Honey, I Stole Your Identity

marriage identity theft
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It can be very hard on somebody to find out that their Social Security number (SSN) has been used for fraudulent purposes by their spouse.  Unfortunately the normal procedure for clearing your credit reports of these fraudulent charges does not apply if you are currently married to the person using your information fraudulently.

With the way the marital property laws are written, in most states, the two of you are seen financially as one person. Therefore, your spouse has the ability to access accounts you both have opened. Additionally, they may apply for new lines of credit using your information. However, if they sign your name, and you have not consented, this now could become a case of forgery or fraud.

You can definitely try to file a police report. However, most police departments will not act because it is considered a domestic dispute and not a criminal issue. The only way you can have these accounts removed from your credit report is to either pay them off, or go through a divorce and try to have the accounts placed under your spouse’s responsibility.

Are you willing to, or planning on, filing for a legal separation or divorce?

If the answer is yes, the first step should be filing for a legal separation. This is different than filing for divorce. A legal separation outlines, through a court order, the rights and responsibilities of each individual while they are living apart. This refers to assets and debts, child custody and other custodial issues.

Once you are legally separated, notify the Credit Reporting Agencies (CRAs) of the separation and then obtain your credit reports. To do this, you will need to write to the three CRAs at the addresses below. Send them a copy of your state ID or driver’s license, a copy of your Social Security card, a copy of your separation papers, and a copy of a bill or a bank statement with the same name and address that is on your state ID card. In your cover letter state your name, address and SSN. Explain to them that you are now legally and financially separated from your spouse and you would like your credit report separated from your spouse’s SSN. Request that they send you a copy of this separated credit report.

In order to have any fraudulently opened accounts removed from your credit report, your divorce attorney , all credit issuers , and your spouse’s attorney will need to agree who is responsible for each account. This will become a part of the court order. You should request that your attorney get a full financial deposition from your spouse and copies of all three of their credit reports. This will help identify accounts of which you are not currently aware.

Please review your credit reports. Look for all the accounts that you did not open and highlight them for ease of reference. Contact these companies and try to obtain copies of the applications that were filled out. You may need to send them a fraud affidavit and a copy of a police report. If your signature was forged on these documents, have your signature notarized for comparison. Give all of this information to your attorney. Any joint loans or items that you owe money on will need to be negotiated with the lender prior to the mediation or divorce decree. The loan companies, collection agencies and credit issuers should submit a signed agreement on payment decisions. In other words, this makes them a party to the decree, and the agreement by them should be entered into the paperwork.

If this is a case of identity theft, or large amounts of money due to collections or loans are involved, you probably should have a divorce attorney working on the case rather than representing yourself with the aid of an attorney.

There is unfortunately no guarantee that you will have all of these accounts removed from your credit report, but the more evidence that you can gather to prove it was not you who applied for the lines of credit, the more it will help your divorce attorney argue your case.

If you are not willing or planning on, filing for a legal separation or divorce:

If your spouse has forged your name on any credit application, without your knowledge or consent, you can file a police report for fraud and/or identity theft. However, in most cases, credit issuers will still consider this a joint account if you are not legally separated. Your only other option is to look into the Credit Freeze Program in your state. This way you can freeze all access to your credit reports so that nobody but you can open lines of credit using your SSN.

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Nikki Junker

Nikki Junker is Social Media Coordinator and Victim Advisor at The Identity Theft Resource Center. She specializes in Identity Theft on social networks and smartphones. She enjoys working one on one with victims of identity theft as well as researching and writing about preventative measures for consumers.