February 7, 2009

The Half-Life of Names

Posted in Identification, life at 11:53 am by Michael

A few weeks ago we got what has become a commonplace, but ultra annoying notification from our bank – one of their credit card processor’s systems had been broken into, and our credit card data may have been compromised.

So, a week later, our debit/credit card was going to be deactivated, and they would send us new ones.

As promised, a new card for me (but not Anh… odd) came in the mail. I opened up the card, and went to activate it, but noticed that the name on the card was “Michael J. Wallent”. Odd, it was addressed to “Megan Wallent”, but the card said otherwise.

Oh well, another trip to the bank…

Before I had a chance to go get a new card at the bank (they can print them right there!), we were out at a restaurant that didn’t take Amex, and I had to use the new (Michael) card.

When the bill came back, the name on the receipt was “Megan J Wallent”…

Super odd… the envelope was addressed right, the card was printed wrong, but the magstripe was right.

I went to the bank (finally) yesterday to get a new card, and they thought this was odd too. The person who I ended up talking to was the same woman who processed my name change last year, and she remembered me… Surprise! She said that they likely had three systems, all of which needed to get updated, and there was a problem somewhere.

This isn’t the only time I’ve run into “Mismatches” – my health info at work was wonky for a while – and the internal Microsoft charity site still isn’t updated. (Many of the sites that are “extranet” – and hosted by third-parties haven’t been updated).

I went to go get a new phone yesterday too. I hadn’t ever updated my name with the wireless company. When I gave the sales guy my phone number he said

“Is this account under ‘Michael Wallent’?”


“Is Michael here?”

“I changed my name, its me.”


And we proceeded on… No biggie.

I’m glad that the mismatched name thing has never given me grief… Your “old” name has a “half-life” – like Plutonium. My guess is that the half-life of a name is about 9 months… if you have your name on 50 things, it would take more than 5 years for all of the kinks to work out of the system…



  1. Diana said,

    I was laid off in June of ’07 and I had all my records changed. When I received my ’07 W2 it had my name correct “Diana.” I just received my ’08 for my severance pay and it had my name as “Donald”
    I checked the company’s benefits web site and everything listed my name as “Diana” so I decided to let it slide since I will not be receiving anymore W2’s.
    The same thing happens to stocks that I own; they would be correct for several quarters and then they would mysteriously change back to my male name. Oh, the joys of multiple databases.

  2. Whenever I’m asked at different places, such as the cell phone store, for my first name, I usually just say ” ‘Kris’, ‘Kristin’ or whatever’s close to that”. I can never remember what I tell people whenever I sign contracts and such.

  3. Samantha said,

    I’m kinda lucky in that regard. All the databases in the world can’t screw up who I am, with who I used to be, because there are no connections. I did (was forced to) the modern equivalent of a Witsec change in terms of names. Everything was done by sealed court order, including a new SSN because I was being stalked. Even compound foreign keys (for you DB geeks) can’t connect who I am, with who I was. Sad, but true. Though honestly I don’t know that I’d have minded the half life issue to be honest. It would have meant I could have kept my educational, career and driving history.

    Sounds like you’re doing fine with it though, so more power to you!


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