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The Moneyist: ‘He promised to pay them off’: My daughter lived with a man for 9 years. He took out credit cards in her name. Will she be held liable?

Dear Quentin,

I have a problem. My daughter lived with a guy for nine years. During that time, I found out that he took out two credit cards in her name without her permission. Identity theft, right? 

My daughter found out, but her boyfriend said he would pay them off. So she did nothing.  When I found out about it, I told her to call the police and have him arrested for identity theft. 

Eventually, she broke off the relationship. She is now on her own. Now two years later, we found out that the guy fell into a liquor bottle and lost his job, and he is two months behind in payments to the credit-card company.   

At this point, is there anything that she can do to protect herself? I know from hearing other people’s stories that the credit-card company will come after her because it’s her name on the cards.

Concerned Father

Dear Concerned,

Two years is a long time to allow someone to use credit cards taken out fraudulently in your name. A lot of damage can be done in that time. And a lot more damage can still be done.

One of the questions your daughter will be asked if and when she reports this fraud is whether she knew these cards were taken out in her name. If she says yes, they are likely to hold her responsible for the debt incurred on them. 

If her ex-boyfriend could prove she was present when these transactions took place, it would be difficult for her to argue that she was unaware of them and that she did not approve them. In other words, she could be held as complicit. 

Still, he forged her name. In New York, a person who does that is guilty of criminal possession of a forged instrument in the second degree with intent to defraud, deceive or injure another. That could come with a prison sentence of up to seven years. 

“One of the questions she will be asked if and when she reports this fraud is whether she knew these cards were taken out in her name. ”

She should contact her credit-card company today and report the transactions, and have the cards suspended. She should then call the three main credit bureaus — Experian, TransUnion and Equifax — and freeze her credit.

Your daughter should also report the forged credit cards to the Federal Trade Commission. She may or may not wish to file a police report. She faces severe financial — and, possibly, legal — consequences if she allows this to continue.

Whether it’s identity theft or identity fraud, he is using her name and credit to run up bills for his own purposes. If he did it once, he will likely do it again. The best predictor of future behavior, as we all know, is past behavior. 

It’s possible that this is also a form of financial abuse. Indeed, she may be afraid to contact the police. But she will never be free of this potentially manipulative behavior or this man unless she takes decisive action. 

This is your daughter’s problem to fix. You can give her the information and support she needs, but I caution you against paying off her and/or her ex-boyfriend’s credit-card bills.

Yocan email The Moneyist with any financial and ethical questions related to coronavirus at qfottrell@marketwatch.com, and follow Quentin Fottrell on Twitter.

Check out the Moneyist private Facebook group, where we look for answers to life’s thorniest money issues. Readers write in to me with all sorts of dilemmas. Post your questions, tell me what you want to know more about, or weigh in on the latest Moneyist columns.

The Moneyist regrets he cannot reply to questions individually.

More from Quentin Fottrell:

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• ‘She was homeless and I was alone:’ I was befriended by a woman who moved into my home — she gradually stole $40,000 from me
• ‘She owes thousands of dollars on one credit card’: My mother spends too much money helping her family in the Caribbean. How can I get her to put herself first?

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