Going through a divorce is tough, so nobody wants to become a victim of identity theft in the process. Here are some of the most essential ways to protect your identity before, during and after divorce, so you can avoid the additional financial mess:
If you’ve decided on a divorce, the best thing to do is financially separate yourself as soon as possible. That means closing any joint accounts, credit cards or lines of credit. This will allow you to take control of your credit. It’s best to consult your own attorney to guide you through this process too, even if you and your spouse are on good terms. In these emotional situations, it’s best not to leave your credit in the hands of the person you’re divorcing.
“People do unpredictable things during emotional times,” Jennifer Wallis, vice president of Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Central Oklahoma, told Bankrate.com.
It will take some time before your divorce is finalized, so separation is key to make sure nothing bad happens to your credit in that time.
Keep an eye on your credit
Even if you have financially separated yourself, your ex-spouse has likely had access to some of your very personal information for a long time, like Social Security Number and birth date. Using tools to monitor your credit can help you identify potentially suspicious activity or identity theft by your ex, like a new line of credit opened in your name.
Don’t apply for joint credit
Protecting yourself from identity theft during a divorce can start long before a divorce is even on the table. Of course, not everyone wants to think about the possibility of divorce, especially if they’re happily married, but your financial security should always be a priority. Most experts advise against applying for any loans or credit cards as a couple. The only reason you should apply for something together is if it requires two incomes for qualification. Other than that, it’s considered wise to apply for most loans separately in the case of divorce. Creditors don’t recognize divorce agreements, so regardless of your marital status, you will still be liable for your joint credit with your ex-spouse and your credit can be affected.
Beware spousal identity theft
Sometimes, couples get divorced because of identity theft, and these situations are difficult to handle for several reasons. According to an ITRC fact sheet, spouses are seen financially as one person in most states, and identity theft cases in marriages are often regarded as domestic disputes rather than actual theft. The ITRC recommends filing for a legal separation from your spouse in this scenario and to work with a family law or divorce attorney to ensure financial separation. If you’re not willing or able to file for legal separation or divorce, the ITRC suggests filing a police report or freezing your credit so nobody but you can open lines of credit using your Social Security Number.
If you have concerns about identity theft, invest in an identity theft protection service, which monitor credit, Social Security Numbers and public records and can notify you of certain activity that may indicate fraud. This can give you much-needed peace of mind in a trying time.