Former boss let me use his card, now he cries fraud

Get a lawyer; you may prove you used the card legitimately

Your Business Credit columnist Elaine Pofeldt
Elaine Pofeldt is a journalist whose articles on entrepreneurship and careers have appeared in Fortune, Working Mother, Money and many other publications. She is a former senior editor at Fortune Small Business magazine and an entrepreneur herself, as co-founder of 200kfreelancer.com, a website for independent professionals. She writes "Your Business Credit," a weekly column about small business and credit, for CreditCards.com.

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Question Dear Your Business Credit,
I was formerly employed by my ex-boyfriend’s dad. I was given a credit card to use for purchases pertaining to work. There were also a couple of times when he gave me permission to use the card for personal items; however, those charges were taken out of my pay. I was paid in cash each week.

The relationship with his son went sour and we broke up. Now he is charging me with fraud and unauthorized transactions. I have been told I am looking at prison time.

This is all a plot of retaliation from the hurt ex-boyfriend. How can I prove that? – Priscilla

Answer Dear Priscilla,
I don’t think you need to prove this is a plot by your ex-boyfriend. What is more important, if he does pursue his complaint in court or a formal setting, is to demonstrate that you were using the credit card of your ex-boyfriend’s father with his permission.

I’m not clear from your note if your ex-boyfriend’s father has complained to the credit card company that you misused the card – and you have now heard from the credit card company – or actually filed charges against you for fraudulently using the card.

In either case, I would recommend you talk with an attorney with experience in credit-related issues and get legal advice. This isn’t a situation in which you want to take a do-it-yourself approach. If you can’t afford a lawyer, contact a Legal Aid clinic in your area.

User status on the card is key

One thing that will be relevant is your status with regard to the card. For instance, if your ex-boyfriend’s dad made you an authorized user of the card, your situation would be different than if he simply handed you one of his cards and let you use it when needed.

If he did make you an authorized user and you mainly used it for business transactions, it will be hard for him to make a case that you fraudulently used the card. If you were an authorized user, it should be possible to log into your online account and pull credit card statements showing that you used the card for business purchases.

If you were using a card with his name on it but did not have any official right to use the card, it may be harder for you to prove that you were using it legitimately.

That said, if you have access to emails or other forms of written communication showing he told you it was OK to use the card for certain purchases, and credit card statements showing you did use it for business purchases, that will help you challenge what he is alleging.

If you were paid in cash

One thing I wondered about, though, is whether your ex-boyfriend’s dad is making idle threats. It is not illegal to pay employees in cash, but the IRS requires employers to deduct the appropriate taxes from workers’ pay.

Sometimes, employers pay cash to get out of paying taxes. If he is one of those employers and paid you “under the table,” I doubt he will want to call attention to his business in a court case.

Then again, we don’t really know what he will or won’t do at this point, so I do urge you to speak with a lawyer. Good luck.

See related: How to handle friend who cries fraud over authorized user card, Former employer says you used business card fraudulently

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Updated: 11-24-2017