How can I cancel credit cards when I don't know the account number?
May 20, 2007 9:27 AM   Subscribe

How can my girlfriend cancel credit cards when she doesn't know the account numbers?

My girlfriend just got her free credit report and found credit cards on the report that she never opened. There are 4 or 5, they all have $0 balances, and they're all still open. The report has issuer's name and an obfuscated number. How can she cancel these cards?
posted by david1230 to Work & Money (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
She should just call the issuing comoany (MBNA, BankAmerica, Sears, etc). Most of these places can locate records using Social Security numbers.
posted by BackwardsCity at 9:32 AM on May 20, 2007

What she should do is contact the issuer and file a fraud report. Just calling and cancelling won't solve the underlying issue of identity theft. If she reports an instance of fraud it will be investigated and there is more chance the applicant will be caught.

She doesn't need the card numbers to do this - her personal information should suffice.
posted by TheAspiringCatapult at 9:33 AM on May 20, 2007

Does she suspect she is a victim of identity theft? If so, then she should follow these instructions from the FTC.
posted by grouse at 9:35 AM on May 20, 2007

Agreeing with Backwardscity. Want to also point out that it doesn't sound like she's a victim of identity theft. I ended up opening a lot of accounts in college that I didn't remember opening, mostly because I signed up for some free t-shirt and also ended up getting like six credit cards at once as a result. I later freaked when I got my credit report, only to realize what had actually happened. If there's no balance at all, it seems that the likelihood of someone having stolen her identity might be low. To me, the whole point of stealing someone's identity to open up credit accounts would be to actually spend money.

Anyway, I called the issuing companies and had no trouble closing them.
posted by ml98tu at 9:57 AM on May 20, 2007

Best answer: (Used to work in customer service for a credit card.)

Seconding that it doesn't sound like identity theft. Have her phone up the issuers -- they'll be able to locate the account with her last name and the address she was at when she opened it or the last four digits of her social security number. The issuers will close the accounts over the phone.

If the address doesn't match anything she's ever had or if there's a difference in the social security number, petition to have the accounts removed from her credit reports. Otherwise, assuming that they're reporting a zero balance and there aren't any negative marks on her credit report from them, it's probably safe to assume that the accounts were just opened, used once, and forgotten.
posted by meghanmiller at 10:36 AM on May 20, 2007

Response by poster: No, we don't think it's identity theft. We're not freaking out, or suspicious, just want to close the unknown accounts.
posted by david1230 at 10:51 AM on May 20, 2007

I seem to remember reading somewhere that it is much better for your credit score to let $0 balances sit than to cancel them.
posted by sophist at 12:55 PM on May 20, 2007

Sophist, can you cite a source? The effect on one's credit score really, really depends on the circumstances, and should be small either way. It depends on how long the accounts have been open, how long other accounts have been open, how much available credit those accounts have, how much available credit other accounts have, and a dozen other factors that we can't possibly know about the OP. The bottom line is that if she wants the accounts closed, she should close them, and if closing them does change her score at all, within 6 months to a year, it should be back where it was.
posted by decathecting at 1:10 PM on May 20, 2007

This biggest problem with calling the issuers is that the first step in the phone tree is invariable entering your card number. Usually you just need to wait it out.
posted by smackfu at 3:12 PM on May 20, 2007

I seem to remember reading somewhere that it is much better for your credit score to let $0 balances sit than to cancel them.

Seconding this comment.
If the cards are on her account and carry a $0 balance, it means she has more "available credit" on her report. This is a VERY GOOD thing, as it will improve her score by demonstrating that she can have accounts open without running them up. IF however she checks her report later and finds there are charges on these accounts (other than maybe the membership fee or other issuer fees) she may be an ID Theft victim after all.
In any case, why has she not gotten the cards or at least a statement in the mail? As someone else said here, she may want to call the issuers just to check what mailing addresses they have for her. There could be fees she's behind on otherwise.
Please post an update if you have any other questions.
posted by Carnage Asada at 9:11 AM on May 21, 2007

There's two ways these accounts will figure into her FICO score. Exact details are unclear since how FICO is scored is a trade secret but we have some guidelines. (See "about fico score" on MyFico)

One, utilization. Optimum total utilization of credit is somewhere around the 20% mark. Meaning that if you have access to 5 cards with a $1000 limit on each you should be carrying $1000 in debt. Carrying 0 would be marginally worse. Carrying $9500 would be a LOT worse.

Two, age of accounts. If those 0 balance cards are older accounts she'd be better served getting her newer and younger cards canceled (and any balanced shifted off) than killing the old ones. Think of it as similar to the attitude a lot of people have about job-hoppping. Someone who has one card they have had for 10 years will be ranked higher than someone with 10 cards sequentially where each was open one year.

Mind you, the total carried is more important (30% of score) than credit age (15%) so the difference in stores for those account ages will be less significant than total avail credit, so if she has to pick between the two she's better of getting her utilization in line.

If she's not looking to buy a house anytime soon, however, I wouldn't even worry about it. People obsess over their FICO score way more than they really need to, for the most part.
posted by phearlez at 11:49 AM on May 21, 2007

I've also heard of people getting denied for new credit because the lender feels they have too much existing credit for their income. Makes sense if you think about it.
posted by smackfu at 11:56 AM on May 21, 2007

I read somewhere (flaky connection in Lisbon is not permitting me to get to a search engine) that you should ask them to record the comment, 'Closed at owner's request' if you ask them to close them. This then shows as you taking an active stance in your credit management.
posted by blue_wardrobe at 2:37 PM on May 21, 2007

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