Mom illegally adds daughter to joint card
Erica Sandberg is a prominent personal finance authority and author of "Expecting Money: The Essential Financial Plan for New and Growing Families." She writes "Opening Credits," a weekly reader Q&A column about issues for people who are new to credit, for CreditCards.com.
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Dear Opening Credits,
My son was recently married.
His new wife came from a family that has made bad choices financially. They
just ran a credit report on themselves and found that his mother-in-law has his
wife listed on a joint credit card account with her. His wife knew nothing of
the account. How can his wife get off the card? Is she liable for any of the
debt on the card she that knew nothing about? -- Brad
If your daughter-in-law's mother really
did add her daughter's name to a credit account application without her
permission, she's an identity thief.
I understand that you may want to be
involved with righting this wrong, but I'm afraid your daughter-in-law will
have to shoulder most of the burden. However, you can play a supportive role.
Here's what you can tell her to correct the matter and stem future
First, she must call the credit card
company to explain that she did not authorize the application for credit, that she should be removed as a joint account owner and that the account be closed. This
should be fairly easy if she was a minor when it was issued. All she would have
to do is provide her birthdate and point out that she was too young to even
enter into such an agreement.
If she was older than 18, though, she'll have
to prove that she did not consent to the arrangement and that involves filing a
Calling the authorities on her mother
may be tough, but a crime has occurred. She should report it not just to deal
with this issue, but to stop her mother from doing it again. A mother tends to
have access to her child's birth certificate and Social Security number. With
such personal data, she can do all sorts of damage, such as apply for car and
home loans in your daughter-in-law's name.
The next step is to have your daughter-in-law add a fraud alert to her credit file. To do so, she'll need to contact one of the three major
credit reporting bureaus -- TransUnion, Equifax or Experian -- and have the alert placed. Reporting it to one is enough; they must add it to the other two. If her mom (or any other crook) tries to open a new
card in her name again, the lender will have to take steps to make sure that your
daughter-in-law authorized the request.
When placing the alert, she'll have two
choices: one that lasts 90 days or seven years. Because this woman will be her
parent forever, I'd suggest making use of the latter. The only sticking point
with that option is that it requires a police report indicating that she has
been a fraud victim. So if she's resistant to calling the cops on her own flesh
and blood, she'll have to be satisfied with the alert that lasts for three
months, and to manually renew it each time it lapses. Also, without that police
report, she will have a harder time convincing the card issuer that she
shouldn't be held liable for the card balance.
The issuer should stop reporting the
account on your daughter-in-law's credit reports within about 30 days.
Presuming she is allowed off the account, any debt that was incurred will also
cease to be her responsibility. If she experiences resistance from the creditor
and it continues to report the account on her file, she may block it from
appearing by providing the police report to the credit bureaus as proof.
I'm sorry that your loved ones are
having such troubles so early on in their marriage, and that the crime was
perpetuated by a parent. Sadly, such crimes are not uncommon.
See related: Mom ruined her credit? 7 steps to recover it, Take these steps to repair your credit after ID theft by parent
Erica Sandberg is a nationally renowned personal finance authority. She’s host of several financial web shows, and a frequent guest for media outlets such as Fox, Forbes, Nightly Business Report and NPR. Erica previously was affiliated with Consumer Credit Counseling Service and was KRON-TV’s on-air credit expert. Her book, "Expecting Money: The Essential Financial Plan for New and Growing Families," was published in 2008 by Kaplan Press.
Send your question to Erica.
Published: September 18, 2013