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Ask Dr. Don

My ex is a lying, cheating ...

Dear Dr. Don,
I just discovered that my ex-husband is using my credit to obtain credit cards in my name. What can I do? I not only want to stop the new cards I know about but also prevent him from getting any more cards in my name.

The three major credit bureaus are very hard to work with. I've spent hours on the phone with them and accomplished nothing. Help! Thank you very much for any insights you have for me.
Michelle Maddening

Dear Michelle,
You're a victim of identity theft. Just because he's your ex-husband doesn't mean that he's not breaking the law. I'm not sure why the consumer reporting agencies haven't been more helpful. All three have fraud departments that should have immediately put a fraud alert on your credit report requesting that prospective lenders contact you personally before extending credit.

If you haven't taken that step, take it now. Do it over the phone or on the computer, but follow up with a letter so you have a paper trail showing that you've notified the consumer reporting agencies about this problem. Bankrate provides the contact information for all three agencies. The consumer reporting agencies will also provide you with a free copy of your credit report, so you know what creditors to contact about the current fraudulent accounts.

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After reviewing the reports, contact creditors on any accounts that appear to have been tampered with or opened fraudulently. Once again, you can do the initial contact by phone, asking to speak with someone in the security or fraud department, but follow up your phone call with a letter.

The letters are part of the requirements of the Fair Credit Billing Act to resolve errors involving your credit billing, including provisions for charges that you did not make. Along with copies of your letters you should keep a log of your phone conversations, including the names of the people you spoke with, the times and dates of your calls and notes of your conversations.

Next, file a report with either your local police department or the police department in the community where you suspect that the identity theft took place. Keep a copy of the report on file for your records and to show creditors if they need to see proof that the crime was reported.

Using the FTC's Identity Theft Affidavit will simplify and standardize how you report this information to creditors and the credit reporting agencies. It can be a follow-up to your initial contact letters. Don't delay in contacting creditors, credit reporting agencies and the police when reporting the fraudulent use of your personal information.

-- Posted: March 10, 2003
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See Also
14 tips to avoid identity theft
Identity theft checklist
Financial advice glossary
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