After marriage, it is customary for wives to take the last name of their spouse. Because your name is tied to your credit history, you might assume that this would affect your credit history. However, because of how credit reporting agencies track credit activity, a name change affects your credit report less than you'd think.
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Credit reporting is done by lenders. When you open a credit card account, take out a mortgage or get an auto loan, the lender reports information about the loan to the credit reporting agencies (Equifax, TransUnion and Experian). Other items, such as judgments, liens and collections, are obtained by credit bureaus through public records.
Your name is not the only method by which creditors and other agencies keep track of your activity. When you open an account, you disclose your date of birth, current address and Social Security number. This is necessary because of the vast amount of similarly named individuals. This keeps your records from becoming conflated with that of another person. When you marry or change your name, you retain the same date of birth and Social Security number. This information can be used to identify you.
Changing Your Name
In order to change your name, you must notify several government organisations. Most importantly, you must report your new name to the Social Security Administration and the Internal Revenue Service. You must also apply for a new Social Security card and a new driver's license. Once these agencies have your new information, credit reporting agencies will also learn of your name change and thus apply all your pertinent credit information to your file.
Although credit reporting agencies and lenders will likely update their records once your new name starts getting reported along with your Social Security number, it is important to notify them formally. Write a letter to every creditor, bank or other institution with which you have an account. Also write a letter to each of the three major credit reporting bureaus (see Resources). Notifying institutions of your name change is important. Without formal notification, you will not be able to access your accounts under your old name. This includes validating charges, writing checks and signing other documents.
In order to change your name, you must sign documents affirming that you are not changing your name in order to avoid taxes or other debts. If you change your name with the intent to affect your credit history or evade your financial obligations, you are committing fraud. Barring extenuating circumstances such as identity theft, you will not be able to change your Social Security number. Because creditors and crediting reporting institutions can easily track you by your Social Security number, changing your name in order to evade them is unlikely to be effective.
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