Have you applied for a rental, cellphone, or car loan recently, only to get a surprise denial instead of the approval you so sorely wanted? If your credit is otherwise clear, the problem could come down to simply having a common name.
If you have a really common last name, the fact is that you face a higher risk of having errors on your credit report. Although the agencies try their best to get the info right, mix ups happen far too often. And when they do, you are left trying to weed out the inaccurate data and repair the damage to your credit.
Thankfully, there’s a way to remove those errors and restore the integrity of your credit report. Here’s what you need to know.
Most Common Last Names in the USAlthough the United States is rather diverse, many people share the same surnames — and some even have the exact same name down to their middle initials. When that happens, keeping their credit reports straight is a full-time job all on its own. And you can bet that the credit reporting agencies cannot put enough time and effort into making sure their data stays separate.
The most common surnames in the US as of 2010 include:
If your last name is in this list or is one of the many others that come up most often, you will likely experience some sort of reporting mix up in your lifetime.
The Trouble with Common SurnamesCredit reporting companies do not always look at all of the identifying information while compiling reports. Although they should, they are not required to compare birth dates, social security numbers, and other qualifiers before adding new information. That’s why it’s quite common for two people with common names to end up with each other’s account info on their reports. The agencies don’t recheck the data either unless prompted by the account holder.
When credit reporting mix ups arise, they usually only come to light at the most inopportune times. Unless you’re pulling your reports at least once a year, you’ll likely only notice the errors upon getting a denial on your application for a loan. Then, your much-anticipated car, cellphone, or apartment has to wait while you sort it all out.
Unfortunately, that can take a whole lot of time and effort. After the denial, you have to ask the property manager or lender for the contact info for the reporting agency in question. Then, request your credit report and look it over for errors. After that, you must dispute each error line by line, and then wait for the reporting agency to sort it all out.
Major Red Flags That Indicate a Mix UpSince repairing the damage can take so much time and derail your plans quite a bit, it’s important to keep an eye on your credit report at all times. You can pull your credit reports at least once a year to check for any line items that are not yours. Look carefully at each item listed there and compare it to your records.
Red flags to look for include:
- Any creditors that you do not recognize
- Debt amounts that do not match your records
- Duplicate accounts from common companies
- Unpaid bills that do not appear to be yours
As you look closer at those suspect items, you will quickly tell if they are yours or not. But remember, the burden of proof is on the reporting agency, so don’t hesitate to dispute all the reports you do not recognize.
How to Prevent Mixed Up Files in the FutureYou really cannot prevent the reporting agencies from putting erroneous information in your report. You can keep a close eye on your reports, however, and make sure to check them over carefully before applying for any loans or filling out apartment applications.
By practicing your due diligence in this manner, you can keep errors from derailing your plans. You just have to stay on top of it at all times —unless you’re willing to change your name, that is.
Of course, even with a rare name, it’s still important to watch your credit reports and dispute any errors that come up as they arise.
Otherwise, you could end up with an unpleasant surprise the next time you apply for credit.