Is there a way to take legal action upon a relative who was maliciously using your credit card without your knowledge?

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Is there a way to take legal action upon a relative who was maliciously using your credit card without your knowledge?

My dad opened up a credit card in my name many years ago and was charging it up against my will and knowledge. He then turned it over to me and made me responsible for the payments and lied about the charges that were made. The balance was ridiculously high. I, being the gullible person I once was, accepted it. Even worse, I added to the mess. Now, years later, I’m suffering. I have no clue what to do in this case. It’s a very odd situation.

Asked on October 6, 2011 under Bankruptcy Law, Pennsylvania


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

You have two options about your father--and you may need to do them both. You also have at least two significant problems.

First, if you father open up a credit card in your name without your permission, made charges on it without your approval, you could report him to the police: identity theft is a crime, as is the more traditional theft of using someone's credit card without their permission.

Second, you may be able to sue him for damages--i.e. for his purchases and the interest thereon. You might effectively have to report him to the police as a predicate for this, to prove that his actions were criminal and not approved.

However, you say that you accepted the card and charges--if you did, even if it was an awful choice for you, that acceptance may have acted to retroactively ratify and approve his actions; in other works, you having accepted the card and/or charges may mean that they were NOT unauthorized, and therefore you can neither press charges nor sue him.

Also, depending on how long ago exactly this occured, it may be too late to take legal action--the statute  of limiations may have passed.

If you are in financial distress, therefore, you may need to consider doing something else--like filing for bankruptcy.

You have a lot to consider; you should consult in detail with an  attorney about your situation. Good luck.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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