Identity Theft After Divorce or Breakup: Your Rights Under the FCRA & EFTA

When a relationship ends, identity theft is the last thing anyone should have to think about. However, former spouses or partners sometimes abuse the private financial information you may have shared with them. This information can be used to open new accounts, apply for loans, finance vehicles, and make purchases on existing credit cards. Unfortunately, these actions can harm your credit. 

Identity Theft by a Spouse or Partners

While many may think that someone they have been close to would never commit identity theft against them, it is not unheard of. When approaching this kind of fraud, it is important to remember that any unauthorized financial activity done in your name is considered fraud. Whether the crime is committed by a stranger, your spouse, or another family member, the government considered it all fraud. The most common ways that spouses, significant others or an ex can commit fraud are:

  • Using the victim’s credit card without their knowledge, resulting in debt.
  • Opening new credit card accounts or applying for loans in the victim’s name.
  • Financing a vehicle (or other large purchases) using the other’s information.
  • Forging the victim’s signature on a loan or other financial documents. 
  • Threatening physical harm in order to force the victim to sign financial documents.

What To Do if You Believe Your Spouse Committed Fraud

If you believe your spouse or ex has committed identity theft, it is important that you act quickly.  

  • Call your bank or credit card company immediately to notify them of the incorrect charges.
  • Follow up with the bank/credit card company in a written statement to ensure that the error is recorded. 
  • Check your credit report! If there is fraudulent information, then contact the three major credit reporting agencies in writing (and send it by certified mail) to notify them of the fraud.
  • Request a “block” with the these credit agencies so that they cannot share inaccurate information that was a result of fraud, OR
  • Request a “security freeze” with these credit agencies, which will prevent them from giving out information on you or your credit without your permission. This will stop an identity thief from opening new accounts until you lift the freeze (it also prevents you from opening accounts, so remember to lift it).
  • File a complaint with the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).
  • Document everything! Keep records of all bank statements, credit card statements, and credit reports. Also keep copies of all communications you had with your bank, credit card company and/or credit agencies. If you have to go to court, these help your lawyer build your case!

Why the Banks and Credit Agencies Have to Act

When you notify your bank or the credit reporting agencies of an issue, they have to open an investigation. Here is what you need to know to protect yourself:

  • You have the right to dispute inaccurate entries on your credit report under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA).
  • Credit agencies are legally required to investigate any dispute filed with them.
  •  If the credit agencies or the companies providing them with information about your account (e.g. the credit card companies) do not remove inaccurate information, they can be liable for the harm it has caused you, other types of damages, and attorney’s fees.
  • The federal Electronic Funds Transfer Act (EFTA) requires banks to investigate identity theft and unauthorized transfers. It is important to remember that some of your rights depend on you contacting these companies quickly about the issues you find.
  • If the bank violates this requirement in the EFTA, the bank could be liable for your missing funds, other damages, and attorney’s fees. 
  • The FCRA and EFTA’s attorney’s fees provisions allow the lawyers at Terrell Marshall Law Group and Schlanger Law Group to work on many identity theft cases on a contingency (meaning, we only get paid if there is a successful result). 

Loan Companies May be at Fault in Spousal Identity Theft Cases

In a recent case filed jointly by Terrell Marshall Law Group PLLC and Schlanger Law Group LLP, a consumer’s ex-wife applied for multiple student loans using the victim’s name. She even forged his signature and listed her own email as his.

The consumer became aware of the identity theft through the course of his divorce proceedings. He found that student loans contributing to his adult children’s education had been filed under his name without his knowledge. The consumer communicated with the issuers of the loans in an attempt to notify them of the fraud and remove himself from the accounts. Unfortunately, each of the companies that issued the loans refused to change the information and remove the consumer from the fraudulent accounts.

The consumer also attempted to dispute the errors on his credit report with the three major credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian & TransUnion). Each agency failed to remove the inaccuracies. The consumer followed up again, but never heard back from any of the agencies. 

The principal allegation in this case is that each of the loan issuers, and each of the credit reporting agencies, violated the FCRA by failing to conduct reasonable investigation into the consumer’s claims. The consumer protection lawyers at Terrell Marshall Law Group PLLC and Schlanger Law Group LLP are seeking actual, statutory, and punitive damages on behalf of the consumer. 

Terrell Marshall Law Group and Schlanger Law Group have extensive experience in protecting consumers from fraud and enforcing state and federal consumer protections. The two law firms have recently teamed up to file several class actions around the country focused on violations of the Electronic Funds Transfer Act.


If you believe that you may also be a victim of identity theft by a spouse or ex, please do not hesitate to contact us