Editor's Note: Hundreds of Ann Landers' loyal readers have requested that newspapers continue to publish her columns. These letters originally appeared in 1999.
Dear Ann Landers: I would like to respond to the letter from "Ticked Off in Texas." His mother-in-law, "Edna," used her granddaughter's name to get phone service, and then "Tiffany," the granddaughter, wound up $500 in debt. She filed charges against Grandma for fraud. You said, "Relatives don't do that to one another." Ann, Tiffany HAD to file fraud charges to get the negative credit removed from her report. Paying it off without disputing the charges would still cause credit problems for the girl.
I negotiate home loans for one of the nation's largest lenders. Here's what would have happened had Tiffany not filed the fraud report: It would be virtually impossible for her to get a car loan at normal interest rates. She would forever have to put down a large deposit to get utilities. She would have difficulty qualifying for student loans and certainly would have trouble getting her first home.
Early credit problems for young people can forever change the way their credit is treated. Where I work, there is a flag put on credit reports for Social Security numbers issued in the last 18 years — and thus belonging to minors. If the phone company had had this information, they would not have extended credit to 16-year-old Tiffany.
While I'm at it, let me take this opportunity to get across some important credit information to your readers: If you are moving to another state and plan to buy a home, keep close at hand your tax returns, bank statements and recent paycheck stubs. You will need these to qualify for the mortgage on a new home.
If you are getting a divorce and dividing the debts, be certain you list the company name and account number for each credit card debt in the property settlement. Don't let your attorney write, "He gets this bill, and she gets the other." Ten years later, it's difficult to determine who was supposed to pay what bills when new accounts and new spouses are added to the mix. — Diana in Palm Harbor, Fla.
Dear Diana: Thanks for giving my readers a lot of valuable legal advice for free. Keep reading for more about Edna and Tiffany:
From California: Your advice to "Ticked Off in Texas" was way off. My wife's elderly aunt was ripped off for more than $150,000 by her nephew. The money came from the sale of her home and was her retirement nest egg. She sued him to get it back. Would you have denied her that money just because he was a relative? Grandma is a crook and deserved to be nailed.
Roanoke, Va.: Filing charges is the only way to clear Tiffany's name. I have seen families try to put accounts in the names of children who were 4 or 5 years old. "Ticked Off" might want to write other utility companies and get a copy of Tiffany's credit report to make sure Granny hasn't surprised her again. In fact, everyone should get a copy of his or her credit report once a year. Also, Ann, your Pollyanna notion that relatives shouldn't sue each other is naive. When the relative is a crook, that person should be treated like any other crook.
What's the truth about pot, cocaine, LSD, PCP, crack, speed and downers? "The Lowdown on Dope" has information on drugs. To find out more about Ann Landers and read her past columns, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.
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