BACK

To Her Credit

Dispute card accounts opened fraudulently by ex-spouse

Summary

You have to take the proper steps to get the issuers to acknowledge the accounts aren’t yours

The editorial content below is based solely on the objective assessment of our writers and is not driven by advertising dollars. However, we may receive compensation when you click on links to products from our partners. Learn more about our advertising policy.

The content on this page is accurate as of the posting date; however, some of the offers mentioned may have expired. Please see the bank’s website for the most current version of card offers; and please review our list of best credit cards, or use our CardMatch™ tool to find cards matched to your needs.

QuestionDear Sally,
Toward the end of my marriage, my husband opened numerous credit cards and accounts in my name. When I called the issuers to tell them that I hadn’t opened the accounts, they told me it wasn’t fraud. One of them said it wasn’t fraud because the person calling used my phone number. Another credit card company said that they’ve heard this before, and I can just sue my ex for the money. That’s not going to work because he is in jail and has no money.

Now I have a court date, and I’m scared. I think the cards were opened between January and April 2016. I’m not sure, because he was always the one that got the mail. Now I know why!

When I did the divorce papers, it was seven credit cards, totaling $18,000 in debt. I didn’t send anything in writing to the banks. I didn’t open the accounts or ring up the charges they are coming after me for. I didn’t report it to the police in Iowa

where it all took place.

Now I’m in Florida, and I have no idea what to do. I don’t have the money to pay off the debt. The few lawyers I have consulted say I should file for bankruptcy. I have no proof I didn’t open the cards. Since the divorce, he sits in jail, so he won’t pay the debt.

What should I do? I received a summons to appear in court in October. – Jolene

AnswerDear Jolene,
Anyone opening accounts in your name, even your husband, is definitely committing fraud – despite what the credit card companies told you on the phone. The fact that he was calling from your phone line doesn’t change the fact that it wasn’t you.

Ideally, you would have contacted the credit card company in writing from the beginning, and you would have filed a police report. However, the fact that you called the credit card companies is a start.

Brad Sadek, a lawyer with the Sadek and Cooper Law Offices in Philadelphia, says, “If you talked to the credit card companies upon discovering the fraudulently incurred accounts, they should have a record of such conversations, and you should be able to utilize their fraud protection.” Send the issuers something in writing, with as much information as you can gather.

“If the conversations with the credit card companies continue not to work in your favor, consider this situation as identity theft and file a police report,” Sadek says. You’ll need to contact the local police department in the municipality in which you lived in Iowa.

You should also contact one of the major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian or TransUnion) and dispute the unauthorized credit cards that were opened in your name. Also ask to have a fraud alert placed on your credit reports, so no one can open more accounts without your permission. When you contact one agency, it alerts the other two.

Contact the Federal Trade Commission as well, and tell them you’re a victim of identity theft. Call the FTC toll-free at 877-IDTHEFT (877-438-4338), or go to the FTC’s Identity Theft website.

If you have other debts that weren’t fraudulently opened by your ex, and you want to file for bankruptcy, Sadek advises that you may be able to object in the bankruptcy process to the “proof of claims” filed by the creditors for the fraudulently incurred accounts.

If you are unable to get satisfactory results after following these steps, you should consult a local attorney or find low-cost legal assistance where you live. The stakes are high, and professional advice is worth the cost. Once you are armed with the police report and have taken all the steps above, gather all your documents and take them with you to court to state your case. Good luck!

See related:5 ways an ex can ruin your credit during breakup, divorce, Ex’s ID theft thwarts new couple’s finances

 

What’s up next?

In To Her Credit

Living together doesn’t create common-law marriage or debt liability

Keeping accounts separate can protect funds in case partner is sued for repayment

Published: September 2, 2016

See more stories
Credit Card Rate Report Updated: April 21st, 2019
Business
15.32%
Airline
17.50%
Reward
17.56%
Cash Back
17.60%
Student
17.79%

Questions or comments?

Contact us

Editorial corrections policies

Learn more

Join the Discussion

We encourage an active and insightful conversation among our users. Please help us keep our community civil and respectful. For your safety, do not disclose confidential or personal information such as bank account numbers or social security numbers. Anything you post may be disclosed, published, transmitted or reused.

The editorial content on CreditCards.com is not sponsored by any bank or credit card issuer. The journalists in the editorial department are separate from the company’s business operations. The comments posted below are not provided, reviewed or approved by any company mentioned in our editorial content. Additionally, any companies mentioned in the content do not assume responsibility to ensure that all posts and/or questions are answered.