A cautionary tale

I have written a number of times of the pitfalls of having a very common surname.  Well, it's happened.  My son just sold his old house, and he can't get the proceeds out of escrow because someone with the same first and last name living in the same zip code owes someone else $1200, and somehow that someone else put a lien on my son's house in error.  Since the debtor's name is listed without any middle name/initial, there is no "tiebreaker," and having an uncommon middle name wouldn't help in this situation.  So my son is tasked with proving that he is not the debtor, albeit he and the debtor share a first and last name.  I am hoping the creditor has the debtor's date of birth or social security number, but if the creditor is a contractor or small business owner, that's unlikely.  I don't know how my son is going to handle this problem.  At least, it's only a $1200 lien and not an outstanding criminal warrant or the no-fly list.

When my son was telling me about this problem, he said that he wished I had given him a less common name, but, frankly, this problem never crossed my mind when I was naming him 35 years ago.  Of course that was before computers and google which have complicated things.

All I can say is that anyone with a very common surname needs to give this issue some thought.  When considering how common/popular a particular name is, it is really necessary to go beyond considering how likely it will be that your child will share a name with another child in the kindergarten class.  It is necessary to think cumulatively about how popular the name has been over the decades.  After all, that debtor could be any age from the 80s and 90s down to the late teens and twenties.


October 5, 2014 5:08 PM

ouch!  That sounds like a terribly annoying problem, and makes me suddenly appreciate that I knew from whence all my similar problems stemmed (sharing a first & surname with my mother). 

October 8, 2014 9:15 PM

Wow! Best of luck to your son. That stinks. Since my children all have very common names (except for my daughter's middle name), I am glad that our surname is relatively uncommon, especially in the state where we live.

November 6, 2014 1:47 AM

Someone putting a lien on your son's house might be an error, but under the law, it is fraud and maybe extortion.

the leinholder is the primary guilty party

the bank maybe a correspondent co-conspirator.

who holds the lien? This is public record.

who created the lien? Who accepted the lien?

was it sold or transferred?

these are all in the public record of the town.

if there is a way to link the bank in, they will do their best to sort it out, especially if they can be made a co-conspirator in fraud.

November 6, 2014 1:55 AM

The problem was taken care of satisfactorily.  It was just a rather annoying, time-consuming nuisance.