What do we do about news stories like this, that cite how cavalier credit reporting agencies are about our good names? They basically don’t care if they attribute someone else’s bad credit to us, and they hardly bother to make the corrections we ask for, regardless of how much documentation we supply. Innocent people often find they are unable to clear their credit reports of serious errors that conflate them with the guilty, which leads to denied employment or credit. This is bad.
A few tools to fight this nasty situation:
1. Check your credit reports religiously every few months.
2. If you spot an error, immediately take steps to have it corrected.
3. If all else fails, sue.
4. Change your name legally.
1. Check your credit reports. We’re all supposed to do this, but I am quite sure most of us don’t even get our one free annual credit report from each of the three major agencies. People with very common names should pay to check more often, or even seriously consider signing up for a credit alert service. Ordinarily, I wouldn’t recommend such a step, but common names can get mixed up far too easily. If you’ve ever had a serious problem with accuracy on your credit report, get your files locked, and do pay to have your files watched.
2. If you spot an error, get it corrected. I’m not claiming this will always be a simple process, but if you do it for little errors, you’ll have the experience to know what works and what doesn’t when a serious error occurs.
3. If all else fails, sue. If the police are coming to your door because you are being confused with a felon, you need paid legal assistance.
4. Change your name legally. I know, crazy idea, right? Not so crazy. By changing your name legally, you create a clear historical record of your ongoing financial activities, as opposed to any by your former doppelgangers. If “Jack Johnson” or “Cathy Taylor” keeps getting you into trouble because there are low-lifes with the same name, become Juwann Jacks or Caitlin Tawes. Seriously. Go a step further if you can and establish a name that doesn’t call up thousands of duplicates in an Internet phone book search like Zabasearch. You are less likely to be a victim of identity errors or theft if you change your name to an extremely unusual one.