Equifax announced today that trans and nonbinary consumers who have changed their legal name will now be able to request that the bureau change their name on their credit report. The Center for LGBTQ Economic Advancement & Research cheers this much-needed first step by Equifax to fix the marketplace gaps that trans and nonbinary people face in obtaining credit in their own names.
Deadnames & Credit Reports
Credit reports include personal information about individual consumers, such as their current and previous names, address, and phone number(s). Bureaus create credit reports using the information they collect about consumers as reported to them by creditors. And so, before today, trans consumers were required to out themselves to a current creditor in order to update their name on their credit report.
If trans or nonbinary consumers did not have any existing credit cards or loans from before their name change, they would have to try to obtain credit from a new creditor, out themselves to that creditor, and attempt to convince that lender they were the same person named in their credit report. These onerous requirements opened trans consumers to harassment, discrimination, and potentially dangerous situations in updating their names with creditors. And there was no guarantee the steps would work.
Many trans and nonbinary consumers report having multiple credit reports after their legal name change because after making credit applications in their legal names a new credit report would be created in that name. Although bureaus readily could change last names on credit reports, to accommodate marriages and divorces, they did not have a way to track and report a consumers’ changing a first name. Since there were no ways to work with credit bureaus to reconcile the names and information in their credit reports, even after notifying the credit bureaus of their name change trans and nonbinary consumers would be left with one report in their previous name (a.k.a. their “deadname”) and another in their legal name.
Losing the positive credit history from the credit report still in their deadname led to drops in scores for many trans and nonbinary consumers, or them having no credit score at all. After their name-change, trans and gender nonbinary folks found themselves struggling to access credit in their own names and continuing to receive offers and products addressed to the deadname on their previous report.
“I cannot get an accurate score” explained Billie Simmons, cofounder of LGBTQ-focused fintech Daylight earlier this month in a conversation on the CLEAR Finance Chat podcast, “I still have one credit card in my dead name. It is seemingly impossible to update, but also seemingly impossible to shut down. And on a lot of my credit scoring software that I have access to… it really is luck if I am going to get an accurate credit score that actually reflects all of my credit products that I have.”
Updating Your Name with Equifax
Equifax has created a page on their website to explain the process consumers must use to change their name on their credit report. Before requesting a name change on their credit report at the Bureau, consumers must first have obtained a legal name change through the courts based on their state and local laws for name changes.
Consumers can request a name change for their credit report:
- Online using the myEquifax Dispute Center -or-
- Over the phone by calling 866-349-5191
In order to obtain a name change, consumers will have to provide additional documents to Equifax–either by submitting the documents using their online platform or by sending the documents to the bureau by fax or mail. The documents must be able to verify the following information in their legal name.
- Social Security number (e.g. an updated Social Security card, a pay stub, or Medicare/Medicaid card).
- Current address (e.g. a utility or phone bill, pay stub, or bank statement with your name.)
- Legal name (e.g. a copy of the court name-change order, a current driver’s license, or Social Security card).
- Date of birth (e.g. a state ID/driver’s license or passport).
Consumers do not need one document that verifies all of these pieces of information, explains Equifax, and they can upload as many documents as they need in order to verify their information.
Equifax’s new policies will enable trans and nonbinary consumers to access credit in their own names and resolve issues created by having multiple credit files with that bureau. Unfortunately, changing their name on their Equifax credit report will not automatically lead to a change to their name on other credit reports–and other credit bureaus have not created similar policies yet to accommodate name changes.
Experian, Transunion, and other consumer and background reporting agencies in the U.S. must be called upon to adopt similar policies. But even after adopting these needed policies, much work will remain to be done by the “Big Three” credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and Transunion) to fully end discrimination in credit reporting against trans and nonbinary communities.
Although trans and nonbinary consumers can now update the current name on their credit report with Equifax, their deadnames will continue to appear on their reports. Creditors and others requesting their credit file will still see those names, which leaves trans and nonbinary applicants open to discriminatory and harassing treatment by bad actors in credit, housing, employment, insurance, and healthcare. In order to fix discrimination in the economy against trans and nonbinary people based on their credit reports, credit bureaus must also commit to ending the practice of reporting a consumer’s deadnames on their credit report. As Simmons explains, “You know, employers do not need to know it, landlords do not need to know this, and it only does more harm than good.”
CLEAR welcomes these initial steps by Equifax to support trans and nonbinary consumers. We look forward to advocating for and supporting additional changes at credit bureaus in creating policies that can promote a more fair, inclusive, and equal economy for trans and nonbinary communities.