Dealing With Marital ID Theft
Anytime you are a victim of identity theft, the results can be devastating on your credit. Even if you ultimately end up not owing any money, and even if you do get the items removed from your credit, there is still the time and effort to challenge improper credit items, along with the frustration when at first the major credit reporting agencies (CRAs) refuse to remove the improper marks, that you have to deal with.
Marital ID Theft
The problem becomes even worse with a special kind of ID theft: Marital ID theft. This is when someone that you are married to falsifies your name, or uses your credit without your consent or permission. In most cases, marital ID theft happens between couples that are separated but not legally divorced, or who are legally divorced but the ex spouses still have access to each others’ credit card numbers or passwords.
While we don’t want to give personal relationship advice, when it comes to credit, and erasing negative or improper marks on credit, you are better off being divorced than separated. In Florida, there is no legal separation, which means that the law still considers you married. That means if your still-legal husband or wife uses your credit or credit cards, it will often be very difficult to demonstrate that he or she did so without permission. Once you are divorced, you have a divorce paper to demonstrate that there was no consent.
If you are a victim of marital identity theft, you first may want to put a freeze on your credit reports, which will prevent any new accounts from being opened in your name. This is different than a fraud alert, but a fraud alert may require that you get a police report, which many spouses or ex spouses are hesitant to do. Additionally, it may be hard to demonstrate that someone you are married to actually committed fraud against you.
If You Are Still Married
If you are in a healthy stable relationship, but your spouse is using your financial information without your permission, you have some tough choices to make. Accounts opened in one spouse’s name are that spouse’s responsibility only. That means if you have a spouse who may be careless financially, you may want him or her to have accounts only open in his or her name.
In order to keep the peace domestically, you can add yourself as an “authorized user” on a spouse’s account. Authorized users can use the account holder’s credit card, but are not legally responsible for the debt. Additionally, if the account holder does not pay the debt, the late or delinquent payments do not affect the Authorized User’s credit.
That means that if your husband or wife is careless with the account, he or she, and not you, will be liable. Yet, you both will still have permission to use the card to purchase or pay bills with.
Questions about inaccurate information on your credit reports? Contact Jacobs Legal to speak with one of our Miami consumer rights attorneys today.