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Is Your Ex Spying On Your Credit?You may think — or wish — that your ex is out your life. But what happens when your ex decides to check your credit? It may not be difficult; after all, they probably know your Social Security number, as well as lots of personal details that would make it easy for them to pretend to be you, or to make it look like they have your permission. But is it legal? One of our readers asks:

After a divorce, I am planning on refinancing the “family” home. My ex-husband took it upon himself to inquire about refinancing with a bank that he has personal connections with. The bank checked my credit and pulled my scores etc. without my verbal or written permission. The bank has admitted to not having my permission and going off of my ex-husband’s authority. As you can see this is a problem and will continue to be with an ex-spouse thinking he still has this authority. I actually would like to know — ex-spouse or not — can anyone authorize the check of another person’s credit?

It sounds to me like what the bank — and our reader’s ex — did was illegal. Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, credit reporting agencies are only supposed to provide credit reports to users (in this case, the bank) when they have a “permissible purpose” for obtaining those reports. Permissible purpose includes considering a consumer’s application for credit or to review or collect on an existing account.

[Free Resource: Check your credit score and report card for free before applying for a credit card]

If the bank obtained your credit report to review or collect an account you already have with them, that’s one thing. But checking your credit because your ex wants to know if you can refinance the loan is not OK.

Free Tool: Credit Report CardThere are a couple of ways you can go here. One would be to file a complaint with the bank’s regulator and send a copy of your complaint to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Or you can contact a consumer law attorney about a lawsuit. “If the ‘pull’ occurred after estrangement or, better yet, after the divorce, then it would be a FCRA 1681b violation and she would have an action against both husband and bank. The bank cannot and should not just hand out her credit report without her express permission,” says Robert Brennan, a consumer law attorney who works on Southern California credit damage cases.

The FCRA allows for actual damages, or $1,000, whichever is greater, as well as punitive damages, court costs and attorney fees.

[Related Article: Getting a Divorce?  Here’s How to Protect Your Credit]

If you think that your ex might feel entitled to check your credit any time he wants, it may be a good idea to file a police report. This is a type of identity theft. Alternatively, Brennan says you can use an FTC identity fraud affidavit or file a report with the FBI. “She can also contact the state department of motor vehicles,” he says. “California’s DMV (for example) will take an identity theft report.”

If you want to give him the benefit of the doubt, you can tell him that what he did is illegal and that you will file a police report if he pulls this stunt again. Hopefully he will get the message.

It would also be a good idea for you to consider placing a fraud alert or credit freeze on your credit reports. A fraud alert is free and will alert creditors who review your report that they should investigate further before extending credit, but it doesn’t lock down your credit files. A freeze, on the other hand, will prevent anyone from accessing your report without a Personal Identification Number (PIN) that only you will know. Unless you are a victim of identity theft, though, there may be a fee to freeze your credit, as well as a fee to unlock your report. (Those fees vary by state.) You may also want to subscribe to a credit monitoring service to be alerted when your credit report is accessed.

The bottom line is your ex should not be spying on your credit. But you’ll need to keep tabs on your credit to make sure he doesn’t.

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Image: Tony Fischer, via Flickr

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  • Maryann Langley

    I got a new car loan. And just got married this year. When changing name . car loan people. Wanted to verife a few things and one was my ex email address. We have been apart for 8 years I asked him he said that’s an old email

    • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

      I am sorry but I am not sure what your question is.

  • sharon

    after my ex (never married) and i split up, he applied for credit using my name and soc sec number. my credit report says i have a home loan but i don’t. this loan took place just about the time my ex bought a condo. hmmmm .. go figger. i was rejected for credit for $400 to get my car fixed because they said i had too many inquiries. i didn’t have any inquiries at all for years until i applied for car repairs. i have 0 debt, 0 credit card debt, etc. everything that IS being reported is being reported as 100% paid on time as agreed. how can i find out if my ex used my name & number to get credit?

    • Credit.com

      Sharon – this sounds like a bad case of identity theft and fraud. First, you should order copies of all three of your credit reports and verify whether or not there are accounts being reported that you did not authorize. This will help you pinpoint how many accounts your ex may have fraudulently opened without your knowledge or authorization. These two resources will help you through these steps:

      1. How to Order Your Free Annual Credit Reports — http://www.credit.com/credit-reports/article/2010/08/00017/how-to-order-your-free-annual-credit-report

      2. A Step-By-Step Guide to Disputing Credit Report Mistakes – http://blog.credit.com/2013/02/a-step-by-step-guide-to-disputing-credit-report-mistakes/

      From here, it’s a little more complicated but it’s important that you take action if this person did in fact use your name and social without your knowledge in order to obtain the loan(s) – this is fraud, and it’s illegal and prosecutable by law. If you don’t take the proper steps in fighting the case, you could end up liable for the loans and that’s just not something you need to risk. If you have accounts that are in your name and were not authorized or were fraudulently opened, here’s a great resource on the steps you’ll need to take in order to protect yourself from possible repercussions later:

      Identity Theft Emergency: 5 Crucial Steps for Victims – http://www.credit.com/credit_information/id_theft/Identity-Theft-Emergency.jsp

  • http://www.eCredable.com Steve Ely

    It’s also important to protect children’s social security numbers. It’s likely both parents know the children’s SSN’s, and could easily use these to open accounts and commit fraud. I know it sounds really devious, but there are many cases of this kind of identity theft reported every year. I know that Equifax allows you to place a lock on your child’s credit file. I don’t know about the other two national credit burueas.

    • Gerri Detweiler

      You’re right Steve! That’s also very important. Child identity theft is a large and growing problem.

  • Bridget

    I am lucky that I didn’t have to go through this. Me and my ex just went our separate ways. Dona, it’s terrible you had to go through this. I hope everything worked out for you.

  • Dona Collins

    This is incredibly important not only for married couples, for long-term relationships that didn’t end up with marriage as well. My ex and I were together for 10 years and had a lot of co-mingled financial obligations. We may as well have been married, but were not. I knew his SS# and he knew mine. A while after we separated, I ran my credit report and found several small accounts open in my name. It was a nightmare to clean up!

    • Gerri Detweiler

      Dona – You are so right. Sorry you had to go through this. Sounds like a nightmare.

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