Report ID theft, even if the card was never used


Opening Credits
Columnist Erica Sandberg
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

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Dear Opening Credits,
My fiance's ex has opened three credit cards in his name, of course without his permission. She put my name along with another woman's name on the cards as well. There were never any charges -- luckily the card companies realized fraudulent activity due to the "miscellaneous" names used and blocked the cards. My question is, because no debt was incurred, is this still criminal activity? Should he still file a police report?  -- Beverly


Dear Beverly,
Imagine a stranger jimmies the lock to your front door, tiptoes inside your home, then peeks into rooms and drawers. Not just creepy, but illegal, right? Exactly. The burglar would not actually have to take anything of yours for the action to be considered criminal.

It's the same situation with credit cards. Your fiance's former partner unlawfully used your name and probably financial data to apply for new accounts. That she had not charged with the cards makes it no less a crime -- she committed identity theft and needs to be reported to the authorities.

You don't have to wait for anyone else to do the dirty work, either. In fact, because you were a victim, you can make the call, and soon.

Fortunately you know who the perpetrator is, and most likely where and how she can be located. All this will make the police officer's job far easier. The more data you can supply, the higher priority the case typically takes. If you want this woman to be investigated and possibly even arrested, you appear to have all the bells and whistles on hand to make the right amount of noise.

Reach out to the police and explain what has happened. You may be able to do the bulk of the reporting over the phone, but some departments will ask you to visit your local station. Make sure you have any supporting documentation on hand, such as statements from the credit card companies verifying the fraudulently opened (and now closed) accounts. You don't mention whether you have been in communication with the crook, but if you have and possess any exchanged texts or emails where she discusses what she's done, print them out and hand them over. At that stage, law enforcement will begin to do its job. Wait and see, then follow up regularly.

Unfortunately, your troubles can continue, as this lovely lady may attempt to bilk you and creditors again, so take further steps to protect yourself.

1. Notify your current credit card companies. If she has possession of your credit card information, she can start to charge, even without the actual piece of plastic. Call your creditors to report foul play. They'll tighten up security and send you cards with different account numbers.

2. Add a fraud alert to your credit files. Log on to the TransUnion, Equifax or Experian website (these are the big three credit bureaus) and follow the fraud alert instructions (one agency will notify the other two). Choose either the 90-day or seven-year alert. Once in place, businesses will have to verify it is really you who is increasing a credit limit or applying for a fresh card or loan. If you really want to lock up your credit, consider a freeze if it's available in your state. It will completely prevent your file from being pulled.

3. Monitor your banking statements and credit reports. For at least the next year, keep intense watch on your financial affairs. Read all credit card and banking statements carefully, checking for strange charges and balances. Pull your credit reports from to see if additional credit requests have been made, and of course if any have been granted. The sooner they're spotted, the faster and easier you can put her out of commission.

Lastly, though not credit advice, I suggest you remind your fiance that his taste in women has sure improved.

See related: Why you should file a police report for card fraud, 5 steps to dispute debt caused by ID theft, stop abusive collection

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Published: July 8, 2015

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Updated: 10-25-2016

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