Fragmented credit is a consumer rights issue. Here’s what you need to know.
As the world shifts toward greater inclusivity, it’s becoming easier for transgender and non-binary folks to change their legal names and gender markers. A legal name change can be an identify-affirming life milestone – but unfortunately, it can also complicate credit files.
Legal name changes can “fragment” consumer credit
Credit bureaus have well-established procedures to track and update last name changes. But they’re far less efficient when consumers change their first or middle name. Instead of updating the existing credit file, they often generate a new credit file under the new name.
As a result, many trans and non-binary folks wind up with “fragmented credit” after a legal name change. This means their personal credit history is split between two credit files: one in their former, or deadname, and one in their new name.
“Sometimes [changing your first name] wipes your credit, and sometimes it creates two ‘fragmented’ files – so some credit is reflected on the original report and some is on a new one. The credit bureaus are never aware of someone’s sex designation, and you do not change your social security number when you change your name and gender marker with social security.”
–Charlie Arrowood, Name Change Attorney, Arrowood Law
Consumers with fragmented credit lose any credit history still associated with their deadname. This can cause their credit score to drop significantly. Some even end up with no credit at all under their new name.
It’s not easy to consolidate fragmented credit, even after alerting the credit bureaus. In the meantime, these consumers have two choices. They can make do with whatever credit they have in their new name. Or, they can try to convince lenders to assess both credit files. This means outing themselves with no guarantee they’ll be approved.
Fragmented credit is a consumer rights issue
Having multiple credit files isn’t just complicated. It strips consumers of the freedom to determine with whom they share information about their gender identity. Lenders, landlords, and employers can all pull consumer credit files. If their credit history is tied to a deadname, applying for credit, housing, or employment can expose trans and non-binary people to potential discrimination and harassment.
The national credit bureaus are taking action
Credit fragmentation burdens and endangers trans and non-binary consumers. Fortunately, our credit system is moving in the right direction. The national credit bureaus have begun implementing processes that make it easier to update credit files after a legal name change.
In addition to this important first step, consumer rights groups have called on the bureaus to:
- Track consumers via their full SSN to ensure credit information is associated with the correct credit file
- Implement a one-stop system for name-change updates so consumers don’t need to make multiple requests
- Prevent incidental outing by including only a consumer’s current legal name on credit reports
How to prevent fragmented credit after a legal name change
At present, the best way to ensure a smooth credit history update following a legal name change is to directly inform the three national credit bureaus. Here’s how to file a request with each.
Request a TransUnion® credit file update via mail. Include the following information:
- A letter indicating the request is due to a legal name change
- Your current address, date of birth, and full social security number
- A copy of the court order regarding the legal name change
Mail to: TransUnion® Consumer Solutions | PO Box 2000 | Chester, PA 19016
More information about filing a name change with TransUnion
Request a credit file update via the myEquifax® dispute center. If you don’t have an account, register using your former name so Equifax® can locate your credit file. Next, dispute your former name and upload a copy of the court order regarding your legal name change. You’ll also need to upload documents to verify your social security number, current address, and date of birth.
More information about filing a name change with Equifax®
Request an Experian® credit file update via this online portal. Enter your personal information as it is currently on file to locate your account. State you are submitting documents regarding a legal name change.
Upload the following supporting documentation:
- A copy of the name change court order with your former and current legal names
- A government-issued ID with your former or current legal name
- A dated utility, bank, or insurance statement with your former or current legal name and current mailing address
You can also begin the name change process by submitting a dispute via mail.
More information about filing a name change with Experian®
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