Sometimes, the best way to fix a problem is to start over. It’s probably the most common troubleshooting technique out there, especially when you’re dealing with technology — the power button is a wonderful thing.
Unfortunately, there is no restart option when it comes to your credit history. Declaring bankruptcy is the closest thing there is to a credit do-over, but just because you’ve wiped out all or most of your debt doesn’t mean you have a clean slate. Bankruptcy can remain on your credit report for 10 years, and the accounts included in the bankruptcy will be deleted after 7 years — while you’re waiting for that to happen, you have to deal with the negative impact those items on your credit report have on your overall credit standing.
The whole point of the credit reporting system is to help lenders make decisions about potential borrowers based on their credit history. If people could get new credit reports, that would negate the value of the system.
Of course, that doesn’t keep people from trying.
“Credit repair scams attempt to create new reports using altered identities,” wrote Rod Griffin, director of public education for the credit bureau Experian, in an email to Credit.com. “Doing so is fraud and can result in legal action against the credit repair firm and the consumer.”
What If I Change My Name?
Name changes happen all the time, most often when people get married. That doesn’t generate a new report, rather, the new information is added to the existing report, Griffin said.
“Because we match to all identification information, changing one or even several elements would not create a new credit report.,” Griffin said. “The new information would simply be matched to the existing credit history.
That’s why we list all of the identity reported as belonging to the individual on their report.”
That’s not to say your credit report is a perfect record of your identity’s history — your credit report can have errors and missing information (here’s how to correct them), but theoretically it’s all collected there as a record of any changes.
What If I Get a New Social Security Number?
The Social Security Administration rarely issues new numbers. According to its website, you can apply for a new Social Security number only in specific circumstances, including incessant identity theft, duplicate numbers or harassment situations. A complete list of reasons you could get a new number are listed on the SSA website.
Keep in mind this just means you can apply for a new number — whether or not you’ll get one is a different matter. It’s not something the SSA does frequently, but even if you do get a new number, it’s merely added to your credit report, not the start of a new one.
“When we assign a different Social Security number, we do not destroy the original number,” the SSA website reads. “We cross-refer the new number with the original number to make sure the person receives credit for all earnings under both numbers.”
The credit reporting agencies do pretty much the same thing.
“Even if a consumer were to get a new social security number, we would combine both their old and new credit history,” wrote David Blumberg, director of public relations at TransUnion, in an email to Credit.com.
To move on from negative information on your credit report, you have to be patient. The sooner you develop good credit habits, like making payments on time and keeping your debt balances low, the sooner your credit will recover, but it always takes time. The more negative information there is, the longer it takes, so if you want to make progress, start by seeing where you stand now and identifying your areas for improvement.