Editorial Policy

Daughter 'Borrows' Card for Online Shopping

Erica Sandberg

February 15, 2013

QDear Erica,

This is Dan and Chandra. We saw you on TV talking about credit, and we have a situation that maybe you can help us with. Our teenage daughter Nicole used our credit card that we have registered on a shopping website. She doesn't have a job, so she cannot pay the bill. Are we responsible because we have our account set up so all you have to do is press “OK” to complete a purchase? She didn't take our actual cards and the information was already in the computer, but she knew she was in the wrong. — Dan and Chandra

AHi Dan and Chandra,

As the account owners, you are not responsible for unauthorized charges. But before I get into the legal way to solve this matter, here's how you might be able to settle it on your own.

Have Nicole compensate you for every dime that she illegally spent on your credit card. This way she can make financial amends to you. To get your money back, have her:Ask Erica

  1. Return the stuff to the store. There's no reason she should be allowed to keep whatever she bought. Contact the company she bought it from and ask how you may return the items and get a full refund.
  2. Sell the stuff on the open market. If the store won't take it back, try selling it on an online auction site or on Craigslist, or take it to a pawnshop. You may not get its full worth, but it's a start.
  3. Toil away the charges. If selling or returning aren't possible, have her slave off the price by doing chores around the home for a specific time period. Perhaps a garage clean-up ought to be in her future.
  4. Get a job. If she can be employed as a babysitter, leaf-raker or hamburger-flipper, instruct her to get to work and hand over her paychecks to you until the debt is satisfied.

However you make her pay, try to send the entire balance due on your own as soon as possible. That way, you won't get charged interest, and you can avoid any credit score damage that comes from carrying a high balance.

There's another way to get your money back, but I'm not sure if you'd be willing to go this route:  You can report the crime to the police. Whether Nicole admits it or not, she broke the law when she went shopping with your credit card without your consent — however easy the access. It is your right to involve the authorities. After you do, you may contact the credit card company and let them know what happened, and ask to be reimbursed for the fraudulent charges. According to the Fair Credit Billing Act, cardholders are not liable for unauthorized charges.

Not every parent wants to get their child in trouble with the law, but it's worth mentioning in case you really want to scare her out of pulling such a stunt again.

Finally, what you don't mention is that your daughter perhaps either knows your passwords or can easily guess them. Many secure retail sites require you to enter a password before making a purchase, even if you've already got your card details saved and even if you're already logged in. If she's using your password, in addition to your credit card, Nicole is not to be trusted. To protect yourself, either delete all of your credit card information completely from every shopping site that you're registered for, or change your passwords so that they are totally un-guessable.

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