A near-stranger adds a woman as an authorized user. Maybe it’s ID theft, certainly it’s creepy, and it can to be stopped
Dear Speaking of Credit,
Hi! Someone I hardly know added me as an authorized user on his credit account. I called the credit card company and asked to be removed, but they said I needed his information since mine didn’t match. He didn’t have any of my information so I’m not sure how this occurred. I don’t have any of his information, like birthdate or anything. How can I get myself removed? — Cheryllyn
First, let’s get an understanding of exactly what it means to be an authorized user on a credit card account. Then, we’ll look at how being an authorized user can impact your credit score. Lastly, I’ll tell you what you really want to know: How you can remove yourself from the account, remove this account from your credit report and be done with this person you hardly know, but who has intruded into your credit uninvited.
What it means to be an authorized user
An authorized user is someone who is designated by the legal holder of a card account to share in its use, with a card issued in the authorized user’s name, but without responsibility for any of the debt incurred on the card. In most cases, an authorized user is a spouse, son or daughter of the cardholder, although there is no such requirement — it can be anyone.
The near-stranger may not have needed much information about you to add you as an authorized user. Card issuers vary in how much data they require. Discover and Pentagon Federal, for example, require Social Security numbers on their forms for adding authorized users. Chase’s form, however, does not. If the card is from an issuer that demands a Social Security number, then that’s worrisome. The act could be some odd precursor to identity theft. Regardless, it’s creepy.
Despite not being legally responsible for the debt, all history associated with an account held in this way is added to the authorized user’s credit file and included in any credit scores based on that file. Also, the “ECOA code” within the account trade line on the credit report acknowledges that the account is being held as an authorized user. These codes designate whether the account is held by the consumer individually, jointly or as an authorized user.
How being an authorized user can affect your credit score
For your protection and peace of mind, this account needs to be removed from your credit file. Yet, where this story may begin to get even weirder is that we can’t necessarily assume this account that’s being imposed on you against your will is doing any damage to your credit score.
In fact, though it certainly could be hurting your score, particularly if the primary cardholder has incurred recent late payments and/or high balances, its presence could just as easily be adding points to your score if the account history includes consistently on-time payments and low balances. If this latter scenario is the one that applies to you, and especially if you have any recent negative items of your own, don’t be surprised to see your score take a bit of a drop when the account is removed from your credit report. Still, though, it will be worth it.
Getting the account off of your credit report
Unbelievable as it may seem after what you’ve experienced, yours is actually one of the better credit problems to have when it comes to fixing credit reporting errors. That is because, typically, the credit bureau dispute process requires that the credit bureaus go to the source of the information in question — the lender or collection agency reporting the account, or to the public record — before a credit reporting item’s accuracy can be determined.
In your situation, however, as long as the ECOA code for the account is properly indicating you as an authorized user — not the responsible holder — of the card, all of the information the credit bureaus need to remove the account from your credit reports is contained entirely within those credit reports. For this reason, the credit bureaus are able to simply remove an authorized user account at the consumer’s request.
Deleting this account from your credit report and removing your name from the account, works like this:
- Regardless of when you last obtained your credit report or from what source, go to AnnualCreditReport.com and request your credit reports from the three biggest credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.
- Verify that the authorized user account appears on your credit reports and that the ECOA code shows the account held by you as an authorized user.
- Follow the directions for disputing information on each credit report, indicating on the online dispute forms that “this account does not belong to me,” and, if you feel it necessary, explaining in your own words that your name was added to this card without your knowledge or approval.
- Upon receiving your dispute, your stated reason for this request and the ECOA code showing you as an authorized user should be all of the evidence required for the credit bureaus to remove the account from your credit files and block it from any future reappearance.
- Each credit bureau will remove the account from your credit file and notify the card company of your dispute, which will enable them to locate the account and remove your name.
To complete the process, you should receive the results of the dispute from each credit bureau within about 30 days after submission. Then it will be a good idea to check your credit reports one more time to make sure the account has been deleted. And, though not absolutely necessary, this may also be a good time to check your credit scores to see where your credit truly stands, now that the information on your credit reports is, for the first time in a long time, entirely your own.
See related: Piggybacking, meant to jump-start credit, can backfire, Authorized users don’t have to share credit reports,