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Scheming to ruin an ex's credit score isn't wise

By

Credit Score Report
Reporter Jeremy M. Simon
Jeremy M. Simon is a former staff reporter for CreditCards.com who covered credit reporting and scoring issues.

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Question for the CreditCards.com expert

Dear Credit Score Report,
I just broke up with my boyfriend and I really hate that [deleted]. He's an abusive alcoholic, but he has managed to have really good credit. Me, on the other hand, my credit's in the toilet. I finally worked up the courage to check my score (I had to peek between my fingers) and it was as bad as I thought -- down around 500. I read your website about authorized credit card users and piggybacking and how you can "pass through" your good credit to an authorized user. That gave me an idea. Does that process work in reverse? In other words, can I mess up that stinking drunk's credit by adding him as an authorized user on my account? -- Jamie

Answer for the CreditCards.com expert

Hey Jaime,
No matter how bad your ex-boyfriend may be -- and how much you'd like to see his good credit ruined -- what you're describing is a terrible plan. It could even land you in jail.

It sounds like you were in an awful relationship. But now that you've severed romantic ties with your ex-boyfriend, why consider a plan to become further entangled financially?  "It would be so much better to focus on getting her own act cleaned up than wasting energy seeking vengeance on an ex," says author and personal finance columnist Liz Pulliam Weston. Aside from draining the energy you should put toward building a new and better life, trying to sabotage your ex's credit may instead blow up in your face, potentially deepening your financial woes and leaving you with a criminal record.         

Even if you're determined to carry out your plan, there's no guarantee it will work. That's because "having a card history imported into the authorized user's credit reports isn't automatic -- some issuers do it only for spouses, some don't do it at all," Weston explains in an email. And even if the bank shares your account information with the credit bureaus, not all of your ex's credit reports will include that lousy credit history. (Credit bureaus Equifax and TransUnion include both positive and negative account information on authorized users' credit reports, while Experian only lists positive account information.) Of course, if the bank does report and the bureaus list that account history, you could indeed torpedo your ex-boyfriend's credit -- but only temporarily.     

In the longer term, the joke could be on you. Once your ex learns he's an authorized user on your account (perhaps when he checks his credit history), he could request a card and turn the tables. "By adding him as an authorized user, she would be giving him permission to use the credit card account but with no responsibility for paying the debt. So, he could charge her card to the limit and walk away, leaving her stuck with the debt," says Rod Griffin, Experian's director of public education. After the damage is done, your ex could ask that the bank remove him as an authorized user on that account -- a request most of the major credit card issuers honor immediately.     

Meanwhile, by misusing his personal information in an effort to hurt your ex, you'll have violated the law. "If she's adding his name and Social Security number to her card, then that would be identity theft," says Linda Foley, founder of the San Diego-based nonprofit Identity Theft Resource Center. It won't matter that you two had a relationship, Foley warns: In the eyes of the law, you'll be no different from a fraudster who was unknown to the victim. "It's a criminal act that can be considered a misdemeanor or felony, and she could possibly go to jail and end up with a criminal record for the rest of her life," Foley says. "He's not worth it." 

So try and let the anger go and move on. Experts agree that you should focus on improving your financial situation and personal  life -- paying your bills, balancing your budget and learning from this lousy relationship -- instead of ruining some else's. "Rather than let anger result in a bad financial decision, she would be wise to keep her card in her pocket and let him go," Griffin says.

Other experts say you'll enjoy the rewards of improving your own finances. "There's something about having finances that work that seems to allow you to attract a better mate," Weston says.

Good luck!

--Jeremy 

See related: What to do when your ex steals your identity, What to expect when you're made an authorized user on a credit card, How to remove an authorized user from a credit card account

Jeremy M. Simon is a former CreditCards.com reporter who wrote about credit scoring, economic data, credit card crime and other issues. He is based in Austin, Texas. He is a graduate of Vassar College and has previously worked for Thomson Financial in New York City, where he wrote about the stock markets, and Texas Monthly, as well as several publications in Austin.

Published: May 3, 2011


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