It’s a devastating realization to learn that someone close to you ruined your credit by using your identity to access money. Not only are you faced with the financial burden of their debts, but it’s an emotional battle as well, to determine how you will work through this.
Personal acts of identity theft are an ugly off-shoot of the crime that has cropped up in the age of credit. People who have already tarnished their own credit score and have no further access to financial resources, carelessly take advantage of those closest to them for a second chance at funds. Victims of this betrayal usually have mixed feelings on how to proceed, especially about involving law enforcement.
Start by weighing the damage that’s been done. Get a copy of your credit report and check the status of any fraudulent accounts. For example, are they past due or in collections? Take note of the total debt incurred by the imposter. At the same time, order your credit score. This will allow you to get a benchmark and determine exactly what this fraud has done to your overall standing.
Soon you will have to make a decision as to whether you will accept financial responsibility or file a police report and accept the protections for identity theft victims. Understand that most creditors will not negotiate with you or the imposter without the proof of a police report. Aside from facilitating a new agreement with your creditors, a police report allows you to request all fraudulent accounts be removed from your credit report. Upon request, the credit bureaus have 30 days to remove the information. On the contrary, if you choose to keep the debt in your name and work out a repayment plan, any negative information will remain on your credit report for seven years. At the same time, this information drives down your credit score, reducing your creditworthiness.
Coming to terms with identity theft can be difficult, especially when friends and family are involved. Try to be level headed in how you choose to deal with the debt. First and foremost, consider the impact on your financial future and speak with an attorney or credit professional to help you along the way.