Dear Tamara:

My wife is a shopaholic! She buys things that she doesn’t even need. Her closet is full of clothes with tags still on them. She has over a hundred pairs of shoes and purses and still she continues to shop. That’s one problem, but then I recently found a credit card statement for a card she opened in both of our names. I had no clue this card even existed and I did not sign or give her permission to include me on the account. Needless to say, the card is maxed out and she hasn’t made a payment in over four months. So naturally I pulled a copy of my credit report and found out that there are several other maxed out joint credit accounts that I did not authorize. Every time I try to talk to my wife about this she gets emotional and starts crying. She denies that she is a shopaholic or that she spends too much money. She said she would pay off the debt and promised not to use my information to open any more accounts, but I don’t trust her. How can I get her to recognize that she has a problem? And how can I prevent her from opening up credit accounts in my name?

Unauthorized

Dear Unauthorized:

I am not sure of all the legalities, but I do know that if your spouse opens an account in your name without your consent, you can call the creditor and have your name removed. But please be careful in doing this because if you did not authorize your signature, even when dealing with a spouse, this can be treated like a case of fraud or even identity theft. And though you are upset about your wife’s spending habits and her opening up joint credit accounts, I am sure you do not want to press charges. Hopefully now that she knows you are on to her and monitoring your credit report more closely, she will refrain from using your information. But removing your name from the accounts and her not opening new accounts in your name does not completely solve your problems. If your wife continues shopping and spending beyond her means, it will still affect your family, your household, your budget, and your joint credit score. Delinquent payments greatly affect the credit score. And if your wife does not pay her bills, your joint assets could be at risk.

Your wife seems to be in denial about her shopping habits and the severity of her actions. I urge you to continue trying to talk to her. Explain to her how credit works and how she may be damaging her own credit score. Try to get her to follow a budget and see if she can cut down on her spending. It is critical for couples to be on the same page when it comes to money and finances. If the problem continue, an intervention may be necessary. Sometimes professional help is needed to show people their compulsive behaviors.

Author of the upcoming book Been There Done That: And Lived to Tell About It (due out Spring 2011), Tamara R. Allen is Your Advice Guru giving REAL advice from REAL experience. Email your questions to [email protected]. You can follow Tamara on twitter @tamararallen or check out her daily column and archives at www.tamararallen.com.