Unauthorized Co-Signers and Repaying Old Debts


What do you do if you think someone used you as a co-signer without your permission?

One of our readers, Bob, sent us this question:

How would I determine if someone used me to co-sign a loan without my knowing?

Thanks for your question Bob – I hope that hasn’t happened to you!

There is a very simple way to check and see if someone is signing your name without permission – check all three of your credit reports.

If you are listed as a co-signer on a loan, it will show up on one (if not all three) of your credit reports. Since co-signers are responsible for the debt just like the primary signer, the loan will show up on your credit reports as well as theirs.

To check your current credit reports, you can start by visiting Annual Credit Report.com Make sure you do check all three credit reports, Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. Otherwise you may overlook something.

Not all lenders report to all three credit bureaus. The account you are looking for could show up on one, or all of your credit reports.

If you check all three credit reports and you do not see a fraudulent account, then you are in the clear.

If you do find a loan on your credit reports that you did not authorize, make sure you contact not only the lending company, but the credit bureaus as well. That is a case of identity theft, and it should be treated as such. Otherwise, you will be liable for the debt if the other person defaults, and it could ruin your credit.

If you fear that it’s a family member that has done this to you, you can either speak to them about it, or call the lending company up and tell them what happened. Request to have your name removed from the loan.

One last caveat, if you think the loan you may have unintentionally co-signed is a new loan, you may have to wait a month before anything shows up on your credit reports. It takes about that long for the credit bureaus to update their files.

Thanks for your question!

We had another question from Gemma, about repaying an old debt:

Hi, i was hoping you may be able to help.

I had a credit card with nationwide about 9 years ago and started to miss payments. I then had a visit from a man at nationwide and i set up a payment plan to clear down the debt.

After six months the money stopped coming out of my account even though i still had �1097 outstanding. I tried to call them but they just told me i would be called back but they never did. I have had no further contact with them for about 4 years via email, telephone, letter etc.

Yesterday i received a letter from them saying that i missed the November 08 payment and December and now i need to pay the rest of the debt off (�1097).

Can they do this? I haven’t received anything from them – be it statements or letters, and then they just contact me out of the blue years later.

Thanks for your question Gemma!

The first thing you will want to do is to go back and check to see who is contacting you. Is it Nationwide that sent you the letter, or have they sold your debt to a collection company?

The second thing you should do is check your credit reports. If you are in the UK you can visit this link to get your free credit reports.

The reason you should check your credit reports is to see whether or not they have been reporting this account as delinquent for the last four years. If they have, it is going to be doubly important that you pay the account off.

Now, since the debt is so old, you do have a couple of options:

  • Consider a debt settlement - Once you are ready to make a payment, call the company that contacted you (either Nationwide, or the company who bought the debt.) Ask them to settle the debt right then and there for a lesser amount. Since this debt is so oldthere is a good chance that you will be able to knock 25% – 40% off of the total amount that you owe.

    Make sure that you get any settlement agreements in writing prior to paying!

  • Set up a payment plan - If you aren’t ready to pay the full amount, or do a settlement, then go ahead and call the company and arrange a payment plan. Stick to the plan, and it won’t hurt your credit score.
  • Once the debt is paid, wait a month or two, and then do a follow-up check on your credit reports. Make sure that the account shows up paid as agreed, not open and past due. That will keep it from hurting your credit score in the future.
  • As far as this being legal, I’m afraid that it is. Even though they clearly dropped the ball, it’s still a legitimate debt.

    It is definitely in your best interest to make payment arrangements of some sort so that it does not harm your credit score, or your ability to get a loan in the future.

    Thanks for your question!

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    One Response to “Unauthorized Co-Signers and Repaying Old Debts”

    1. Jeff Smith Says:

      I suffered a career ending injury (knee) in 2008 I have not worked in 13 months, I am co-signer to two loans one a car loan, the other a student loan for my daughters. My question is because of my disabilty may I file to remove myself as a viable co-signer? I can no longer work at my normal profession. All three of us are unemployed.

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