I opened a credit card using my boyfriend's info. Did I commit fraud?

Even if he gave his OK, applying for credit as someone else is identity theft

Opening Credits columnist Eric Sandberg
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.

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Question Dear Opening Credits,
My boyfriend gave me permission to open a credit card in his name for me. Now he is saying I opened it without his permission. Is that fraud? – Lorraine


Dear Lorraine,
While you may have not meant harm or had any intention of breaking the law, what you did was fraudulent.

By using someone else’s personal data to apply for and receive a credit card, you effectively lied to the credit card issuer about who you were. When the issuer approved and granted the account, it did so based on falsified information. Therefore, even if your boyfriend gave you the go-ahead to use his name, to the credit issuer you committed identity theft. In fact, because your boyfriend was complicit, he also had a hand in the crime.

It’s interesting that your boyfriend is now saying you stole his information to get the card. There could be many reasons for his denial, but a likely scenario is that there’s a debt on the account that he doesn’t want to pay. Since the card is in his name, he’d be responsible for repayment if he didn’t claim it as fraud.

Before this situation gets even messier, here’s what you should do:

Since the account is in your boyfriend’s name, stop using it, and convince him to close the account. If there is no outstanding balance, he can call the issuer and go through the cancellation process. Be aware, though, that a record of the credit card will remain on his credit reports. Closed accounts can be reported for 10 years.

Your boyfriend may wonder if closing the account will hurt his credit rating. It might. If he owes other creditors, canceling a credit line will suddenly shorten the credit utilization ratio, which will result in a lower score. However, you can assure him that by paying all accounts on time and reducing debt, his scores will rebound to what they ought to be. 

If there is a balance on that account, whoever racked it up needs to pay it to zero. If you charged up the debt, give him the money so he can pay it. If you don’t have the cash available, make a grand effort scrape it up. Sell assets such as unnecessary electronics, clothes, furniture and anything else of value you don’t need. Tap your savings accounts. Pare down your budget to the basics so you have more to send the card issuer. Work overtime, drive for a ride-sharing company or baby-sit.

The sooner the bill is paid, the better. The card can still be closed, even with a balance, but the debt still has to be paid. Be sure to keep clean records of your payments for proof that you did the right thing.

And that takes us back to the possibility that this guy may be trying to escape the bill by telling the issuer, credit reporting agencies and even the police that you robbed him of his identity to open up a card in his name.

Credit card fraud is a crime, but it’s not at the top of most police departments’ lists for investigation. Still, if he wants to press the matter, he may be able to, which is why I urge you to do what it takes to pay off any debt you racked up on the card and have him close it so you can both put its bad history behind you.

And never, ever, take out a credit product in anyone else’s name but your own again.

See related: Can I apply for a credit card before I start my first job?, Can you be charged for unwittingly committing fraud?

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Updated: 03-24-2019