Editorial Policy

When your spouse opens a card in your names

Erica Sandberg

April 18, 2014

QHi Erica,

How can I find out if my spouse has obtained a credit card in both our names? –Ron

ADear Ron,

By asking, of course!

I'm guessing you've already asked your wife if she took out a credit card using your information, and either she pleaded the Fifth or you didn't believe her answer. That means that it's time to investigate.

Access your credit files from the major credit reporting bureaus, TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax, through annualcreditreport.com. Print your reports out so you can make notes on the hard copy.Ask Erica

Focus on two main areas of the report:

New credit inquiries. This is the section where you'll see which creditors have been looking at your file. Some will be soft pulls by companies checking you out on their own. Those inquiries are purely for marketing purposes, so are irrelevant in this situation.

However, if you notice hard pulls, you have trouble. That means someone has applied for a loan or line of credit, and the lender accessed your report to determine if you're a good fit.

Trade lines. If a lender accepted your wife's application for conjoined credit, you'll also see an account in this section, along with your credit cards and loans.

In the event that you do spot an account that you never applied for, dig deeper. Ownership is usually noted as “individual” (when it's owned by one person) or “joint” (if two or more people are legally attached to the account). Any jointly held account that you don't recognize will be further evidence of foul play.

So what should you do if your hunch is correct? Right the wrong.

If I were you, I'd demand answers from my spouse, but maybe there's some reason you don't want to do that. Whatever the case, you have the right to shut down the illegally opened credit card with a phone call.

Tell the creditor you never applied for or agreed to the account. Have them close it right away. The joint account should not negatively affect your credit rating because it was opened illegally. If your spouse made any charges, you shouldn't be liable for them either, since they are fraudulent.

Oh, and you may have to file a police report. It's a crime to open a credit card with someone else's information without their permission.

Also, add fraud alerts to your credit files and watch your credit card statements like a hawk.

Finally, if you value your relationship, please get help. Couples' counseling exists, and they focus on money matters; resolve the underlying troubles that have made you so suspicious.

Got a question for Erica? Send her an email.