Am I liable for paying utility bills that a friend opened in my name without my knowledge?

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Am I liable for paying utility bills that a friend opened in my name without my knowledge?

A friend opened a gas and electric accounts at her apartment using my name without my knowledge. I found out about it a few months later after she moved to Georgia, when I received letters from collection agencies. Neither company had my SSN on file for those accounts. I do not have a forwarding address for her. The utility companies are stating that I am liable for the outstanding balances on the bills which total just under $2,000. Both companies state that I should pay them and pursue her in court. Is this correct? What should I do?

Asked on December 7, 2010 under Bankruptcy Law, New Jersey

Answers:

M.T.G., Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

You need to start by taking a deep breath.  Next, I need to ask: were you on the lease for the apartment that incurred these charges?  I am assuming not.  Then you need to write a letter to the utilities asking them for a copy of the signed contract that you made with them regarding the apartment in question and for a copy of the lease with your name on it.  Copy the Public Utilities Commission in your state.  Then call the state Attorney General's Office as well to see if they can be of any help.  They have a consumer rights division.  Next, get an affidavit (or at least a letter) from the landlord of the apartment your friend rented stating that you were never a tenant there and signed no lease for the time period that the utility charges in question were incurred.  If you paid rent or utilities at another location over the same time period keep those bills too. Then wait and see what happens.  You may in fact be sued but they will still have to prove that it is you and your signature on anything.  You will present the proof you have.  At that point an attorney may be needed but ask for costs if you win.  I think you have a good shot if you have the required proof. Good luck. 


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