Can I stop credit card companies from giving cards to my mentally disabled son?

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Question:

I am the appointed legal guardian for my mentally disabled son. He has been given three credit cards in the past and ran up very large debts on them. We have finally paid all of them off. How can I stop this from happening in the future? He is not mentally capable of understanding the financial responsibilities associated with owning a credit card.

Answer:

Unfortunately, there is no surefire way to stop your son from opening up credit card accounts. But you can take steps to stop him from being offered a card.

You can exclude your son's name from credit reporting agencies' lists for unsolicited credit and insurance offers. The toll-free number to opt out of these unsolicited offers (which simultaneously gets the word to all of the national credit reporting agencies) is 888-5OPTOUT, or 888-567-8688. Here's info: www.experian.com (click on "Personal Services," "Credit Education," "Preventing Fraud," and the "Preapproved Credit Offers").

You might also ask the credit bureaus to put notations in your son's credit files stating not to issue credit in his name. Credit bureaus usually do this only in cases of fraud, but it will not hurt -- and may help -- to ask.

If your son does run up the tab on another card, think twice before you pay off the debt. Usually, legal guardians are not responsible for paying the debts of their charges. And if your son does not have a job, own any property, or have large sums of money, he may be judgment-proof. That means if a creditor sues him for nonpayment of credit card debt and wins, it may not be able to collect anything from him. Finally, your son may not be legally responsible for card debts if he is not mentally capable of entering into a contract.

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