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.
Dear Opening Credits,
A friend of mine recently got a credit card and got me on the account as a secondary user, seeing that my credit was not the best. I was going to move in and help pay rent, but then changed my mind at the last minute. He got upset and started saying I opened a credit card in his name. But I did no such thing, considering I would need his personal info and I do not know that. The card has my name on it. Can I get in trouble for him lying and saying I opened a credit card in his name when he opened it himself and got me a card? – William
Based on what you describe, unless he can prove you committed a crime, I see no reason for you to be worried about legal trouble. However, I can see you being charged with being a bad friend if you used the card and did not repay any balance owed.
It seems your almost-roommate willingly added you to his credit card account as an authorized user, which is sometimes called a secondary user. As the primary account owner, he gave the credit card issuer permission to send you a card with your name on it. Authorized users have no responsibility to the financial institution or liability for repayment, though the account will usually show up on the user’s credit report as well as the owner’s. If the account is managed well, it can help the authorized user’s credit rating rise.
So, unless you did apply for this or any other card fraudulently, you’ve done nothing illegal.
Here’s what you need to do now:
- Remove yourself from the account. Call the credit card issuer (the phone number is on the back of the card) and request to be removed as an authorized user. You may need to answer some security questions or provide basic information regarding the account. Your card will be rendered inactive, and in a month or two, the account will no longer appear on your credit report.
- Fix your own credit problems. You don’t specify what’s wrong with your credit history, but you can repair a poor rating with positive action. For example, you may reduce high debts or pay off bills in collection. If you can’t qualify for your own unsecured credit card, consider a secured card, where you put down a cash deposit. Charge regularly but pay on time and in full, and you’ll be adding positive data to your reports.
- Make amends with your friend. Sure, he’s raging now, but you may be able to calm him down with a sincere apology and an expression of gratitude. Acknowledge his kind gesture. And, most importantly, repay him in full for any debt you may have added to the account by using the card.
Remember, low credit ratings can rise, but not all relationships can be salvaged. If he’s an old and valued friend, it’s worth trying. In the event he continues to make slanderous claims, you can consider taking legal action against him. I hope it doesn’t come to that. Good luck, William.
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