Sally Herigstad is a certified public accountant and the author of "Help! I Can't Pay My Bills: Surviving a Financial Crisis" (St. Martin's Press, 2006). She writes "To Her Credit," a weekly reader Q&A column about issues involving women, credit and debt, for CreditCards.com, and also writes regularly for MSN Money, Interest.com and Bankrate.com, and has guested on Martha Steward Radio and other programs. See her website SallyHerigstad.com for more personal finance tips and free budgeting worksheets. Ask Sally a question, or read her previous answers in the To Her Credit archive
Dear To Her Credit,
My 12-year-old son, who has Asperger syndrome, fraudulently
used our credit card to order a go-cart online. It cost over $3,000. The
delivery company even called him on his cell phone, and he left school to sign
When we discovered this, we notified our credit card company
that it was fraud, and they charged it back. But the sporting goods company
protested the charge-back, and now they have charged it to our credit card. The
go-cart is still sitting in our driveway.
Are we liable for this charge, and how do we get the go-cart
removed? We sent two certified letters with no response. Thank you. -- Debra
Children with Asperger syndrome tend to be highly
intelligent and capable of figuring out how to get what they want.
Unfortunately, like most children, they don't always think things through to
their natural conclusion. Did your son think you wouldn't notice $3,000 on your
credit card bill? (Kids often have an inflated idea of Mom's and Dad's
financial resources, but that's a lot of money!) Did he try to hide the go-cart
behind the flower bed? Just where did he think this plan was headed?
In fact, unless your backyard is a lot bigger than mine,
where did he think the go-cart was going? Was he planning to drive it to school?
That's why minors are protected by law from some of the
consequences of their actions. They don't necessarily have the maturity to see
ahead like adults do. Asperger syndrome or not, the transaction your 12-year-old
son made was not valid.
Nevertheless, a go-cart that was obtained through an invalid
transaction is sitting in your driveway. Your son can't be allowed to keep it,
or he will learn the wrong lessons from this. And the sporting goods company
should have a chance to retrieve their cart and sell it to someone else. Georg
Finder, independent credit
evaluator, says, "I suggest that the parents send a certified mail
letter of notification to the go-cart company putting them on notice that if
they do not arrange for retrieval of the cart by a specific date, the property
will be considered abandoned and liquidated."
You'll need to keep the go-cart in new, clean condition and
cooperate with the delivery company for its return.
Finder says, "Unless the go-cart company arranges to
come and get the product within 30 days, the recipient can liquidate the
product. A case could be made that the liquidation funds can be kept by
The sporting goods company should not add negative marks to
your credit reports because of this transaction. If it does, you have recourse.
According to Finder, "The parents could take the sporting goods company to
court for violation of the credit charge and any subsequent derogatories that
appear on their credit reports (collection accounts, etc.)."
You'll want to check your credit report more than once to
make sure it hasn't been dinged.
Now that you know your son is capable of using your credit
cards on the sly, it's time to start storing your cards more securely. Don't
leave them lying by the computer or anyplace else unattended. If your son shows
no remorse for essentially stealing $3,000 from you, I recommend you no longer
keep your purse in the coat closet or your wallet on the nightstand. Keep your
credit cards, cash and account numbers someplace safe from now on. This isn't
such a bad idea anyway -- children aren't the only people who have access to
our homes. By keeping your valuables safe, you'll prevent other people from
being tempted and this kind of problem from happening again.
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