Living with credit, Protecting yourself

Naming baby after yourself can cause credit mix-ups

Brady Porche

Expecting a baby? Be careful of the name you choose — your kid could get teased at school or worse, suffer credit report headaches as an adult.

With a handful of time-tested exceptions, parents’ taste in baby names has evolved considerably over the years. “Noah” is the new “John,” and “Emma” is the new “Mary,” according to 2015 statistics from Meanwhile, names ending with “-ford,” such as Clifford and Buford, have been in steady decline since the early part of the 20th century.

One naming pattern that seems unlikely to go away is the “junior” — naming a boy after his father. There are also moms who name their daughters after themselves, but it’s less common in the U.S. now than in other cultures.

Parents who want their first names to live on through the generations should proceed with caution, however. Giving your baby his or her own unique moniker isn’t just a good way to instill a sense of individualism — it can also save your child trouble associated with credit report confusion later on.

Mistaken identity is a common cause of credit reporting errors. Earlier this month NPR reporter Bobby Allyn wrote in The Washington Post about how he was held back from renting a new apartment because the landlord found Allyn had been previously convicted on two weapons charges.

As it turns out, the landlord got the information from an erroneous report from TransUnion, which had mistaken Allyn for an incarcerated criminal with the same first and last name and birth date. The law-abiding reporter was forced to use aggressive journalism tactics just to get the credit reporting agency to suppress the error from his file.

It’s hard to know how many other people share the name you’ve picked out for your baby — much less their financial and criminal backgrounds — though there are some resources on the web that can help with checking the name.

You can do your child a favor by steering clear of the “junior,” particularly if there are black marks in your own credit history. But if you are beholden to family tradition, there are some things that can be done to prevent credit report commingling — a rare but inconvenient mistake.

Experian says on its website that father-son credit mix-ups typically occur when the two have the same name, but don’t always include generational titles such as “senior” and “junior” when they apply for credit cards.

Additionally, the chances of mixing credit files increase when a parent and child share other similar information, such as when they live at the same address or have the same birth month and date. Experian recommends always providing consistent identifying information — whether that involves including a generational title or a commonly used nickname instead of your birth name — on credit applications.

Simply giving your child a different middle name from yours can help prevent mix-ups because no generational title is needed. Your son will have an easier time applying for credit if he doesn’t have to remember to include “Jr.” or “III” on every application form.

The most foolproof way to avoid a mix-up with anyone is to get creative and make up a name unique to your child. In recent years, parents have made good use of endings such as “-ton,” “-don” and “-dan.” Names such as “Leighton,” “Braydon” and “Jaydan” have risen in popularity, so be careful with those.

Finally, you may want to avoid “Noah” and “Emma,” unless your last name is Barfknecht, Chonko or Zich.

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