How to clear credit of fraudulent card account

To Her Credit columnist Sally Herigstad
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, and also wrote for MSN Money, and, and has guested on Martha Stewart Radio and other programs.

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Question for the expert Dear To Her Credit,
Capital One Bank is claiming my daughter opened a credit card account when she was 17 years old. We know she did not -- she doesn't even believe in credit cards. The credit reports are claiming that this account is hers.

We have been fighting with them for over two years to get this off her credit report with no success. We are both becoming very aggravated. How can Capital One even issue her a card knowing she was 17, and why won't they remove it from her credit reports?  -- Carol

Answer for the expert Dear Carol,
You are absolutely correct that they cannot hold your daughter responsible for a card opened when she was 17, especially one that was apparently opened by someone else. I'm not sure what your tactics for fighting this fiasco have been over the past two years, but it's time for a new plan.

You have two battles to fight: The debt Capital One says she owes to them, and the negative mark on your daughter's credit card. Sometimes people think resolving one issue automatically takes care of the other, but that's not the case.

Calling on the phone to dispute the account isn't working. If you can't resolve a problem in one phone call, you generally should start writing letters instead.

Here are the steps you should take:

First, deal with the credit card company. Call or write to them and ask them to send a copy of the original credit card application to you. This will tell you if the signature was forged and if the birth date is correct. Then, write a letter to Capital One and tell them to stop collection efforts and stop reporting the account on your daughter's credit reports.

The credit card company must investigate your claim, according to the Fair Credit Reporting Act. It must also report your dispute to the credit bureaus.

You have probably closed the account. Make sure that is actually the case by looking at your daughter's credit report. She can get her report at, the official site to help consumers get their free credit report.

If you believe someone opened the account fraudulently, file a complaint of identity theft with the Federal Trade Commission. You must also file an identity theft report with your local police department.

Next, clean up the credit report. Send a copy of the letter you sent Capital One, along with a copy of the fraudulent application, to one of the credit bureaus. The credit bureau will investigate, usually within 30 days, and is required to notify the other credit bureaus.

Sometimes it takes more than one try to get the attention of someone who will fix your problem. If you cannot get this resolved with these steps, you may need to go to a consumer lawyer or a low-cost legal service. You can also file a credit card complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the federal consumer protection watchdog agency that launched in July 2011.

After Capital One is squared away and your daughter's credit history is clear, be sure to keep a watchful eye on credit activity in her name. If someone stole her identity once, they may try again. She should check her credit report regularly and look for any activity she doesn't recognize.

I'd put a credit freeze on her report as well. Yes, it will be harder for her to spontaneously open a credit card at the checkout counter, but it will also be harder for anyone else to open an account in her name on the fly.

Your daughter got kind of a rough initiation into the world of credit! With your help, however, she can put it behind her quickly. Good luck!

See related: 5 steps to dispute a debt that's not yours, How to dispute credit report errors

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Updated: 04-24-2019