145 Organizations Call on Credit Bureaus to Fix Credit Reporting for Trans and Nonbinary Consumers

Today, 145 organizations sent a letter to the “Big Three” credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and Transunion) and to the Consumer Data Industry Association (CDIA), the trade association that represents them, urging them to take needed actions to correct credit report problems for transgender and nonbinary consumers.

The signatory organizations include LGBTQI+ advocacy organizations, community centers, chambers of commerce, businesses, and community groups, as well as consumer, employment, housing, and anti-poverty organizations.

The letter responds to the CDIA’s February 2 announcement, “Helping Transgender and Nonbinary Individuals Prevent Potential Disruptions to Their Credit,” that describes new policies at the Big Three credit bureaus to allow transgender and nonbinary consumers to submit name-change documentation to update the name on the credit reports.

The letter acknowledges the credit bureaus’ new policies as an important first step and recommends additional action to correct persisting problems for trans and nonbinary consumers. After a legal name change, many transgender and nonbinary consumers end up with multiple credit files in different names and suffer a loss of credit history and score as a result. Additionally, credit reports out trans and nonbinary people to landlords, employers, and lenders when they apply for loans, jobs, and housing because the report still includes their deadname.

To address ongoing problems the letter calls on credit bureaus to take additional steps, including:

  • Using consumers’ full 9-digit Social Security numbers in matching algorithms to ensure credit information is associated with the correct credit file.
  • Facilitating name changes by having clear procedures to update a consumer’s name on their credit report when presented with a legal name change order, and ensuring that staff are sufficiently trained in those procedures and are able to provide culturally competent service to transgender and nonbinary consumers.
  • Reducing the burden on transgender and nonbinary consumers to submit name-change documentation to each credit reporting agency by instituting a “one-stop” system that allows a consumer to submit a single request to have the legal name on their report updated, and ensures the request is communicated to all consumer reporting agencies.
  • Preventing the occurrence and recurrence of fragmented credit files by creating procedures to detect when a consumer changes their legal name with a creditor, to associate the new name with their credit file, and to consolidate a consumer’s credit information in their current and previous names in a single credit file — as the industry presently does when cisgender women and other consumers change their last names.
  • Preventing the disclosure of transgender and nonbinary consumers’ deadnames to landlords, employers, and underwriters by disclosing only a consumer’s current legal name in reports provided to credit report users.

The letter was organized by a coalition of LGBTQI+, consumer, and employment advocacy organizations–including the California Employment Lawyers Association (CELA), Center for LGBTQ Economic Advancement & Research (CLEAR), Equality California, the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund (TLDEF), the National Consumer Law Center (NCLC), and the UC Berkeley Center for Consumer Law & Economic Justice.

The full letter and list of signatories can be read inline below and can be downloaded and read as a PDF here.


February 24, 2022

Re: Response to CDIA Press Release on Credit Issues After Transgender and Nonbinary Individuals File a Legal Name Change

Dear Messrs. Begor, Cassini, Cartright and Creighton:

The undersigned organizations write on behalf of a coalition of LGBTQ+, consumer, and legal advocacy groups that have come together to address the serious credit-related problems encountered by transgender and nonbinary people. We appreciate that CDIA acknowledged these issues in its press release addressing how transgender and nonbinary individuals can prevent disruptions to their credit after a legal name change. The language in both the CDIA statement and the corresponding policies of all three credit bureaus are an encouraging start. That said, there is still more work to do and we are hopeful that we can continue working together to address the many pressing credit reporting needs that still remain for transgender and nonbinary consumers.

As CDIA is undoubtedly aware, the vast majority of credit reporting complaints filed by transgender and nonbinary people with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau reference repeated unsuccessful attempts to get Experian, Equifax and TransUnion to correct their records.

Transgender and nonbinary consumers face myriad credit reporting problems after they change their names — with serious consequences for their financial and personal lives. Many consumers report that their credit report fragments into two or more unconnected files upon their name change. Others report that their name change and any credit actions that follow are never reflected in their report at all. Some consumers then find that their credit scores drop by hundreds of points, precluding them from accessing banking services, mortgages, auto financing, employment, and rental housing. 

Moreover, even when some of these problems get fixed, they do not stay that way. Transgender and nonbinary consumers have reported that even when they were able to contact and persuade a customer service representative at one of the Big Three credit bureaus to manually fix their report, a new upload of data would revert their credit histories back to fragmented or incomplete files. Still others reported serious fallout after their credit histories reflected their “deadname” or former name, thereby outing them as transgender to potential employers, rental agents, car dealerships, or financial institutions. 

The press release provides some direction to consumers about how to go about alerting the Big Three credit bureaus of their legal name change; however, each of the policies enacted by the agencies is different and will likely yield very different results. For instance, of the three bureaus, only Experian promises to remove a consumer’s deadname from the report. The policies still require consumers to undergo an onerous process of submitting their name change documentation to each credit bureau and each of their former creditors to ensure their reports accurately reflect their credit history in their legal name.

Moving slowly to enact a real fix causes profound harm to a significant number of people. Mistakes in credit reports are replicated endlessly and have resulted in cascading problems in other areas that are based on identification.

To meaningfully address these problems the credit reporting industry should take the following steps:

  • Utilize consumers’ full 9-digit Social Security numbers in matching algorithms to ensure credit information is associated with the correct credit file.
  • Facilitate name changes by having clear procedures to update a consumer’s name on their credit report when presented with a legal name change order, and ensure that staff are sufficiently trained in those procedures and are able to provide culturally competent service to transgender and nonbinary consumers.
  • Reduce the burden on transgender and nonbinary consumers to submit name-change documentation to each credit reporting agency by instituting a “one-stop” system that  allows a consumer to submit a single request to have the legal name on their report updated, and ensures the request is communicated to all consumer reporting agencies.
  • Prevent the occurrence and recurrence of fragmented credit files by creating procedures to detect when a consumer changes their legal name with a creditor, to associate the new name with their credit file, and to consolidate a consumer’s credit information in their current and previous names in a single credit file — as the industry presently does when cisgender women and other consumers change their last names.
  • Prevent the disclosure of transgender and nonbinary consumers’ deadnames to landlords, employers, and underwriters by disclosing only a consumer’s current legal name in reports provided to credit report users.

The coalition would welcome the opportunity to have another conversation in the near future with CDIA and senior executives in the Big Three credit bureaus to discuss these proposals and identify additional steps.

We appreciate the responsiveness of the bureaus and CDIA on this issue, and look forward to working together toward a day when transgender and nonbinary consumers can view credit reporting as a support, rather than an obstacle.

Sincerely,

A Better Balance

Ace and Aro Alliance of Central Ohio

Affirmations Community Center

AIDS Alabama

All Under One Roof LGBT Advocates of Southeastern Idaho

American Civil Liberties Union

Americans for Financial Reform Education Fund

Athlete Ally

The Atlanta Pride Committee, Inc

Bayard Rustin Center for Social Justice

Bergen County LGBTQ+ Alliance

Bet Tzedek Legal Services

BiNet USA

Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center

Brooklyn Community Pride Center

California Employment Lawyers Association (CELA)

California Reinvestment Coalition

Campus Pride

Center for LGBTQ Economic Advancement & Research (CLEAR)

Center for Responsible Lending

CenterLink: The Community of LGBT Centers

Colors+ Youth Center

Community Legal Services in East Palo Alto

Compass LGBTQ Community Center

Connecticut Gay & Lesbian Chamber

Consumer Action

Consumer Reports

Consumer Federation of America

Daylight

Eastern PA Trans Equity Project

Empire Justice Center

Equality California

Equality Federation

Equality Nevada

Equality Ohio

Equality Texas

Equal Rights Advocates

Equitas Health

Family Equality

FORGE, Inc.

Four Corners Rainbow Youth Center

FreeState Justice, Maryland’s LGBTQ Advocates

GLAAD

GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders (GLAD)

GLMA: Health Professional Advancing LGBTQ Equality

GLSEN

Golden Gate Business Association

Greater Dayton LGBT Center

Greater Houston LGBT Chamber of Commerce

Henderson Equality Center

Hetrick-Martin Institute

Hispanic Federation

Housing and Economic Rights Advocates

Hudson Pride Center

Hugh Lane Wellness Foundation

Human Rights Campaign

Independence Business Alliance

interACT: Advocates for Intersex Youth

Lambda Legal

Lancaster LGBTQ+ Coalition

Legal Aid at Work

Legal Aid Service of Broward County, Inc.

LGBT Center of SE Wisconsin

LGBT Community Center Of Greater Cleveland

LGBTQ Center of Bay County Inc.

LGBTQ Community Center of Southern Nevada

The LOFT LGBTQ+ Community Center

Los Angeles LGBTQ Chamber of Commerce

Louisville Pride Foundation

Mazzoni Center

Miami Dade Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce

Mid-America LGBT Chamber of Commerce

Minority Veterans of America

Modern Military Association

Montrose Center

Movement Advancement Project (MAP)

Naper Pride

National Association of Consumer Advocates

National Association of Social Workers

National Black Justice Coalition

National Center for Lesbian Rights

National Center for Transgender Equality

National Community Reinvestment Coalition (NCRC)

National Consumer Law Center (on behalf of its low-income clients)

National Consumers League

National LGBT Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC)

National LGBTQ Task Force

National Women’s Law Center

New Mexico Out Business Alliance

North Texas LGBT Chamber of Commerce

Oklahomans for Equality

One In Long Beach, Inc.

Openhouse

OutFront Kalamazoo

OUT Georgia Business Alliance

Out Leadership

PFLAG National

PGH Equality Center

Plexus LGBT & Allied Chamber of Commerce

Power Safe Place Resource Center of Virginia

Pride Center at Equality Park

Pride Community Center

Public Citizen

Public Good Law Center

Public Justice

Public Law Center

QWELL Community Foundation

Rainbow Families

Rebirth Obgyn

Resource Center

Sacramento LGBT Community Center

SAGE

Sam & Devorah Foundation for Trans Youth

San Francisco Office of Transgender Initiatives

San Joaquin Pride Center

SCV Pride Center

Seacoast Outright

Shoals Diversity Center

Silver State Equality

Spahr Center

Spectrum Resource Center

Stand with Trans

Stonewall Columbus, Inc

Tampa Bay LGBT Chamber

Texas Appleseed

Three Rivers Business Alliance

Transcend Charlotte, Inc.

TransFamily Support Services

The Transgender District

Transgender Law Center

Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund

Transgender Michigan

The [email protected] Coalition

TransOhio

Tranz Central Coast

The Trevor Project

Tzedek DC

UC Berkeley Center for Consumer Law & Economic Justice

Uptown Gay & Lesbian Alliance (UGLA)

URGE: Unite for Reproductive & Gender Equity

Utah LGBTQ+ Chamber of Commerce

Voices for Progress

West Virginia Gay and Lesbian Community Center

Woodstock Institute

Yale University’s Office of LGBTQ Resources

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Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

Federal Trade Commission

Agatha So, House Financial Services Committee

Sneha Pandya, Senate Banking Committee