The Moneyist: My ex-wife stopped payments on our home and racked up credit-card debt in my name
Before I got married in 2001 I had a credit score of 780. My wife at the time turned out to be extremely deceitful and we ended up divorced after 3 years. We did have children together and I got shared custody once the divorce was final. (I have full custody now.)
I agreed to purchase her a house that had a mortgage in my name. The terms stated that I was to pay her support and she was to make the house payment.
At some point, about 7 years ago she was able to contact the mortgage company and change all of my contact information on the loan. Once that happened she stopped making payments and I did not know this until I was served a foreclosure notice.
I made repeated attempts to contact the attorneys to use my right of redemption to get it corrected, but as they had a vested interest in tying it up (more charges with each passing week) they would not answer and then return messages via email.
I hired my own attorney and gave up the house for a deed in lieu of foreclosure. Due to the missed payments, I had my first black mark added to my credit score.
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My ex-wife then went off the deep end, became addicted to prescription medications, opened up two credit cards in my name and acquired a payday loan. My score is now a dismal 694 and I have all of this negative information listed that I can’t remove.
I have filed police reports and sent them to the collectors of those debts as well as filing with the credit agencies disputing these debts as not mine. I have resolved two of them, but the others will not budge (the payday loan, one credit card and the mortgage company). They all continue to say the debt is mine. I did not authorize these nor did I have knowledge she was committing this fraud.
It makes it almost impossible to get a loan and, if I do, the interest rate is terrible. I earn around $ 120,000 a year and due to the credit challenges I only have $ 1,800 in monthly loan payments (auto and home) so it’s not like my debt-to-income ratio is the issue.
I do not want to pay these off because giving someone $ 4,000 for something I didn’t do leaves me with a horrible taste in my mouth and it will not erase the credit history, just the collections.
She is unemployed and the creditors have zero chance of getting any money from her. I believe that the oldest listed issue is 6 years and the most recent is 3 to 4 years. My place of residence is Kansas.
What can I do?
When you said you purchased a house with your name on the mortgage, and said it was her responsibility to pay it off, I knew that it was not going to end well. Not because I can see the future, but because it seemed like a risky proposition. Plus, that was only paragraph one of your letter.
It could only go downhill from there, and it did. That mortgage is your responsibility in the eyes of the bank, and the black mark will remain against your credit for at least seven years. By agreeing to that highly unusual arrangement, you painted yourself into a corner.
As for the payday loan and the other credit-card company, hire an attorney. You will need to weigh the risks (constant requests for collections agencies and damage to your credit score) with the costs and the rewards. Ultimately, you want to clear your name and the black mark on your credit report.
More than 40 million Americans have been the victim of identity theft. Put a freeze and/or fraud alert on your credit report with the three main credit bureaus, Experian EXPN, +1.62% TransUnion TRU, -0.99% and Equifax EFX, -0.49%
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The Federal Trade Commission has a hotline to help you file a theft report. Send the creditors a copy of your theft report. You may also need to issue a subpoena to get proof that it was your wife who racked up all these charges in your name.
Put pressure on the financial institutions. Tell them you are taking these actions and follow up with the relevant documentation. The Fair Credit Reporting Act entitles you to certain protections to help you recover from this kind of identity theft.
The International Theft Resource Center advises: “Never pay a bill that you don’t owe.” It could be regarded as an admission of liability. Jay Guyer, senior financial planner at Janney Montgomery Scott in Philadelphia, believes there is still hope for you to regain your credit score.
“By taking out small loans and paying them off over time, you can rebuild a positive credit track record and improve your credit score,” he says. This, I should add, could take months or even years. And it won’t help you if collections agencies are knocking at your door.
Identity theft is a stressful and messy business. It will take time. Let the creditors know that you won’t go quietly and will pursue this until your name is cleared.
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