The traditions and symbolism behind Vietnamese names are profoundly meaningful, while individuals’ personal names are often beautiful and inspiring. But having a Vietnamese name in the United States can pose a unique challenge when it comes to someone’s financial security. Let’s explore why this is an issue and what you can do to protect yourself.
Common Vietnamese Surnames
As explained in the web magazine Atlas Obscura, the most common Vietnamese surname is Nguyen. Estimates are that as much as 40% of the Vietnamese population have Nguyen as their surname. Furthermore, people with one of the 14 most common surnames (Nguyen, Tran, Le, Pham, Hoang, Vu, Dang, Bui, Do, Ho, Ngo, Duong, and Ly) total more than 90 percent of the population. By contrast, if you added up all of the people in the U.S. with the 14 most common last names, you’d have named less than 6 percent of the U.S. population.
The reason that Nguyen is so popular is that, historically, in Vietnamese culture, surnames were less used to describe family relationships and more to reveal one’s ties to a political administration. From 1802 until 1945, Vietnam was ruled by the Nguyễn Dynasty, so many families took the Nguyen name to demonstrate their allegiance to the imperial family.
Common Names are More Likely to Result in Mixed Files
In the U.S., financial well-being is largely shaped by someone’s credit reports and credit scores maintained by the three largest national credit bureaus, TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax. These companies compile financial profiles on American consumers, collecting information such as banking accounts, student loans, mortgages, credit cards, and outstanding debts. But with files on more than 200 million consumers, errors in credit reports are common.
One of the most frequent types of errors is a “mixed file,” when a person’s file includes the credit information of someone with the same name. Mixed files are more common when for those who have common names. And they are more likely to occur between family members because they share their names and addresses.
Since most people of Vietnamese ancestry have one of 14 last names, they may be more likely to have a mixed credit file.
Other Vietnamese naming traditions—e.g., ordering the middle name before the personal name, giving siblings the same name, or personal names that are two words long—also may lead to errors in a credit file. For example, one person’s records may be mixed with a sibling, while another may have vital information missing because a second file was created under the latter half of their two-word name.
Given these issues, it’s important for those with Vietnamese names to monitor their credit reports. And if there are errors, make sure to correct them. Having errors on a credit report can lead you to pay higher interest rates and have difficulty obtaining credit cards and loans. It can even make getting a job or renting an apartment more difficult.
While the law requires that the credit bureaus fix any mistakes in your report, studies show that credit bureaus aren’t very good at responding to people’s complaints. That’s why, if you discover any errors with your credit report, contact an attorney experienced in representing clients like you. The Credit Report Law Group can only help you correct your credit record and obtain compensation for any damages you sustained.