Did They Run Up Debt? Now, What Do You Do?

Going through a divorce can be stressful enough, and if you don’t end things amicably, sometimes people can do hateful things. Your ex has access to all your personal information, your social security number, date of birth, address, and maybe even your bank account information. This could give your ex the information he or she needs to make your financial life a nightmare or it could be someone who doesn’t even know you who digs through your trash.

Whoever it is, identity theft is one of the most stressful financial burdens a person can go through. While most former spouses would not do this, there are unfortunate cases where it has happened. It could actually start to happen right under your nose while you are still married and go unnoticed until the divorce is final. Divorce can make some people do crazy and shameful things.

When I worked in collections, some of the people I called would actually claim that their ex was responsible for the past-due bill. Some collectors would say that was a likely story to getting out of paying a bill, but I took their claims seriously. The reason being, because it happened to me. In 2003, my ex had used my credit card while we were living together. I filed a police report and the officers told me, “How do we know you don’t owe him money?”

They told me there was nothing they could do because we lived under the same roof. I was totally shocked that people could get away with this. (Thankfully we weren’t married.) Now if you were legally married it is probably even harder to prove that the debt isn’t legitimate. Or perhaps an unknown identity thief has been robbing you of your good credit. Either way, you shouldn’t have to pay a debt if it is not legally yours.

So what can you do? The first thing you should do is to view all three of your credit reports to determine what accounts are fraudulent. Your next step is going to be to place a fraud alert on your credit report. This can be done on the three credit reporting agency’s websites:

Equifax: 1-800-525-6285
P.O. Box 740241, Atlanta, GA 30374-0241

Experian: 1-888-EXPERIAN (397-3742)
P.O. Box 9532, Allen, TX 75013

TransUnion: 1-800-680-7289
Fraud Victim Assistance Division, P.O. Box 6790, Fullerton, CA 92834-6790

Your next step is to close all accounts that have fraudulent activity on them. To be on the safe side, I would advise you to send letters disputing the accounts to each individual credit reporting agency. Please know some creditors will be more cooperative than others. So you will also want to file a police report and provide a copy of the case number. Now, you can also fill out the forms online, but if your police department has given you a written report, sending a copy of the report is a good idea. You should also make sure to send the letter certified mail. You can also file a formal complaint with the federal trade commission.

Identity theft is a very stressful situation for anyone to go through. You will have to spend many hours preparing the documents to clear your credit (it took about six months for the effects of the identity theft to disappear from my credit). However, if you follow these steps, your credit is sure to be cleared up as quickly as possible.

If you would like additional information, alarms.org has also provided a comprehensive guide for identity theft protection. Find it here.