Advice on Identity Theft
My father has been using my credit cards, now he doesn't want to pay them. Am I stuck with this debt that isn't mine?
My father has been using my credit cards and has ran up a serious balance. Now he doesn't want to pay them. Am I stuck with this debt that isn't mine? Or could I threaten w/ having him arrested for identity theft? Which it is basically.
- If mystery accounts appear on your credit report, you may be an identity theft victim.
- The FTC recommends victims take positive steps to mitigate the damage.
- Identity theft is a common crime in the US.
Unfortunately, identity theft and unauthorized use of credit by friends and family members is a fairly common occurrence, which often results in serious familial conflict. The good news is that you may not be liable for these debts, depending on the circumstances under which they were incurred. Before you take any steps toward resolving the debts, you should make sure that your father is unable to open any additional accounts or incur any further debt in your name.
I encourage you to obtain a copy of your credit report from each of the three major U.S. credit bureaus -- Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion; you are entitled to a free copy of your report from each of these agencies once every 12 months, which you can request by visiting www.AnnualCreditReport.com. Once you have a copy of all three credit reports, you should review them to make sure that you are aware of all accounts which you father has opened in your name or been using without your authorization. You should contact each of these lenders to close the accounts and notify them of the fact that someone has been making unauthorized charges; this action should prevent your father, or anyone else, from incurring additional unauthorized debt. In addition, you may wish to place a fraud alert or credit freeze (if available in your state) on your credit reports, which should stop your father from opening new accounts in your name. To read about placing a fraud alert on your credit profile, and to learn more about identity theft in general, you can visit Bills.com.
After determining exactly what debts your father incurred using your credit, you will need to make a decision about how to best proceed; this decision will be a personal one, and will depend largely on your overall relationship with your father and other family members. I would encourage you to first go to your father and give him an ultimatum—if he will not voluntarily pay the debts, you will be required to contact the police and file a charges against him for identity theft. Hopefully, your father will do the right thing and offer to pay the debts which he incurred. If he still refuses to reimburse you, you can report the identity theft to the police, which may result in your father's being arrested for theft and/or fraud, depending on the circumstances under which the unauthorized charges were made.
If you gave him permission to use your credit accounts, even if it was only for a limited purpose, you may have a much more difficult time in proving that identity theft took place. However, if he stole your credit cards or opened new credit accounts without your knowledge, your case for identity theft will likely be much stronger. Again, I would encourage you to give your father one last opportunity to pay the debts he incurred; however, if he continues to refuse to pay, you may have no choice but to contact the police to explain the situation and to determine what assistance they can provide. The Federal Trade Commission offers a wealth of information about identity theft.
In many cases, consumers are not held liable for debts incurred as the result of identity theft. However, most creditors will require you to file a police report and to complete a fraud claim before they will release you from liability. I encourage you to contact any creditors with whom your father opened accounts or made unauthorized charges to discuss each creditor's policy regarding identity theft and credit card fraud, and what information you will need to provide to be released from liability for these debts.
Again, you must consider the fact that accusing your father of identity theft may lead to serious legal repercussion for him; please do not make such accusations lightly or out of anger, as your claims may have serious consequences for him and your entire family. In many such inter-family identity theft cases, the victim decides to pay the debt himself simply to avoid conflict with his family; before you make any official accusations against your father, I encourage you to consider whether or not the amount of debt in question justifies the possibility of creating a permanent rift in your family relationships. If the debts are not excessive, you may decide that the cost of paying the debts yourself is worth preventing familial conflict.
I wish you the best of luck in resolving this debt, and hope that the information I have provided helps you Find. Learn. Save.