What To Do if Someone Opened a Credit Card in Your Name

By Timothy Moore · November 11, 2022 · 8 minute read

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What To Do if Someone Opened a Credit Card in Your Name

Has someone opened a credit card in your name? While you might feel panicked and overwhelmed, it’s important to act fast. There are clear steps you can take to stop the fraudster in their tracks and avoid any harm to your credit score and bank account.

In this piece, we’ll outline:

•   How to find out if someone opened a credit card in your name

•   What to do when someone opens a credit card in your name

•   What to do if a family member commits identity theft

Finding Out That Someone Opened a Credit Card in Your Name

You won’t always immediately know that someone has stolen your identity. However, there are several ways to stay on top of potential identity theft and keep it from getting out of control.

Watch out for some of these common signs of credit card fraud:

•   Bills in the mail for an unfamiliar account in your name

•   Email or text notifications for a new account opening that you did not initiate

•   Notification that an account in your name has gone to a debt collections agency

•   Notification from an identity monitoring service or free credit monitoring service that a new account has been opened

•   Unfamiliar activity while reviewing your free credit report

•   An unexplained drop in your credit score

•   Credit application rejection because of a drop in your score

Recommended: Credit Card Scams You Should Know About

7 Steps to Take When Someone Opens a Credit Card in Your Name

“Someone opened a credit card in my name. What should I do?”

It’s a question you never want to have to ask — yet it can happen to anybody. In 2021, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) received 2.8 million fraud reports from consumers, though it’s likely that many more cases of fraud went unreported.

If your identity has been stolen, it’s important to take a breath but remain focused. Knowing what to do if someone applies for a credit card in your name allows you to act quickly. That’s why we’ve put together seven steps to take as soon as you realize someone has opened a credit card in your name.

1. Contact the Bank or Card Issuer

You may not be a customer of the specific financial institution where the credit card was opened, but that doesn’t mean you can’t call them. In fact, the first thing you should do is contact the credit card issuer’s fraud department and file a report. You can usually find the bank’s customer service information online.

The credit card issuer should be able to close the account during the fraud investigation. But if they won’t, you can ask them to freeze the account until the investigation is complete.

Just in case, it’s a good idea to change the username and password of major online accounts, including your email and online bank logins.

2. Report the Identity Theft to the FTC

The report you file with the credit card issuer is the first of many. Next, file an identity theft report with the FTC at IdentityTheft.gov . The FTC will create a recovery plan and issue you an Identity Theft Report, which you may need when working with the credit card issuer and credit bureaus. When you file the report online, you’ll even be able to access form letters to send to creditors about the fraud.

3. File a Police Report

The FTC also recommends filing a police report any time your identity is stolen. The police can provide you with a copy of the report, which may be helpful in closing new accounts, disputing fraudulent charges, and working with credit bureaus to repair your credit report.

Recommended: What is a Charge Card?

4. Consider a Fraud Alert or Credit Freeze

To further protect your identity, the FTC recommends that you place a free, one-year fraud alert on your credit report. You should only have to contact one of the three credit bureaus — Experian, TransUnion, or Equifax — and that bureau must coordinate with the other two. Such alerts ensure that lenders are more thorough in verifying your identity before awarding a line of credit in your name.

Victims of identity fraud can choose between two fraud alerts: initial and extended.

•   Initial fraud alerts last one year but don’t require evidence of identity theft.

•   Extended fraud alerts require the FTC Identity Theft Report and last for seven years. They also remove you from any credit card and insurance offers for the next five years.

You may also want to freeze your credit report with each of the three credit bureaus. To do so, you’ll need to contact each bureau independently. When you freeze your credit report, creditors won’t be able to access it unless you temporarily unfreeze it. This prevents fraudsters from opening credit in your name.

5. Check Your Credit Reports in Detail

As a consumer, you have access to a free credit report every year from AnnualCreditReport.com , and that increases to two a year if you have an extended fraud alert. Creating accounts with individual credit bureaus may also get you access to free credit reports.

It’s important to comb through your credit report upon becoming a victim of credit card fraud. Doing so allows you to identify any other fraudulent accounts or activity you may not yet be aware of.

6. Dispute Fraud with Credit Bureaus

To protect your credit score and remove fraudulent activity found in your report, you’ll need to contact the credit bureaus. You can dispute the fraud online with all three bureaus:

•   Dispute fraud at Experian

•   Dispute fraud at Equifax

•   Dispute fraud at TransUnion

You’ll need a valid copy of your FTC Identity Theft Report for this process, as well as proof of identity and a letter that details which information on the report is fraudulent. Credit bureaus can then work with creditors on any fraudulent account and block them from sending your information to debt collectors.

Recommended: Does Applying For a Credit Card Hurt Your Credit Score?

7. Remove Charges and Close the Account

Some credit card issuers and banks will immediately remove false charges and close the fraudulent account when you contact them in step one. However, if they could not do that when you first filed, it’s a good idea to get back in touch with them now that you have reports from the FTC and local police.

At this point, you should be able to close the fraudulent account and remove any fraudulent charges.

Recommended: Changing the Name on Your Credit Card

What If a Relative Opens the Card in Your Name?

Because of their close proximity to personal information, family members can more easily commit identity fraud. While we’d like to think a loved one would never steal our identity, it does happen, especially to children and seniors.

In fact, nearly 73% of child identity fraud is committed by a friend or family member with access to the child’s information. Identity theft is also a form of elder abuse — and for that, 60% of the perpetrators are family members.

You now know what to do when someone opens a credit card in your name. But what about when it’s a family member you care about? While it’s ultimately your decision, you risk significant damage to your financial future by not taking action.

Not only will you be on the hook for any expenses in your name and damage done to your credit score, but you’ll also face other future barriers:

•   Your lower credit score may make it more difficult to rent an apartment, get utilities turned on, or find discounts on auto insurance.

•   You may have issues with government support, student loans, and even tax returns if the family member is using your identity in more than one way.

•   You could obtain a criminal record if the family member uses your identity when/if arrested. You also risk being complicit in a crime if you do not report the family member who is committing identity theft.

Ultimately, the steps are the same when reporting a friend or family member, whether it’s a spouse (or an ex), sibling, parent, child, or another relative. You may face one additional task — and that’s confronting the family member before filing your reports.

The Takeaway

Identity theft is a stressful experience and can have lasting effects on your credit and finances. When someone opens a credit card in your name, it’s crucial that you stay calm and act fast by filing reports with the credit card issuer, FTC, police, and credit bureaus. By taking swift action, you may be able to avoid long-term damage to your finances.

Whether you're looking to build credit, apply for a new credit card, or save money with the cards you have, it's important to understand the options that are best for you. Learn more about credit cards by exploring this credit card guide.


What happens if someone applies for a credit card in your name?

If someone applies for a credit card in your name, it’s important to remain calm and act fast. You’ll need to file reports with the credit card issuer, FTC, local police, and credit bureaus. You may want to put fraud alerts and/or freezes on your credit report and work closely with the credit card issuer to remove any fraudulent charges and close the account.

How do I stop someone from opening a credit card in my name?

While identity theft can happen to anyone, you can make it more difficult for fraudsters to open a credit card in your name by freezing your credit report. You can also put a fraud alert on your account and use credit and identity monitoring services to get notifications about any suspicious activity. Reviewing your bills, bank activity, credit score, and credit report regularly are all helpful ways to detect fraud.

Can someone open a credit card with my Social Security number?

It is possible for a person to use your Social Security number to open a credit card in your name. Thus, keeping your Social Security number private and secure is important for protecting your identity.

Photo credit: iStock/Prostock-Studio

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Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

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