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Mother opened CC in my name before she passed away and I now have 5 accounts under collection. What should I do?


sunjan
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Edit 1/30/2022. Original post might have made a mistake about charge-off accounts and collection accounts. I thought the 5 CC charge-off accounts and the 5 collection accounts are tied to the same original 5 incidents of CCs, but I might be wrong (which means even bigger mess than I originally thought). I edited for clarity below.

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Hi!

First time here and asking for advice. Still a little in shock myself but here's my situation:

My mom passed away last year. A few days ago to my complete surprise I discovered my credit report shows 5 accounts sent to collection (totally $23K), and another 5 different CC accounts that were shown as charged off and closed (totaling $18K). I don't own/use a credit card myself so never thought to check my credit report until I had to apply for a new apartment with gf. The 5 CC accounts all started to become delinquent around the same month, about when my mother started to get really ill. A few months after that, she passed away, and all 5 CC accounts were marked as CO (charge off) in May 2021 about one month after she passed, which was also about 180 days after the DOFD. On the other hand, the 5 collection accounts also had "date assigned" around May/June 2021. I have screen caps of the 5 CC charge-off accounts and the 5 collection accounts in a separate comment post below.

Based on this timing, I'm suspecting my mother opened these in my name without my knowledge. I'm not 100% sure, but just a possibility. Many of the 5 CCs have been opened for years and looks like she had been making payments (not in full) on them, until she got too ill to stay on top of things. My mother couldn't work for health reasons and I had been supporting her for more than the past decade (I'm the single child and loved her very much so I was happy to do so). She lived with me so we share the same address, but she still had access to her own bank account and managed the little bit of money she had in there.

I have not been contacted (yet) by phone or mail or text by any collection agency. The credit report was how I found about these CC accounts and collections. All these years she had the CCs, I have never seen any statements addressed to me (unless she intercepted all of them?) I myself am still bewildered how this happened. So the only info I have now are the amount, original account opening date, and original creditors shown in my credit report.

I read up on this topic and watched many videos in the past two days. My priority is to dispute these collections and have them removed from my credit report. My credit score used to be in the 700s but now is in the 500s. Sigh.

So my planned actions are:

1. I have prepared a debt verification / dispute letter to each of the debt collection agencies, explaining that I do not recognize any of it and this may be identity theft, and I need them to provide proof that I own the debt, and also any info that can be tied to the identity of the original account holder. Send by certified mail, requiring return receipt. 

2. I then plan to send disputes to the 3 credit rating agencies. I understand this is the 1-2 punch method. I saw some disputes of the merits and validity of this method on the forum but thought the method made sense to me.

My questions are:

Q1. Does this (above) sound like the right steps to take?

Q2. Should I open an identity theft claim on the FTC website? My catch-22 is: I need the debt collection agency to give me some info to verify the debts, before I can be certain that my own (deceased) mother committed a fraud against me, but it seems that filing an identity theft claim (before I have any documents from the collection agency) increases my chance of the collection agency responding positively to my DV/dispute letter.

Q3. Should I or can I file a police report against my now deceased mother? 

 

Sorry I know this is a lot. Thanks for reading and I'm happy to hear any thoughts and tips!

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I am sorry for the loss of your mother. 
 

However, the fact of your mother’s death solves one issue some other posters have.  That is, how to deal with the family dynamics when a close family member commits identity theft.  You don’t have to worry about hurting her to save yourself when she can no longer be hurt. 
 

There is the question as to whether your mother’s estate was liable for the debts.  I don’t know the answer.  If you inherited anything from your mother, such as real property or anything of value, you may need to consult with an attorney   
 

The bad news is this will be a bit of a struggle.  It may be a long time before your credit reports are all clear and it may take a lot of work.  
 

The good news is it may be possible. 
 

The first place to start is with the police report.  At this point you don’t have proof it was your mother who opened the accounts.  You can honestly say you suspect your mother, but it is possible someone else opened the accounts.  After all, if nothing has arrived by mail, it is likely a different address was used.  Perhaps your mother had a secret PO Box? That may be why you never saw bills or notices from collectors   

 

Present the facts as you know them in a police report.  You could mention that the accounts went into arrears when your mother became ill.  Or not.  If you later have proof your mother opened the accounts you could mention that.  Getting information from collectors may or may not give you cause to file a second or amended report   
 

The police report is an essential first step because it gives you a vastly stronger case when disputing debts   


 

Second, you need to check courthouse records to see if you have been sued.  It is possible you have been sued, but not served because of a false address.  There are alternate methods of service.  You need to find out now, because some places will sue early and you don’t want a default judgment.  Up here in Wisconsin the cases are all online   I don’t know about down south in Illinois   

 

The third etc steps are everything else.  Everything you mentioned and then some. 
Also contact the original creditors before they sue or sell to a JDB. 
 

Best of luck to you.  It is truly difficult to deal with this at such a bad time.  

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5 hours ago, sunjan said:

1. I have prepared a debt verification / dispute letter to each of the debt collection agencies, explaining that I do not recognize any of it and this may be identity theft, and I need them to provide proof that I own the debt, and also any info that can be tied to the identity of the original account holder. Send by certified mail, requiring return receipt. 

The verification you describe falls under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA).  Under that Act, the right to verification/validation is triggered only after receiving an initial communication from a collection agency.   Then the validation demand must be sent within 30 days of receiving that communication.   Once a collection agency receives a timely demand, it must cease collection efforts until it validates the debt.  There is no time limit for a collection agency to send validation.  Some collection agencies will validate while others will simply cease collection all together without validating.  That is legal.

Finding a collection account on your CR is not considered to be an initial communication that triggers your right to validation.  You can send the letters, and the collection agencies may go ahead and send validation, but they are not required to do so and can continue reporting.  

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As far as proving that it was his mother who opened the accounts, if OP was executor, he should have access to her bank accounts and might be able to track down the payments.  That's not 100% proof, because she could have made payments from her account on his behalf, but it doesn't hurt to have it as further proof.

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1 hour ago, BackFromTheDebt said:

There is the question as to whether your mother’s estate was liable for the debts.  I don’t know the answer.  If you inherited anything from your mother, such as real property or anything of value, you may need to consult with an attorney   
 

No, she had no source of income and I didn't inherit anything. I was her sole financial supporter.

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7 minutes ago, shadow99 said:

As far as proving that it was his mother who opened the accounts, if OP was executor, he should have access to her bank accounts and might be able to track down the payments.  That's not 100% proof, because she could have made payments from her account on his behalf, but it doesn't hurt to have it as further proof.

She passed away 7 months ago and her bank account was already closed. Can I still get the bank to provide past bank statements to me?

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3 minutes ago, sunjan said:

She passed away 7 months ago and her bank account was already closed. Can I still get the bank to provide past bank statements to me?

If you're the executor, you might be able to.  Did she name you as executor of her will?  If not, you might be about to go to the courthouse and get them to declare you the executor.  I'm in Virginia so different laws, but they will let someone file to be the executor if no one else steps forward within 6 months of a person's death.

Being the executor comes with all kinds of responsibilities though. It should just be paperwork if she didn't have anything to leave behind.

How was she making the minimum payments if she had no income?  Was she getting social security or disability?

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1 hour ago, BackFromTheDebt said:

Second, you need to check courthouse records to see if you have been sued.  It is possible you have been sued, but not served because of a false address.  There are alternate methods of service.  You need to find out now, because some places will sue early and you don’t want a default judgment.  Up here in Wisconsin the cases are all online   I don’t know about down south in Illinois   

Would the fact that I'm getting sued be on some sort of public record? My credit report shows no such public record. And sorry about the stupid question (never thought it would be practical for me), how/where do I check if I'm getting sued?

Thanks!

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3 minutes ago, sunjan said:

Would the fact that I'm getting sued be on some sort of public record? My credit report shows no such public record. And sorry about the stupid question (never thought it would be practical for me), how/where do I check if I'm getting sued?

Thanks!

When one is sued, a lawsuit is supposed to be filed in the defendant’s county of residence.  A lawsuit would be on record at the courthouse in your county of residence.  If your mother lived in a different county at any time, check the courthouses in any county she may have lived.  Most courthouses allow for online records searches.  Otherwise, you can simply call the clerk of court.

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11 hours ago, shadow99 said:

If you're the executor, you might be able to.  Did she name you as executor of her will?  If not, you might be about to go to the courthouse and get them to declare you the executor.  I'm in Virginia so different laws, but they will let someone file to be the executor if no one else steps forward within 6 months of a person's death.

Being the executor comes with all kinds of responsibilities though. It should just be paperwork if she didn't have anything to leave behind.

How was she making the minimum payments if she had no income?  Was she getting social security or disability?

No she didn't have a will.
The only paper work we did near the end was me signing as her medical power of attorney.

She didn't get social security until the last month or two of her life (long story; different story). I transferred money into her account from time to time. So before she got those last one or two SS checks, I'm pretty sure my transfer would be the only in-flow into her account. Looking at the account balance by month, I think whatever monthly payments that were being paid were pretty small. But I have a separate question about how to make sense of the payment history based on the Equifax report - I will type it up in a separate comment.

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16 minutes ago, sunjan said:

Would the fact that I'm getting sued be on some sort of public record? My credit report shows no such public record. And sorry about the stupid question (never thought it would be practical for me), how/where do I check if I'm getting sued?

Thanks!

From what I can tell, there do appear to be some counties which have court records online.  The first step would be to search court records online in your county and your mother’s county if it is different.  If that doesn’t work, follow the advice @BV80 gave above.  

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Sorry for all my questions.

I couldn't make sense of some info I'm seeing in Equifax credit report. Any chance one of you could help?

See screen caps below.

Screen cap 1: there was scheduled payment up to July 2020 but no actual payment?

Screen cap 2: the account was charged off in 02/2020?

Screen cap 3: but payment was good until 10/2020 and started to get delinquent in 11/2020? (this would be the timeline that is consistent with when she got ill)

All 3 screen caps are from the same report and they seem to contradict each other? I'm so confused. >_<

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Screen cap 1

1770922613_ScreenShot2022-01-30at7_46_00AM.thumb.png.088fc582429a97b8d9633598d8a43b33.png

Screen cap 2

1585391745_ScreenShot2022-01-30at7_46_21AM.thumb.png.5e00ece19b388b90cbab44062f7b8c6f.png

Screen cap 3

684983653_ScreenShot2022-01-30at7_46_51AM.thumb.png.351a07482362ca601feb8f3b6d8df137.png

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3 minutes ago, BackFromTheDebt said:

From what I can tell, there do appear to be some counties which have court records online.  The first step would be to search court records online in your county and your mother’s county if it is different.  If that doesn’t work, follow the advice @BV80 gave above.  

Thanks! I'm doing that right now.

Would this fall below the civil/law/chancery category? (screen cap below)

Screen Shot 2022-01-30 at 8.04.38 AM.png

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40 minutes ago, sunjan said:

Would this fall below the civil/law/chancery category? (screen cap below)

I would think that would be the proper category.  If, after checking it, you’re still uncertain, just give the clerk a call on Monday.

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Hmmmm sorry I've been perusing (again) the details in my report in the past hour.

Another thing I noticed that I don't understand is

In the debt collection section of the report, it shows these five collection agencies and original creditors

755891229_ScreenShot2022-01-30at11_59_55AM.png.27c0c1fca72cce378748e69837709704.png

But then in the charge-off section of the report, which I understand to be where these five CCs originated and then got sold off to the collection agencies, it shows a different set of banks! 

What am I missing here? Why do they not match?

1946087462_ScreenShot2022-01-30at12_00_02PM.png.fd1d12ffabb9f826bbe29f0452f78eb2.png

 

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You are confusing collection agencies with junk debt buyers.  They are not the same thing at all.  
 

A collection agency works for the original creditors.  If they cannot collect, they return the debt to the original creditor, and the OC might send the account to a different CA, or sue, or sell the debt, or do nothing.  The CA will almost never sue. They don’t own the debt.  They will also rarely report to the credit reports.  
 

A JDB actually bought the debt from the original creditors.  The OC no longer has the debt.  The JDB can report to the credit reports.  The JDB can hire a CA, or act as their own collectors.  If they fail to collect they may sue, they may resell the debt, or they may do nothing.  
 

The charge off and collectors portions may be different because:

1.  In some cases the OC may still own the debt.  It won’t be reported by a JDB.  Only the OC.  If an OC is reporting, contact the OC.  They might tell you they still have the debt.  They might have sold it and may refer you to the JDB.  They might have placed it with a CA and may refer you to the CA.  
 

2.  In some cases the OC might stop reporting after selling the debt to a JDB.  If that is the case the JDB may be reporting but not the OC. 
 

3. in some cases nobody is reporting but you might get sued anyway. 
 

You need to do some detective work here.  You need to contact every party which is reporting to find out who owns the debt and with whom you need to dispute the debt.  
 

This is why the police report is so important.  You can file on the weekend.  After a certain time you get a report number, and you can get a copy of the report.  
 

When you make calls you need to have the report number handy  When you write letters you may need to send a photocopy of your copy of the report   
 

This will not be easy, but this is essential to protect yourself   

  

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47 minutes ago, BackFromTheDebt said:

You are confusing collection agencies with junk debt buyers.  They are not the same thing at all.  
 

A collection agency works for the original creditors.  If they cannot collect, they return the debt to the original creditor, and the OC might send the account to a different CA, or sue, or sell the debt, or do nothing.  The CA will almost never sue. They don’t own the debt.  They will also rarely report to the credit reports.  
 

A JDB actually bought the debt from the original creditors.  The OC no longer has the debt.  The JDB can report to the credit reports.  The JDB can hire a CA, or act as their own collectors.  If they fail to collect they may sue, they may resell the debt, or they may do nothing.  
 

The charge off and collectors portions may be different because:

1.  In some cases the OC may still own the debt.  It won’t be reported by a JDB.  Only the OC.  If an OC is reporting, contact the OC.  They might tell you they still have the debt.  They might have sold it and may refer you to the JDB.  They might have placed it with a CA and may refer you to the CA.  
 

2.  In some cases the OC might stop reporting after selling the debt to a JDB.  If that is the case the JDB may be reporting but not the OC. 
 

3. in some cases nobody is reporting but you might get sued anyway. 
 

 

Hmmmm. Does this mean the 5 items in the "charge off" section and the 5 items in the "collection" section can in fact potentially be completely different/separate items? Meaning I have 10 credit cards that I'm not aware of? 

I have been assuming that the 5 in "charge off" and the 5 in "collection" all originated from the same 5 CCs, even though the amounts do not match exactly and nor do the original creditors match. Was I wrong? Grh...

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12 hours ago, sunjan said:

I'm suspecting my mother opened these in my name without my knowledge. 

I had been supporting her for more than the past decade (I'm the single child and loved her very much so I was happy to do so).

She lived with me so we share the same address,

This is going to be your major road block to an identity theft defense.  I would still file the police report and FACTA identity theft report but be prepared that the creditors may push back that you were complicit in this.  Their thinking is likely to be that because she lived with you and you supplied her bank account with funds you conspired with her to open the accounts knowing her health and for you to skirt responsibility.  I believe you.  I am just want you to be prepared.  You might consider consulting a consumer attorney or probate to discuss the legal options and how to best protect yourself.

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42 minutes ago, sunjan said:

Hmmmm. Does this mean the 5 items in the "charge off" section and the 5 items in the "collection" section can in fact potentially be completely different/separate items? Meaning I have 10 credit cards that I'm not aware of? 

I have been assuming that the 5 in "charge off" and the 5 in "collection" all originated from the same 5 CCs, even though the amounts do not match exactly and nor do the original creditors match. Was I wrong? Grh...

Perhaps.  
 

This could be anywhere from 5-10 accounts.  There appears to be at least some overlap.  Maybe 7 or 8 accounts. 

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@sunjan

One way to determine if an original creditor (OC) still owns an account is to see what it is reporting on your credit report.  When an OC sells an account, it must report a $0 balance.  That is because the balance is no longer owed to the OC but is now owed to the debt buyer.

 

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18 minutes ago, BV80 said:

@sunjan

One way to determine if an original creditor (OC) still owns an account is to see what it is reporting on your credit report.  When an OC sells an account, it must report a $0 balance.  That is because the balance is no longer owed to the OC but is now owed to the debt buyer.

 

I saw positive balances on all the original CC accounts, but then they were all marked as:

Account Status: Closed

Payment Status: Charge-off

Account status = closed means OC sold it to a debt collector (or JDB), right?

This is all very confusing for a layman to navigate. Thank you so much for all the responses!!

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12 minutes ago, sunjan said:

Account status = closed means OC sold it to a debt collector (or JDB), right?

No.  Closed simply means just that…closed.  You can’t use it anymore.  “Charged-off” is simply an accounting term that means the account has been deemed uncollectible, and the OC is going to claim a bad debt tax deduction.  But the OC can still try to collect or sell it to a debt buyer.

Were all the accounts charged off in 2021?

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3 minutes ago, BV80 said:

No.  Closed simply means just that…closed.  You can’t use it anymore.  “Charged-off” is simply an accounting term that means the account has been deemed uncollectible, and the OC is going to claim a bad debt tax deduction.  But the OC can still try to collect or sell it to a debt buyer.

Were all the accounts charged off in 2021?

Yeah. I have more screen caps.

Collection Accounts

975184334_ScreenShot2022-01-30at4_12_40PM.thumb.png.7460eee9a1e0f220da10490ea4b159bb.png

 

Charge-Off Credit Card Accounts

307204992_ScreenShot2022-01-30at4_13_02PM.thumb.png.b8f8f162376e1c784413616948b3532e.png

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@sunjan

Since the accounts were charged off less than a year ago, they just may not have been sold yet.  Or they may have been recently sold, and the OCs have not yet updated their credit report entries.  If you end up contacting anyone about the accounts, I would first contact the OCs and try to find out about ownership status,  

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