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What to do if someone opened a credit card in my name?

Someone opened a credit card in my name and maybe you’re hesitant to report it. But a crime has been committed, and you could spend years attempting to reverse the damage.

They’ve committed identity fraud when someone you know uses your personal details to apply and opened a credit card in your name. You face tough choices after the initial shock of finding this betrayal. Report the person to law enforcement, and it may ruin your relationship. But if you don’t, you might not be able to get out of any generated debt, and your credit could take years to recover from any damage done.

The Nerds reached out to Bruce McClary, vice president of public relations and external affairs at the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, to assist with the decision process if anything happens to you.

Collect the Facts if someone opened a credit card in your name.

The first thing to do is to gather all the facts of probable suspects and put forward names. To find the fraudulent account that opened a credit card in your name and see if there are any, begin by ordering a free copy of your credit report from AnnualCreditReport.com.

Next, contact the issuer of the credit card and inform him that someone has opened a credit card in your name. Ask the issuer to close and mark the account as fraud. Request a copy of the cardholder agreements signed and any history of contacts with the individual in question that the organization has had. If you want to report to the authorities the illegal activity, McClary says it is best to “confirm what took place and leave no room for doubt in the eyes of the law.”

» MORE: How to dispute fraudulent credit card charges

Freeze your credit if someone opened a credit card in your name

Contact all three credit reporting bureaus to add your credit report to a fraud notice.

Initially, a fraud notice usually lasts 90 days, but you can permanently refresh it. You may opt to submit an extended fraud warning about someone has opened a credit card in your name. Which will remain on your credit report for seven years, if you file a police report later. Once you have a fraud warning in effect, before extending any credit, creditors must call the phone number you give to confirm your identity.

Nerd tip: Because your loved one can know enough about you to pass the identity quiz of a credit grantor, the Nerds suggest using your mobile phone or work number to make sure you are contacted by the creditor.

Deal with your emotions

The most daunting move in the process could be agreeing to question your loved one about identity theft. Someone you trusted has misled you, so it’s a good idea to take some time to work through the shock. It is also comprehensible that you might have second thoughts about filing a police report against the individual. You would probably want to think how your relationship and the relationship of the person with those close to you might be impacted by exposing him or her.

When going through this issue, McClary advises you to consider the fact that they acted without any regard for your rights or feelings when they committed the crime. While this may not make it easier, it is a reminder that you are the victim and any repercussions will stay for up to seven years on your credit report and could cost you when you apply for credit.

Seek a resolution

If the damage is minimal enough, and the people concerned are close enough to you, you will be able to deal with the problem directly. Andy B., a 28-year-old Lincoln, Nebraska, insurance adjuster, was lucky enough to deal this way with his case of family identity theft.

Andy’s loan officer told him when applying for a personal loan that he had a high balance on a card that he knew little about. He learned after some searching that his mother had opened a credit card in his name 10 years ago. Andy says, “I called her after I got off of the phone with the credit card company,” “It was confusing, to say the least. I have a very positive relationship with my mother. … I knew she didn’t act maliciously and I definitely didn’t want to get her into any sort of legal trouble.”

Andy is no longer responsible for the debt after working it out with his mother and the credit card company and doesn’t believe his mother will be charged. He adds, “Do I think it was irresponsible? Yes. Do I forgive her? Absolutely.”

Andy admits that he and his mother are grateful to have figured out this, but he “can think of countless ways a family member can destroy a family member’s credit, not to mention their trust.” Filing a police report is another option. Notifying the police creates a record of enforcement that can be used to clear your name from the debt when that information is shared with the creditors. Notifying the police creates an enforcement record that can be used to clear your name from the debt when the creditors share that information.

Put it in perspective

Your relationship can still suffer regardless of which avenue you choose after your identity is stolen by someone close to you. If you want to bear the effects of impaired credit, the question you need to ask yourself is that it might potentially make it impossible for you to access credit at favorable rates for years to come, if at all. The decision is a personal one, but it’s important for you and your financial future to do what’s best for you.

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