When you look at your credit report, you’ll probably see your current legal name written alongside credit entries for line items. But from time to time, you might notice multiple different names on your credit report. Why is that?
You could have multiple names on your credit report that reflect your previous legal names or that reflect mistakes from the three credit bureaus. It’s important to review these names so you know whether you need to contact the credit bureaus to change names or remove incorrect line items ASAP. Read on for more information about seeing multiple names on your credit report.
Yes. In fact, each credit bureau may display all the current known variations of your name under which you do business, use credit, or pay bills on its credit report.
For example, on an Experian credit report, you’ll notice a section at the top of the report labeled, “Personal Information.” There, you’ll also find a breakdown of all the known names you currently use (or that the credit bureau thinks you use).
However, you may also see multiple names or variations of your name next to individual line items. Line items are charges, payments, or credit accounts and updates that reflect your credit activity. Think of the line items as records of all your financial actions that involve credit, loans, and so on.
If you see multiple variations of your legal name on your credit report, it’s not normally a cause for concern. It’s just the credit bureaus being as accurate as possible and accounting for all of your legal names or name changes in your history.
What if you see your name change through your credit report as you review your credit history? There are a few big reasons why you might notice multiple names or name changes.
Firstly, if you legally change your name for whatever reason, that name change will be reflected on your credit report sooner or later.
For example, if you open a credit account in May 2020 under the name Mary Smith, then open another credit account in May 2021 under the name Mary Anderson, you’ll see both names reflected in your credit history.
Name changes are most common when people get married. Once a person is married, each new credit account or payment they make is recorded under their new name rather than their previous name.
However, note that the credit bureaus don’t usually update name records for closed credit accounts. Say that you open a credit card in May 2020 under the name Mary Smith, then pay off the credit card by August 2020.
You change your name to Mary Anderson in January 2021. Then, when you look at your credit report, you still see the record of paying off your original credit card with the " Mary Smith" label. Unless you ask, there’s no reason for the credit bureaus to change that information (and it doesn’t hurt your credit report).
Secondly, you may notice multiple names on your credit report if you have a hyphenated last name, or if you choose to adopt a hyphenated name when you get married. The credit bureaus use different automated systems, and they may have different ways of handling hyphens.
For instance, if you get a credit report from Experian, it might report your hyphenated name as "Smith-Anderson." But if you look at a credit report from TransUnion, you might notice that your name is written, "Smithanderson." This isn't anything to worry about; it's just a reflection of how the credit bureaus’ software handles slightly unusual names like these.
Lastly, you might notice multiple names or name changes on your credit report if one or more of the credit bureaus mistake your identity for someone else’s.
Say that your name is something common, like Mary E. Smith. From time to time, the credit bureaus may make mistakes when recording credit activity. They might, for instance, record the activity of someone named Mary D. Smith and put that information on your credit report instead.
Cases of mistaken identity can occur accidentally or as a result of deliberate identity fraud. They’re also more likely for people who have common first and last names.
Yes, but it requires contacting the credit bureau(s) with the information you want to change. For instance, if Experian and Equifax both have mistaken your identity for someone else’s, but not TransUnion, you’ll need to contact the former two credit bureaus but not the third.
If you want to change a name on your credit report, simply file a dispute with the credit bureaus in question. The dispute process is a little different for each bureau, but it usually involves accessing each bureau’s dispute webpage or submitting a letter online or by mail.
During the dispute process, you’ll outline what names you want to be changed and why. Remember, the credit bureaus don’t normally change names for closed credit accounts, but they may make an exception if you have a good reason for them to do so.
You can also contact the credit bureaus to fully remove the name and associated line item if the information is incorrect (especially if it’s dragging down your credit score).
To do this, file a credit dispute letter with the credit bureau(s) in question, detailing the problem, why you think it occurred, and proof of your identity. The credit bureaus usually solve these problems in a few weeks – if they agree that there’s been an error, they will remove the line item and name from your credit report.
No. Even if the name information is changed on a credit report, that person's credit score shouldn’t be affected. Name doesn't factor into credit score calculations. The credit bureaus use other factors, like your history of utility bill payments and how many lines of credit you have open, to calculate your credit score instead.
If you see multiple names on your credit report, carefully review all the names to see whether they are legal names you held previously, like your unmarried name. If a name is incorrect and not a name you legally used previously, it might be a sign of identity theft or an error by the credit bureaus. Contact the credit bureaus quickly to resolve the error and improve your credit score.