Q: When my son got married, I let him use my credit card to set up his household. He and his wife managed to max the card out with a debt of about $20,000.
Somehow, they had changed the billing address to their home address so I wouldn’t know how much debt they ran up. I canceled the card as soon as I discovered this.
Still, they were making regular payments on the card until he and his wife separated. He is now going through a divorce and custody fight with his wife and the money he was using to pay the card is now going to the lawyer and child support.
I cannot afford the payments and have been borrowing from my own credit cards and life insurance policies to try and keep everything current, but I am falling behind. I do not know what to do.
I have called the credit card company to try and work something out but they refuse to hear anything and only repeat I am responsible for the payments. They have increased my interest to the maximum amount of about 29.99 percent, due to the late payments. Now, any amount I send to them is going to pay the interest only.
I live in a mobile home. I tried to refinance to take out some cash, but I owe too much on the mortgage and the extra money they offered me wouldn’t even put a dent in the amount owed. Do you have any suggestions?
A: You’ve made several significant mistakes. Unfortunately, you’re now paying for them.
Your first mistake was to assume that you knew the boy you raised. I’m sure you thought that he and his wife would make good on any debts incurred. But your curiosity should have been raised when you stopped receiving the credit card bills.
Your second mistake was to allow anyone else to use your credit card without your permission. No one will ever help you protect your credit and good name. That, for better or worse, falls on you alone.
A third mistake was to cancel a card that had a remaining balance. That helped tank your credit score, which is why the interest rate on the debt has been raised to nearly 30 percent.
I don’t know how much you earn, but if you have nominal income, and your debt is bigger than your annual income, your best option may be to file for bankruptcy.
Please contact the National Foundation for Consumer Credit (www.nfcc.org) to find a reputable credit counselor near you. You should be able to get free or extremely low-cost budgeting assistance and you’ll be able to find out if it is even possible for you to pay off your debts without filing for bankruptcy. Good luck.