Reporting stolen cards on someone else's behalf
Dear Credit Wise,
My home was burglarized on Sunday. My sister lives with me, and has quite a few credit cards. Unfortunately, she is very ill at this time and can't remember what cards she has and whether they were stolen (she can't remember where she put them). I am worried sick that there is someone out there going crazy with her cards. Is there a way to find out what cards she has? -- Josina
The good news is that if all we are talking about is credit cards (not debit cards), your sister’s liability will be negligible, if at all. Federal law limits liability to $50, regardless of how much is charged to a card. Since you say there are several cards, that limit would apply to each card, but most creditors will waive this in cases like these if they are contacted in a timely manner.
Most major creditors will call the card owner if there is suspicious activity on an account. However, this is not a foolproof system for determining if any cards have been stolen. The quickest way to find out what credit cards your sister has is to have your sister request her credit report from one of the credit reporting bureaus -- Equifax, Experian or TransUnion. She can do this for free at AnnualCreditReport.com. The report will list all her accounts and their status.
Once you have the list of credit cards from the credit report, have your sister call each creditor and explain the situation. It might be a good idea to freeze the cards themselves or have them reissued with a new number. Your sister’s creditors will probably have their own ideas about how to manage the situation and she would be wise to follow their lead.
At the same time, it might be a good idea to have your sister place a temporary freeze on her credit with each credit reporting agency. This will help to prevent identity theft in the event the thieves got away with enough personal information to open other accounts in her name. She need only contact one of the credit bureaus -- they will in turn contact the other two bureaus so that the freeze is on all of her reports.
It will also help your sister to have a copy of the police report, especially if identity theft does occur. You would be smart to check your own credit and do the same thing. It is often very difficult to determine exactly what has been taken in a burglary. You don't want to be so worried about your sister’s situation that you don’t take care of your own.
I know you said your sister is very ill at this time and she will likely need your help with all of this, but this is a situation that needs to be quickly resolved.
There may not be a lot you can do on your sister's behalf, because the credit bureaus are particular about releasing information to anyone but the consumer. You may have to simply sit with your sister, hold her hand and guide her through the online process to get her credit reports. That is probably all you can do now, but it may be time for you to consider asking your sister about granting you her power of attorney so you can act on her behalf in the future.
Be wise with your credit!
See related: Put your credit report on ice with a credit freeze
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