Debt Abuse

Forced Into Debt By Another

January 2019

A recent article pointed to a form of abuse not often talked about. In this age of “easy credit,” a marriage can be a minefield of credit either forcibly obtained with the sweep of a pen or, possibly more often, with forged signatures, leaving the abuse victim with a mountain of debt and little to no recourse.

Still Abuse

Abuse within a marriage typically stems from an irrational obsession with control, physical, mental, or financial, and sometimes a combination of two or three or even other variations that are even less talked about but are abusing living conditions none-the-less. In the case of financial abuse, the kind most often talked about is the total control over the spending of money. The abused is often left with no means of leaving because he or she has no bank account of their own, typically has little cash, and nothing is in his or her name. Debt abuse, however, is another matter.

In debt abuse, either the abused is coerced into taking out loans or the abuser simply forges the abused signature to start up credit cards and other by-mail credit sources. All the abuser needs is a social security number, a name, and a date of birth, just like any other identity thief.

And that is what debt abuse is: Identity Theft hidden in such a way that it is very difficult to prove and get out of. On the other hand, it is prevented in a similar way.

Simple Steps

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Check your credit report regularly

If you see something that is not suppose to be there, immediately take steps to refute and close such credit claims.

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Do not share your passwords

Monte has a simple rule: Long or complex. If you can, make it a sentence or phrase you can easily remember but is longer than 14 characters. If less than 14, make it complex with numbers, letters, and maybe even characters that mean something to you. Then, don’t share and even change yearly.

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Do not share cards

Each spouse should have his or her own card even for a joint account. This is a way of being able to track who spends what without question and is not just paranoia, but good accounting.

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Be safe

If you have any reason to believe it would not be safe to confront your spouse about suspected debt abuse, do not do it. This is the same regarding any abuse. Instead, find the proper help.

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Listen to your CPA: Document EVERYTHING

5 to 7 years of accounting is just plain good sense, at home or in business. You might think it is just your CPA making you do extra work, but it will save you tons of money even outside of an abusive relationship, and within an abusive relationship, there may be remedies an attorney can find for use in divorce court.

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Everyone should have their own account

Even in a non-abusive home, saving money is a great financial motivator. There is nothing wrong with keeping your own account. And if you suspect an abusive relationship, all the more reason to have something set aside.

Quick Side Note: A man who owned a ranch but seemed to live day to day got into an accident and eventually died. His wife was great about secretly putting something away for a rainy day, but that had been eaten up because of the medical bills and then the funeral costs. When the probate attorney came to settle things, he handed her a very large check from a bank she had not heard of. Her husband, too, had saved up for a rainy day without her knowing it.

Bottom Line

This article wasn’t written to make you feel paranoid about your spouse or children, but as a warning of two things: 1) If you suspect abuse, you should take precautions. 2) Even if you don’t suspect abuse, it is prudent to keep a good watch on your credit score and practice good financial planning and security anyway in this age of cyber-crime and ID theft.

If you have any other questions specifically about measures you can take against ID theft, let Monte know at monte@wholefamilylegal.com and he will write an article on just that subject.

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