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Posted: 12/18/2009 6:58:03 AM EDT
[Last Edit: 12/18/2009 4:56:32 PM EDT by California_Kid]
I have been divorced for nearly 10 years.  In about 1994 my then-wife opened a credit card with Bank of America.  As I recall, that was to be for her sole use as I already had a B of A Visa from before we were married.  I do not remember signing the application for her card.  We bought a house together about the same time.  We split up, I kept the house and paid her the difference.  She now owns two houses and is in debt up to her eyebrows.  I have a lot of equity and low debt.

The statements on the account in question were addressed only to my ex.  I never read one even when we were married.

Over the years B of A has sent me cards bearing my ex's account number (which I did not recognize), with only my name on them.  I did not realize that she was an authorized user of that account, and I have always destroyed them immediately.  I have never made a charge, gotten a cash advance, etc.on that account.  I assumed the cards were for an account of my own that I never activated.

I recently signed up for Web access for my B of A accounts after they acquired Countrywide, with whom I have my first mortgage.  I was surprised to find that I could see my ex-wife's Visa account and all of her transactions.  She has run up about $11,000 on it and is barely able to make the minimum monthly payments.

I called B of A and asked for an explanation.  They told me their computer records show me as an authorized signer on the account, and I am therefore obligated on the entire balance.

I asked them to send me a copy of the application showing my handwritten signature.  Two weeks later I got a letter stating that they are unable to find the document in their records.  On another letter they stated that I could close the account and block all new activity, but that I would still be liable for the debt.  (I suppose the act of closing it would be an admission that I was authorized to use it, which I believe I am not.)

My ex has been cooperative and said she would refinance the balance with an equity loan.  However, she has apparently been unable to secure financing. I haven't heard from her about this matter since September, and the account is still open and still has my name on it.

For the Hive Mind - Should I push it with B of A, or let it slide and hope for the best?  I do trust my ex to do the right thing. However, I don't have much faith in her financial abilities.  That was one of the factors that led to our divorce.  If she becomes disabled or loses her job, or gets a judgement against her for any reason, I am screwed unless I can get B of A to absolve me of the debt.
Link Posted: 12/18/2009 7:00:24 AM EDT
Link Posted: 12/18/2009 7:01:13 AM EDT
[Last Edit: 12/18/2009 7:05:03 AM EDT by California_Kid]
Originally Posted By thebeekeeper1:
I would have dealt with it long ago, when they sent the cards, instead of cutting them up.  

I would NOT take on someone else's debt.  No way, no how.  


They can't prove that I ever received the cards.  If pressed I'd just say I thought they were solicitations or for an account of my own that I never activated, and didn't know about the debt until I signed up for online banking.  The monthly paper statements all went to my ex even when we were still living together, and I have never seen one.

I have never received any benefit from that account.
Link Posted: 12/18/2009 7:04:50 AM EDT
Link Posted: 12/18/2009 7:05:52 AM EDT
Originally Posted By thebeekeeper1:
Didn't you say you were married at the time she opened the account?  I'm not a lawyer, but I wonder if that could make it joint debt that should have been dealt with in the divorce decree?  (Or at least the balance at the time of the divorce.)  


Excellent question.  I believe our divorce agreement includes an acknowledgement that all of our debts are settled.  I'll have to check.  Thanks.
Link Posted: 12/18/2009 7:05:59 AM EDT
If you write an official dispute letter to the credit bureaus, the burden of proof is on them to prove the account is theirs.  Do it, and don't let them push you around.
Link Posted: 12/18/2009 7:09:42 AM EDT
Originally Posted By mcnielsen:
If you write an official dispute letter to the credit bureaus, the burden of proof is on them to prove the account is theirs.  Do it, and don't let them push you around.


Outstanding suggestion.  Thanks!
Link Posted: 12/18/2009 4:53:25 PM EDT
Kicking up to get input from the Night Crew.  I appreciate the advice.
Link Posted: 12/18/2009 4:59:39 PM EDT
Why do you need more input?  mcnielsen already told you what to do.  You dispute with all credit bureaus, the credit bureaus must immediately remove any sort of negative impact the debt would have your credit record until they can get it resolved with the creditor; burden of proof is now on BofA.
Link Posted: 12/18/2009 5:01:29 PM EDT
These company's don't care much about divorce decrees and will not care what's on them. Trust me I know.
Link Posted: 12/18/2009 5:03:23 PM EDT
[Last Edit: 12/18/2009 5:04:10 PM EDT by RomeoDeltaEcho]
When I worked for CapitalOne, authorized signers were not responsible for payments. They were able to make purchases with the card but could not make changes such as personal info or add other authorized signers. Tell BoA to piss up a rope.
Link Posted: 12/18/2009 5:10:21 PM EDT
Originally Posted By mcnielsen:
If you write an official dispute letter to the credit bureaus, the burden of proof is on them to prove the account is theirs.  Do it, and don't let them push you around.


I don't know much about this kind of thing, but this sounds like good advice to me.  Best of luck to you.  I hope you get it worked out.
Link Posted: 12/18/2009 5:19:05 PM EDT
This is interesting.

You are an authorized signer.  There was zero effort required on your behalf for this to occur.

I could, if I wanted to, add you as an authorized signer on my credit card account.  I wouldn't even have to tell you.  You don't have to sign anything or do anything, but suddenly you are responsible for my entire debt.

Seems like somethings fishy with what the bank is trying to pull.  If that's true, I could burden anyone in the world I wanted to with my debt.  Simply call up the bank and add their name to my account.
Link Posted: 12/18/2009 5:28:40 PM EDT
Originally Posted By ragedracer1977:
...Seems like somethings fishy with what the bank is trying to pull.  If that's true, I could burden anyone in the world I wanted to with my debt.  Simply call up the bank and add their name to my account.


Or maybe my ex forged my signature on the application.  I doubt that, but it is a possibility.

Another possibiltiy is that B of A made an honest mistake.

Or maybe I did sign the application and forgot about it.

I want them to prove that I am liable for the debt.  If they can produce documentation showing my signature, then I will accept that as the truth.
Link Posted: 12/18/2009 5:32:57 PM EDT
Might want to ask the same at www.creditboards.com/forums/
Link Posted: 12/18/2009 5:36:42 PM EDT
[Last Edit: 12/18/2009 5:37:21 PM EDT by CoveyRise]
I'm a banker that handles cc, you can dispute at all three bureaus online for free, first you will need to contact your ex and have her remove you as an authorized user, don't tell her what your up to just explain that you found out from your credit report that your still an authorized used on her account.  Next you will need to go online to each credit bureau and dispute that you where never on the account.  BofA will be forced to come up with proof or the bureaus will remove the card from your credit profile.  





transunion.com


experian.com


equifax.com
Go to work.

 
Link Posted: 12/18/2009 5:47:23 PM EDT
Originally Posted By California_Kid:
Originally Posted By ragedracer1977:
...Seems like somethings fishy with what the bank is trying to pull.  If that's true, I could burden anyone in the world I wanted to with my debt.  Simply call up the bank and add their name to my account.


Or maybe my ex forged my signature on the application.  I doubt that, but it is a possibility.

Another possibiltiy is that B of A made an honest mistake.

Or maybe I did sign the application and forgot about it.

I want them to prove that I am liable for the debt.  If they can produce documentation showing my signature, then I will accept that as the truth.


They won't be able to, I'd bet.

I think they're just trying to hook you in.  Once you start paying you 'acknowledge' the debt and you're fucked.
Link Posted: 12/18/2009 6:39:40 PM EDT
[Last Edit: 12/18/2009 6:41:35 PM EDT by California_Kid]
Originally Posted By CoveyRise:
I'm a banker that handles cc, you can dispute at all three bureaus online for free, first you will need to contact your ex and have her remove you as an authorized user...


We tried that.  She couldn't qualify to carry the debt.

I just got of the phone with B of A.  They gave me a wonderful song and dance about how I might have applied over the phone or on the Internet.

I pointed out that they didn't even have a Web site in 1994.    I also said they had to have some kind of proof of the debt, otherwise there was no debt.

They agreed to have their QC department look at it.  I told them that if I haven't seen proof that I authorized being a cosigner on the account by mid-January, I'd file disputes with the credit bureaus.

BTW, I have 25 years of experience in financial services.  I now work for a company that re-sells credit reports from all three major credit agencies.
Link Posted: 12/18/2009 6:42:25 PM EDT
Originally Posted By California_Kid:
I have been divorced for nearly 10 years.  In about 1994 my then-wife opened a credit card with Bank of America.  As I recall, that was to be for her sole use as I already had a B of A Visa from before we were married.  I do not remember signing the application for her card.  We bought a house together about the same time.  We split up, I kept the house and paid her the difference.  She now owns two houses and is in debt up to her eyebrows.  I have a lot of equity and low debt.

The statements on the account in question were addressed only to my ex.  I never read one even when we were married.

Over the years B of A has sent me cards bearing my ex's account number (which I did not recognize), with only my name on them.  I did not realize that she was an authorized user of that account, and I have always destroyed them immediately.  I have never made a charge, gotten a cash advance, etc.on that account.  I assumed the cards were for an account of my own that I never activated.

I recently signed up for Web access for my B of A accounts after they acquired Countrywide, with whom I have my first mortgage.  I was surprised to find that I could see my ex-wife's Visa account and all of her transactions.  She has run up about $11,000 on it and is barely able to make the minimum monthly payments.

I called B of A and asked for an explanation.  They told me their computer records show me as an authorized signer on the account, and I am therefore obligated on the entire balance.

I asked them to send me a copy of the application showing my handwritten signature.  Two weeks later I got a letter stating that they are unable to find the document in their records.  On another letter they stated that I could close the account and block all new activity, but that I would still be liable for the debt.  (I suppose the act of closing it would be an admission that I was authorized to use it, which I believe I am not.)

My ex has been cooperative and said she would refinance the balance with an equity loan.  However, she has apparently been unable to secure financing. I haven't heard from her about this matter since September, and the account is still open and still has my name on it.

For the Hive Mind - Should I push it with B of A, or let it slide and hope for the best?  I do trust my ex to do the right thing. However, I don't have much faith in her financial abilities.  That was one of the factors that led to our divorce.  If she becomes disabled or loses her job, or gets a judgement against her for any reason, I am screwed unless I can get B of A to absolve me of the debt.


What's an "authorized signer"?

An "authorized user" can use the credit card, but is not responsible for the debt. The person who is named as the account holder is responsible for the debt. If it is not a joint account, they can say whatever they want to, but you are not responsible for the debt.
Link Posted: 12/18/2009 6:55:40 PM EDT
Push them to the mother fucking wall and make them spend more than the debt to prove that you are responsible.

Son's of fucking bitches are simply trying to collect on a debt.

That's all.

Fuck them and their fucking scare tactics.

Oh yeah. Fuck Obama!
Link Posted: 12/18/2009 6:55:56 PM EDT
[Last Edit: 12/18/2009 6:57:34 PM EDT by RagnarDanneskjold]
There is a theory of contract law sometimes referred to as "affirmation.". It can sometimes be used to create acceptance of a contract when there has not been a formal agreement or when the party was operating under some type of disability.  The fact that you have been receiving corrspondence and replacement cards does not bode well for your case.

Check your state's laws.
Link Posted: 12/18/2009 7:03:47 PM EDT
At this point lawyer up.  Find someone who specializes in consumer debt and ask them what to do.  You now have notice that your wife is running up $11k in debt, and legally you don't want to do nothing at this point.
Link Posted: 12/18/2009 7:20:32 PM EDT
Is Ca a communtiy property state?

Was the debt there when you were married?

That could be another issue, if it applies.
Link Posted: 12/18/2009 7:25:43 PM EDT
According to the FCRA (Fair Credit Reporting Act) BOA is obligated to prove you signed for it. If they cannot, you are not liable. There are a series of steps to take to make this happen.

1. Request they show you the signed application. (obviously, they have said they do not have this)
2. Play Hardball with BOA:
- Send them a letter, return receipt requested, demanding they remove your name from this account as you have no liability. Include copies of their own letter stating this.
- Include the verbage: "according to  the Federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, they have 30 days to remove this inaccurate item."

At this point, you should write BOA and demand they remove this item from your credit report, if it is on there.
If they will not voluntarily remove the item from your credit report, and send you notification that you are no longer liable, send a letter to all three credit bureaus, disputing the item at hand - Carbon Copy BOA on this one. Send the letter "return receipt requested" so you have proof. I would be inclined to send a copy of BOA's letter to you stating they cannot prove it.
When the Credit Bureaus receive the letter, by law they have 30 days to prove the debt is yours, or it gets taken off. Period.
A simple call will yield the correct address to BOA.
Google will tell you the addresses for the 3 Credit Bureaus:
Trans Union
Experian
Equifax
Link Posted: 12/20/2009 8:13:47 AM EDT
[Last Edit: 12/20/2009 8:20:19 AM EDT by California_Kid]
Thanks Usagi.  I'm just putting the final polish on my broadside to B of A now.  Here's the key paragraph:

Because you are unable to produce acceptable proof of my liability, please immediately remove my name and Social Security number from your computer records for the account.  I expect from you a written notification that you no longer hold me liable for the debt.  I also request that you ask the TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax credit bureaus to stop reporting the account as being my responsibility.  I believe the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act allows you 30 days to respond and take appropriate action.


That should make them shit a brick.
Link Posted: 12/20/2009 8:21:36 AM EDT
Originally Posted By California_Kid:
Originally Posted By ragedracer1977:
...Seems like somethings fishy with what the bank is trying to pull.  If that's true, I could burden anyone in the world I wanted to with my debt.  Simply call up the bank and add their name to my account.


Or maybe my ex forged my signature on the application.  I doubt that, but it is a possibility.

Another possibiltiy is that B of A made an honest mistake.

Or maybe I did sign the application and forgot about it.

I want them to prove that I am liable for the debt.  If they can produce documentation showing my signature, then I will accept that as the truth.


Do not EVER acknowledge that as a possiblity in your communications with BoA or their legal goons.  They will consider it an admission that you did sign it.
Link Posted: 12/20/2009 8:30:15 AM EDT
Originally Posted By California_Kid:
Originally Posted By mcnielsen:
If you write an official dispute letter to the credit bureaus, the burden of proof is on them to prove the account is theirs.  Do it, and don't let them push you around.


Outstanding suggestion.  Thanks!


Listen to what McN says...
Link Posted: 12/20/2009 8:39:23 AM EDT
You will almost certainly need an attorney now because you didn't do this in a timely fashion.

That said, the fact that there has never been any activity on the account, that they have not been able to provide proof, and that your wife agrees strongly suggests that you have a legal case.  Send one notarized, certified letter to their legal contact noting that you have one interest –– that you will not be held liable because of bank error –– and request a response in 30 days.  Specifically state that you have no position about closing the account or keeping it open and that any such decisions are between your ex and the bank, not you.  Note the length of time that this has gone on without a single charge on the authorized account.  Make sure that your ex signs off on this and send her a copy.  In the letter, ask for a response in 30 days and make sure that this is to an address that you check often.

They will almost certainly not cooperate and you will need to sue them, so put away some money for an attorney and start looking locally.  When you sue, ask for costs as well as that they drop you from the account.  They will probably offer to settle and drop you from the account right before –– don't accept a settlement that doesn't pay your costs.

Next time, handle this immediately.
Link Posted: 12/20/2009 8:41:40 AM EDT
Originally Posted By California_Kid:
Thanks Usagi.  I'm just putting the final polish on my broadside to B of A now.  Here's the key paragraph:

Because you are unable to produce acceptable proof of my liability, please immediately remove my name and Social Security number from your computer records for the account.  I expect from you a written notification that you no longer hold me liable for the debt.  I also request that you ask the TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax credit bureaus to stop reporting the account as being my responsibility.  I believe the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act allows you 30 days to respond and take appropriate action.


That should make them shit a brick.


Make sure that you send it certified, and send a notarized copy.  CC your wife (and run it by her first).  Make sure that you are sending it to the correct legal contact for your state at BofA.
Link Posted: 12/20/2009 8:45:24 AM EDT
Originally Posted By RagnarDanneskjold:
There is a theory of contract law sometimes referred to as "affirmation.". It can sometimes be used to create acceptance of a contract when there has not been a formal agreement or when the party was operating under some type of disability.  The fact that you have been receiving corespondence and replacement cards does not bode well for your case.

Check your state's laws.


The fact that they haven't heard a peep out of you this whole time is the most difficult part of this to defend.  If you tell them that you are in financial services as well, their sympathy will completely evaporate.

Get an attorney.
Link Posted: 12/20/2009 8:46:48 AM EDT
I'd seek counsel. If California is a community property state you may have legal issues.



If the card is in both your names, just have it cancelled. That should prove your inclusion/exclusion on the account.



If they tell you that you can't close the account...then you're not a signatory on the account and can't be held liable for anything having to do with the account. Get their answer in writing.
Link Posted: 12/20/2009 9:02:18 AM EDT
[Last Edit: 12/20/2009 9:20:18 AM EDT by California_Kid]
Originally Posted By pcsutton:
If the card is in both your names, just have it cancelled....


They suggested that I close the account, but the letter that does so also states:

If you would like to have this account closed, please call the number below...

...Please note that if your request results from a divorce, you are still responsible for the entire debt if your ex-spouse fails to pay, even if you have a divorce agreement assigning this debt to your ex-spouse.  Additionally, the payment record will continue to be reported to the national consumer reporting agencies in both names.


California is a community property state, but that only means you are entitled to half of your spouse's earned income.  I do not believe I am responsible for debts on her card (unless I was a co-borrower from the get-go), and certainly not for debts incurred after divorce.

My only viable position in this matter is that I was never a co-borrower on the card.  If B of A suddenly manages to come up with defensible proof that I agreed to the debt, I am and have always been screwed.  Closing the account would be tantamount to admitting that I know I am authorized to do so.  If I am not legally a co-borrower, I can't close it and attempting to do so could constitute fraud.

Originally Posted By trwoprod:
You will almost certainly need an attorney now because you didn't do this in a timely fashion....

Next time, handle this immediately....


Divorce sucks, and can cause your brain to not function properly, but I honestly have no recollection of ever signing up for a joint credit card with my ex at any time.  We had joint checking and savings accounts and were co-owners (and co-borrowers) on the house that is now solely mine, but never a credit card as far as I can remember.  I had a card that I used, she had one that she used, and we paid our own bills on those separately.

I became aware of this situtation in August.  All of the cards that they sent me and I never activated, did not mention my ex-wife's name.  I thought those were for a UC alumni affinity card that I applied for and never activated.
Link Posted: 12/20/2009 9:38:01 AM EDT
Originally Posted By California_Kid:
Originally Posted By pcsutton:
If the card is in both your names, just have it cancelled....


They suggested that I close the account, but the letter that does so also states:

If you would like to have this account closed, please call the number below...

...Please note that if your request results from a divorce, you are still responsible for the entire debt if your ex-spouse fails to pay, even if you have a divorce agreement assigning this debt to your ex-spouse.  Additionally, the payment record will continue to be reported to the national consumer reporting agencies in both names.


California is a community property state, but that only means you are entitled to half of your spouse's earned income.  I do not believe I am responsible for debts on her card (unless I was a co-borrower from the get-go), and certainly not for debts incurred after divorce.

My only viable position in this matter is that I was never a co-borrower on the card.  If B of A suddenly manages to come up with defensible proof that I agreed to the debt, I am and have always been screwed.  Closing the account would be tantamount to admitting that I know I am authorized to do so.  If I am not legally a co-borrower, I can't close it and attempting to do so could constitute fraud.

Originally Posted By trwoprod:
You will almost certainly need an attorney now because you didn't do this in a timely fashion....

Next time, handle this immediately....


Divorce sucks, and can cause your brain to not function properly, but I honestly have no recollection of ever signing up for a joint credit card with my ex at any time.  We had joint checking and savings accounts and were co-owners (and co-borrowers) on the house that is now solely mine, but never a credit card as far as I can remember.  I had a card that I used, she had one that she used, and we paid our own bills on those separately.

I became aware of this situtation in August.  All of the cards that they sent me and I never activated, did not mention my ex-wife's name.  I thought those were for a UC alumni affinity card that I applied for and never activated.


Sorry about being an ass.  I just got off the phone with someone I find difficult and that spilled into my writing.
Link Posted: 12/20/2009 9:47:21 AM EDT
My aunt's ex-husband did the same thing to her. He never held a steady job in his life and during the divorce he maxed-out all their credit cards but she never signed for them in the first place.

The CC companies sued him; See, "blood from a turnip..."

Then they came after her and she stood her ground and said no.

The CC companies sued her, dragged her into court, and the judge ruled in her favor and told the CC companies to "go home and leave her alone" </quote>.

The CC company and their lawyers tried to bluff her to the end...and it ended in the Stephens County, OK courtroom.
Link Posted: 12/20/2009 10:24:07 AM EDT
[Last Edit: 12/20/2009 10:26:45 AM EDT by California_Kid]
Originally Posted By pale_pony:
My aunt's ex-husband did the same thing to her. He never held a steady job in his life and during the divorce he maxed-out all their credit cards but she never signed for them in the first place....

...The CC company and their lawyers tried to bluff her to the end...and it ended in the Stephens County, OK courtroom.


That must have been a shittty experience for your aunt.  Fortunately my ex-wife is a responsible person and would not intentionally put her debt on my shoulders.  She was truly mortified in August when I told her that I had online access to her account and could see all of her purchases.  She and I had both been under the impression that we had severed all financial ties.  My concern is what happens if she has an unexpected disaster and becomes unable to pay her bills, and I am quite sure she doesn't like having me on the account.  We get along OK but I have to be careful not to intimidate her. She could still make a lot of trouble for me.

BTW, yesterday one of my best friends told me he had spoken with my ex at my birthday party last year.  (I'm such a nice guy I invited her and her boyfriend to my 50th.)  My friend said she confided in him that getting divorced from me had not fixed any of her problems with depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem.  She basically told me the same thing a couple of years ago over a cup of coffee, saying I was the best man she'd ever been in a relationship with.  But the damage is done.  There is no going back now.
Link Posted: 12/20/2009 12:57:46 PM EDT
I'd add  2 things.

1). You mentioned accounts. I'd get them all closed and moved elsewhere before they use the fine print in your agreements to access them for "your obligations." Make sure they are closed and save those documents stating that. Even if they are emptied, I think they may still be able move what they feel are your obligations from a questionable obligation to a valid account in your name, probably in any form, even checking. Not sure, but these are the people who game their banking software to maximize every kind of fee imaginable. They play dirty pool and you are on the defense here.

2). The interactions you have already had with them will almost certainly be recorded and everything to this point will be reviewed to find any legal theory which can be applied to hold you liable. So I'm going to second the motion that you see an attorney before you contact them again.
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