Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Who's That Girl?

I recently received a letter from a law firm that a credit card company “misplaced” a box containing computer back-up tapes that contained pretty much my financial life story. Like any good company that screws their customers royally, a risk mitigation strategy went into effect to safeguard my identity. Included in this strategy is a free subscription to Triple Alert, a service that will alert me if anything fishy pops up on my credit report. Haunted by the thought of working in a restaurant wearing a pirate costume and singing to tourists in T-shirts, I decided it was wise to sign up for this service and monitor for security breaches or other potential credit issues, just in case. Much to my surprise, I discovered there was something fishy on my credit report.

Risking sounding like a braggart, I have excellent credit (the credit report said so!) with nearly 15 years of picture perfect activity. No overdue accounts, no collections, high credit indicating good financial experience, and my student loans are paid in full. Our fairly new mortgage leaves a rather high balance, and I still have some time left to pay off the Jeep, but those loans be taken care of in due time. Credit-wise there were no real surprises on the report except a credit card for the Limited evidently not cancelled and inactive since January 2002. It was my personal information that included something surprising, a section titled “also known as.”

Apparently I have an alias unknown to me until today. Not the 9 instances of my misspelled name, but a name totally different than my own. Somehow the credit companies think I also carry around the moniker Michelle “my husband’s last name.” For those who don’t know me, or haven’t caught up with my blog postings to go wayyyyyy back to 2005, my husband opted to keep his maiden name and so did I. This is one issue I am incredibly opinionated on; I even contribute to the Lucy Stone League, an organization campaigning to change the widespread practices of wives taking husbands' surnames at marriage and of children being given fathers' surnames. Yet for some reason, nearly 7 years after saying I do, people still require a reminder that my husband and I carry different surnames.

Names are an important key to what a society values. Anthropologists recognize naming as 'one of the chief methods for imposing order on perception.
- David S. Slawson

Apparently I needed to inform the credit agencies of this decision as well, because all the major agencies had me with an alias of Michelle “My husband’s last name.” There has never been a single official document with my last name as anything other then the one I was born with, yet on my credit report there was this completely different name. The 9 different spellings, although annoying, are to be expected with a last name of multiple syllables, but a totally different last name? I felt like I was stealing someone else’s identity as I read the report and couldn’t for the life of me figure out how this mistaken identity happened. My husband and I are both on our mortgage with our own names, and share a credit card account set up with each of our names. These are the only documents I could see triggering this presumptuous change to my list of names. Presumptuous not only that I took on his name, but that we were even married.

As annoying and time consuming as this was, it was probably far less work then any hassle people who change their names experience. It took about a half-dozen phone calls, but I got this other woman’s name expunged from my credit history (and cancelled the Limited credit card). I reprinted the reports and now feel like I’m back to my old self.


Steve & Stepher said...

That is scary. I'm so glad you learned of the mistaken name prior to it becoming an even bigger deal. Imagine if someone w/that name had terrible credit; what a nightmare for you.

When I married I moved my maiden name to my middle name and took my husband's last name as my own. Why? B/c after nearly 30 years of not only having to say but spell my last name, having a simple and common new last name was fabulous.

Oh and that commercial -- I swear once that song gets in your brain, it's there for the rest of the day. Damn you jingle writers!

LucyinStLou said...

The same thing happened to me last year! My work was actually the source of the breach. It's such a pain because I've been watching my credit like a hawk through a service like the one you mentioned.

How in the world, I wonder, would the credit agency even know you could/might be referred to by another last name? How odd!

Claire said...

I kept my maiden name, too! I just like it better than his, that's really the main reason. However, I'm sure I have his name (with a ton of mispellings also) on my credit report. Oh well.

Thanks for getting that commercial stuck in my head.

Alex said...

What I want to know is: are those the same jokers responsible for the Applebee's/Gilligan's Island Theme commercial from two years ago? It'd be nice to roll up all of my jingle hate into a compact little ball. :)

Explosive Bombchelle said...

I think I might take on a new role of getting commercial jingles and bad theme park music stuck in people's heads all day. A little way to ensure I know a few people are thinking about me!

What I am waiting for now is the credit agencies to have the last name that developed socially out of people really liking couples to have a "family name." It is a combo of both our last names and it is the surname carried by our furry schnoodles. I will just laugh if that somehow lands on either of our credit reports.

firefly said...

" ... with nearly 15 years of picture perfect activity. No overdue accounts, no collections, high credit indicating good financial experience, and my student loans are paid in full. "

Actually, according to the credit card companies, you are what is known as a "deadbeat."

They want people to carry balances and be late so they can charge fees and penalties and raise interest rates at their discretion. That's how they make a profit.

One of my partner's credit card issuers used to play the game of shifting due dates so he couldn't get a regular online "bill-pay" date set up. As a result, he got slapped with several fees because they would receive the payment one or two days after the "real" due date. He paid off that credit card and canceled the account.

If you ever get a chance to see the PBS "Frontline" on credit cards, definitely watch it. The strategies they employ to take your money are unbelievable.

Explosive Bombchelle said...

firefly: Credit Card companies are almost as evil as insurance companies! I am a deadbeat to the credit card companies, but not to the credit ratings organizations. The credit cards keep trying to give me more rope to hang myself with, hopefully I can continue to keep myself in check (although it's so hard with a coach outlet so close!).

Nancy Reed said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nancy Reed said...

Gah! I just got a letter from my mortgage company that one of their employee's sold my information to unknown parties. Double-Gah! We'll have to talk....I'm about to start the process....