How Do I Deal with Identity Theft by My Spouse?
Identity theft is a difficult thing to deal with, but it can be especially hard if you find that your spouse has opened accounts in your name without your permission. This is one of the ways that a partner can commit financial infidelity, and it can have a long lasting effect on your credit score and your relationship. The way you handle this will likely depend on how you want your relationship to work out in the future. The laws surrounding debt during a divorce will also affect how much of this debt you will be ultimately responsible for paying off. These laws are state laws and you may want to speak to an attorney about what your responsibilities are before deciding a course of action. If you are in a community property law state, you may still be responsible for those debts.
Freeze Your Credit Report
The first step you need to do is to place a freeze on your credit report. This will let lenders know that you do not want anyone to open any additional accounts in your name. You can make a note about this including your spouse on the freeze. Additionally, you should pull your reports to make sure that there are not other unexpected accounts that you know about. The credit freeze can prevent your spouse from opening the accounts. The freeze may cost a fee, and the freeze is not one hundred percent foolproof. It is more effective to have a fraud alert put on your report, but you will need an official identity theft report with your local law enforcement agency.
Decide if You Are Going to Stay in the Relationship
In order to have the debt written off because your identity was stolen you will need to press charges against your spouse for identity theft. If you are trying to make things work in your relationship, then you may not want to do this option, and treat this as debt that your partner took out in his name without telling you. This means that you work together on paying it off. If you are choosing this option, you may want to see a counselor that can help you work through the issues of broken trust and work to repair the relationship. It can be very difficult to recover from financial infidelity, and counseling is one step in that direction. If you do decide to stay, you should determine a point where it is too much and you should end the relationship if it continues to happen. If you do not decide to stay in the relationship, you need to take steps immediately t o protect your future income and the assets tha tyou have by transferring things into your name, and closing joint accounts.
Change the Way You Manage Your Money
It is important that you establish a way to rebuild trust in the relationship and that allows you to protect yourself and your finances in the future. This often means that you split finances for a short period of time and move to a household budget to handle shared expenses. This means that you will need to open up a checking account in your name only so that you can separate your income from your spouse's income. You will need to have regular accountability meetings and talk about goals that need to be reached in order to reestablish trust and to merge finances again. Additionally, you should determine how the debts will be dealt with if you do decide to stay together. This process usually works better if you use a counselor to help you sort out the expectations and feelings. Regular budget meetings can also help catch small problems before they become larger ones.
Determine if You Are Going to Press Charges
After this happens, you may decide that you do not want the relationship to continue. In this case, you should press charges for identity theft and take the steps to have this debt taken off of your credit report entirely. The credit card company will have to go after your spouse to take care of the debt. When you are filing for divorce be sure that you have attorney address this issue in court and in the settlement so that you are covered completely. It can take some time to clear this up and you need to be patient as you work through the issues.
Monitor Your Credit
In the future you need to continue to monitor your credit. You can have a free credit report from each of the major credit bureaus each year, if you check a different one every four months, you can monitor your credit for free throughout the year. If you are concerned that this will happen again, you may want to consider signing up for identity theft protection. This service will monitor your credit for you and help you resolve the issues. However, it does have a monthly fee that you will need to pay. You may decide it is worth it if you continue to have deal with the issue in the future.