You probably have one or two credits cards you use on a regular basis. But chances are you are an authorized user or have countless old cards that are still active. One way to find out is RUN YOUR CREDIT REPORT (I use Freecreditreport.com). There are tons of free sites out there that will give you your credit report in a matter of minutes. Answer a few simple questions and viola, your financial history is there. Begin to look at each card carefully. It will list the primary and any authorized users. Why is this so important? Let me tell you a short story.
A man, in the midst of a divorce, discovered that his wife had a great deal of credit cards in her name and some with him as an authorized user. He also discovered several old joint cards that had never been closed. He didn’t think much about them until 7 months into the divorce, his wife transferred over $3000 from one of her individual cards to an old joint card. Although he was primary on the card, she was an authorized user and allowed to make the transfer without his knowledge. Now there is over $3000 in debt in his name and not much he can do about it. He began to take a closer look and found she had been “kiting’ some of their credit card debt. Kiting involves transferring debt from one card to another (one that usually offers 0% interest for a period of time). The debt doesn’t go away; it’s just transferred in a roundabout fashion.
So he went back and reviewed the bills from one particular card he used. What he found was over $3100 in debt from a job he performed and received payment for had not been paid. The money he earned had not been used to pay the expenses of the job. So that amount, along with over $2300 from an individual card of hers was transferred to another card in his name without his knowledge (she signed his name to those credit card checks), creating a $5600 credit card debt after transfer fees, which was transferred a few months later to another card in her name (which he knew nothing about) and then 7 months into the divorce, she transferred the balance of debt to an old joint card. This money has been moving around for over 2 years.
So if you think things are taking a turn for the worse (or even if you are blissfully happy, this is a good idea):
1. Get your FREE credit report.
2. Review ALL the credit cards you are primary on and authorized to use.
3. CANCEL all old cards that you are listed as primary. The phone number is probably on the credit report. If not, you can find it on the internet.
4. If you are an authorized user on his/her cards, TAKE YOURSELF OFF. Yes, you can do that. Call the cards and remove yourself immediately.
5. If possible, REMOVE ALL AUTHORIZED USERS FROM YOUR CARDS.
6. KEEP ALL RECEIPTS. It is a pain in the arse, but during the duration of the divorce, keep your receipts and write a notation of what the purchase was for at the top. Throw them in a box. You may never need them, but it is easier than trying to reconstruct evidence later.
7. Get yourself down to 1 or 2 credits cards. It is not only safe, but smart.
You may never know what credit card mysteries lay with your spouse, but cleaning up your credit history is the first step to protecting your financial future.
The bottom line is that you need to REMOVE YOURSELF FROM BEING OPEN TO JOINT DEBT. Just because there is an Order prohibiting someone from creating debt in your name, it doesn’t mean it won’t happen. But you can make it as difficult as possible for someone to create debt in your name.
Remember, I am not a lawyer, and this is NOT LEGAL ADVICE. Just one person’s observations.