You hear about identity theft all the time. There seems to be tons of stories in the news these days about someone hacking into a business and stealing data on customers or their credit card numbers. It’s easy to know what to do when a stranger steals your information and commits fraud, but fraud can also be committed against you by someone you know. It might sound more like something that happens in a movie, but maybe your brother-in-law dug that pre-approved credit card application that came in the mail out of your trash and helped himself to your better credit and opened the account.
At Ovation, we’ve seen it all – from clients whose family members have opened cable accounts and cell phones in their names without their knowledge to family members who rack up thousands of dollars in credit debt. Until you get a bill for a line of credit or a service you never opened, or you see a delinquent account on your credit report, you may never even know they’ve done it.
When a stranger commits identity theft, there is no hesitation about phoning the police and filing a police report (the surest way to protect your credit). With domestic fraud, it’s not always that easy to call and turn in your brother, mother, or nephew. Sometimes, you can handle the fraud privately between you and the family member responsible. Try talking with that person to see if you can work out a way to repay the debt that resolves the problem without impacting your credit score or sending your loved one to jail.
While some creditors may not even ask you who committed the fraud or care if you do know who was responsible, it’s likely they’ll ask for a police report. Generally it makes it easier to prove fraud if there’s a police report, but we understand it can be hard to file one against a relative, even if they are that black sheep of the family who always seems to be looking for a free ride at everybody else’s expense.
If the “figure it out between us” approach doesn’t work, you may be left with no choice other than reporting the abuse. You can try to handle the debt yourself, and you may have the resources to do this, but if you don’t and you end up with a delinquent account on your credit report, then you’ll need to consider calling the credit bureau and telling them that the negative account on your credit report is the result of fraud. No matter who committed the fraud – friend or stranger – you have the right to dispute the charges and repair your credit score.