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Millions of Americans' credit scores will soon go up

(KUTV) — Just ask any Jamie Smith, Steve Anderson or Amy Williams — if you have a common name, you're going to be mistaken with somebody else at some point.

But when that somebody else is a deadbeat, it can leave people struggling to clear their good names with the nation's credit bureaus.

Despite having a relatively-unique name, Elizabeth LeFevre knows about the mistaken-identity problem first hand.

Back in 2015, somebody with her same name allegedly skipped out on their rent then didn't show up for court.

A judge ordered Elizabeth LeFevre to pay $2,182.46, but the wrong Elizabeth was reported as someone who doesn’t pay their debts. She said her credit score was destroyed.

It was a seemingly honest case of mistaken identity, but for months, the mistake prevented LeFevre from refinancing her home or buying a new car. She also got non-stop calls from debt collectors and credit counselors.

Even worse, she said, nobody seemed willing or able to help her clear her name.

“I'm just so mad — I can't even begin to explain how mad," she said.

Errors like the one that hounded LeFevre have become so common that the nation's credit bureaus are now taking action.

Beginning in July, lenders will have to know more than just a person's name in order to ding their credit for a tax lien or court judgment. The credit bureaus will require a person's name, their address, plus either their social security number or date of birth.

"This will really clean up a lot of issues," said credit counselor Al Bingham.

Bingham said the change will stop mistakes on the front end, rather than putting the burden on consumers to try and clear their names after a mistake.

"It can take a lot of time, effort and money to get that information off a credit report. You're going to see a lot of [mistakes] disappear from credit reports," he said. “It's a really good thing for consumers."

Bingham says the change isn’t just for just future reporting, but will also be applied retroactively.

Experts estimate as many as 12 million Americans will have dings removed — each can expect their credit scores to instantly creep up as a result.

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