Protecting Your Identity During a Divorce
By Attorney John Knutton
By now, everyone has heard the statistic that nearly 50% of all marriages end in divorce. Based on this rate, there is nearly one divorce every 13 seconds in America. Oftentimes, divorces can be tumultuous, and people need to protect themselves against possible financial sabotage by their significant others. Financial sabotage can take numerous forms, including racking up credit card debt, hiding or selling assets, or even identity theft. What do you do if your now-ex, who has all your personal information, tries to steal your identity?
Identity theft can make it hard for you to get a job, get a loan, or find a place to live. You can reduce your risk of identity theft by taking several precautions.
(1) Protect your information at home. Keep your personal financial documents, social security card and other critical documents with you after you separate or move out.
(2) Protect your information over the phone. Do not give your personal information to anyone over the phone unless advised to do so by your family law attorney.
(3) Protect your information online. Change all of your passwords for bank accounts, email accounts, and other computer log-ins. Use passwords that are not easy to guess, including numbers and symbols.
How will you know if your spouse or someone else has stolen your identity?
(1) Read your bills and account statements carefully.
(2) Watch for unusual charges or withdrawals you did not make.
(3) Watch for changes of addresses or bills that stop coming.
(4) Get your credit report, or sign up for free credit monitoring through websites such as Credit Karma.
What should you do if your spouse or someone else has stolen your identity?
(1) Tell your family law attorney if your divorce case is still pending.
(2) Call the fraud department of the credit card, bank account, or other account that has been compromised. Ask them to freeze the account until it is determined who stole your identity.
(3) Change all log-in information for all accounts.
(4) Contact one of the three credit bureaus and file a fraud alert.
(5)Report the identity theft to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Go to ftc.gov/complaint to make a formal complaint, and include as much information as possible.
(6)Contact your local police department or Sheriff’s Office to file a report. Tell the police that someone has stolen your identity and that you need to file a report. Ask for a copy of the police report after it has been completed.
Divorce proceedings can be very difficult for all parties involved, especially when one party decides to compromise the financial health of the other party, either through hiding assets, draining bank accounts, racking up credit card debt, or even stealing someone’s identity. It is important to retain an experienced and reputable family law attorney to protect you and your assets during the entire divorce process.