Can I Be Arrested for Fraud if I Took out a Credit Card in My Dad's Name Without Him Knowing It?

by Craig Berman
Identity theft can lead to a jail sentence, even if the victim is your father.

If you're desperate for money, taking out a credit card in your father’s name might seem like the best of a bad series of options. After all, he’s your dad and won’t want to see you going to jail if he finds out. But beware. In addition to the significant ethical issues that arise from opening a credit card in someone else’s name, it’s a criminal act that risks severe legal consequences.

Criminal Act

Taking out a credit account in someone else’s name without permission amounts to identity theft, and you can indeed be arrested for fraud for doing that. As a general rule, if you've taken out a credit card in your dad’s name, what happens next is based on his response. If he does nothing and simply assumes responsibility for the bills, there’s no police report and therefore no investigation. The credit card company will have its money, so it has no reason to investigate or suspect wrongdoing.

Involving the Police

While your father may not want to see you face prosecution, he may not have the desire or the ability to pay the resulting bills either. If you rack up big debts in your father's name and can’t pay them off, the delinquencies will go on your dad’s credit record unless he pays off the balance or takes action to reveal that you’re the culprit. The latter can’t happen without at least filing a police report, so there’s an incentive for your dad to take that step.

Issuers Want Action

There’s an additional incentive for your father to go the police if he doesn't want to be responsible for your charges. Because you’re family members, the credit card issuer may be less likely to accept his word that you signed up for the account and made charges without authorization. Credit card issuers know that some people are dishonest and allege fraud simply to get out of a bill, but going to the effort of filing a police report is one sign that the complainant is on the level. Therefore, they may insist on a police report or file one themselves.

Criminal Penalties

If your father or the credit card issuer does file a police a police report, you can be prosecuted. The exact statutes depend on your state, but you could face charges for identity theft, fraud, forgery, theft by deception, larceny or other crimes. A misdemeanor conviction generally can result in anywhere from probation to up to a year in jail, while a felony can land you in jail for several years or more. In addition, you may have to pay a fine and make restitution to the victim, in this case your father.

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