCaprio in ‘J. Edgar’ © 2011 Warner Bros. Ent
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. You can monitor your credit for free using a tool like the Credit Report Card, which updates your credit scores monthly and can let you track any sudden changes that may signal an error.

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

More from

Oct 22, 2013 6:44PM

I "had a current job" (according to a credit report from 2005) with a doctor that my ex-wife quit working for in the late 80/early 90 period. It turned up AFTER a bankruptcy, not in the credit reports obtained during the bankruptcy. I was never an employee of the doctor in question...  My report was so full of errors, I've given up, I could never afford the fight to clear them up; some dated back to the 1980s.

CREDIT REPORTING AGENCIES should be compelled, by law, to authenticate any data that they get before reporting it - and to pay for any misreported data's consequences. This has been going on since the 50/60s, and they keep evading attempts to make them accountable for their data.

Oct 22, 2013 6:18PM

Try being "Mark Smith" nowadays - even with my middle initial my credit is so messed up, that I almost can't even use it & 90% of it isn't even me!  But hey some minimum wage data entry person put it there, so it must be correct!


Do any of them give an F!  Nope - I'm just a loser with bad credit that deserves what he gets!

Oct 22, 2013 9:35PM
credit-reporting agencies need to be tightly me, the employees of these agencies rank just above Capitol Hill lobbyists on the scum scale.
Oct 22, 2013 6:32PM
The system is so screwed up.  They really need to just start over.
Oct 22, 2013 4:54PM
I had one of the 3 credit agencies do a credit check and was shocked to see "Other Social Security Numbers used" and they gave me the SSN of another person with my name in Southern California.
Oct 23, 2013 10:37AM
What's J. Edgar Hoover doing shopping in a men's clothing store?
Oct 22, 2013 11:10PM
If you're a boy named Sue, you're in trouble.
Oct 23, 2013 8:44AM
What my question is and I still do not understand this is why does there have to be three credit agencies? Also, why do they have different credit ratings? This creates a big confussion and which one is rated higher than the other two? No wonder there are so many errors in people's credit ratings and histories. Is one big agency not enough?
Oct 22, 2013 3:52PM
I had a friend in the Navy years ago that was named Billy Lee but everyone called him Pete. 
Oct 23, 2013 11:10AM
Even when you notify a credit card company of a false posting AND PROVE IT, they just ignore it and don't do a damn thing about it.   What should happen is that they should be fined heavily when they do not correct a mistake.  Fat chance of that as they seem to own congressmen like all national companies.  My scores for the three credit reporting agencies   F-
Oct 23, 2013 10:05AM

I go by my middle name, but when completing a form I still put my actual first name in the box/line that says “First Name” and my middle name in the one that says “Middle Name” so all of my credit is still under my first name. The problem is when people who go by their middle name start putting it as the first

Oct 23, 2013 10:39AM
On a different note,  I do not understand how "No credit is bad credit".  If someone pays for everything in cash, and has no credit, they are unable to obtain any loans or credit cards....that does not make any sense...and if they are not allowed credit cards or loans, then how are they supposed to obtain any credit ratings?
Oct 23, 2013 10:55AM
My husband and I both have common names, being named would be surprised at how many errors there are on our reports...some because there are others in the area with the same first names and middle every time we try to get a credit card or when we were trying to get a mortgage, we have jump through so many hoops it is ridiculous...we once were being dunned by a furniture store in Baltimore for non payment...I asked them to explain to me why I would go all the way to Baltimore to buy furniture, when I live in PA. No good explanation came for that. So I made them go through all of the recorded information and it was found that the person they were looking for lived in the area AND was related to the person who entered the data in the first place. I also told them if it showed up on my credit report, that I would sue them for messing up my credit.
Oct 22, 2013 9:12PM
If I can't pay for it I don't have it and I don't worry too much about my credit score.... Probably wouldn't do any good to worry anyway don't think it helps anyone. 
Oct 23, 2013 10:08AM

If you seriously believe you can single handedly correct an error on your credit report please offer an effective way to produce results. I have six names on my report as aliases. Most were data entry mistakes made by a state DRV employee. A second and third must have come from have come from an insurance company, again an error. None the less some idiot used my SS# to apply for a Sears CC. Thanks but I live two states away probably another data entry issue, Right? I had experian block my credit score but they refuse to take my word or even discuss the issue unless I provide reams of data. Well BS no more abused data for you, Experian!

Oct 23, 2013 2:02PM

As an employee of a credit rating agency, I'd like to remind readers of the following:

1. Your address matters.  If you live in a poorer zip code, your score will be reduced slightly due to perceived weakness in your financial situation.

2. Your education matters.  Higher education will garner a slightly higher score due to an assumed ability to 'bounce back' from temporary financial setbacks.

3. Your name matters.  Not only for the reasons mentioned in the article, but also because heavily 'ethnic' names in conjunction with points 1 & 2 are suggestive of an individual posing a greater credit risk.

Oct 23, 2013 11:50AM

Credit reporting agencies are one of the most F'd up bureaucratic nightmares one could ever imagine.


We also have no control over what anyone puts into our credit files and the agencies have no interest or motivation in seeing if it is even valid - in essence - you can be charged, tried, found guilty and executed all before you even are aware of it.


Then you are left with the lifetime burden of either spending enormous amounts of time energy and resources to try to have the mistakes corrected or - living with the damage that others, with the cooperation of the credit agencies, have done to your life.


Collection agencies are largely to blame for much of this in that they are motivated strictly by greed and also have no interest or motivation to play by any set of fair or ethical standards.


If the penalties for misconduct or erroneous records was substantial then they would do a better job at being ethical, but like banks and other financial institutions, they are allowed to run roughshod over consumers with little to no system of checks and balances.....thanks to Congress (again).


Because no one has the time or energy to do the immortal combat it takes to resolve these matters (as they sometimes take years and years and years) many are left with the misfortune of being severely damaged for the rest of their lives because of a broken system.

Oct 23, 2013 1:42PM
I used to have great credit, but my wife passed away and trying to remove her from the accounts was almost impossible so I started sending ALL my card bills with her name back marked DECEASED and almost all card companies canceled the accounts and wrote off the accounts and it did not mess up my credit but the car loan that was in her name only would not let me keep the car and pay the payments, they repo'ed the car and listed it on my credit reports. now with  a car repo my score is below 500. THANK YOU FORD CREDIT
Oct 23, 2013 1:15PM
Credit is the wort of financial scams ever executed against the American people.
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