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Money Manners: How to deal with being falsely used as a reference

Dear Jeanne and Leonard: A while back, I got an email from the son of one of my aunt’s friends – a guy I don’t know – explaining that he was interviewing for a job at the environmental research firm where I used to work and asking if he could talk to me about what they look for in interviewees (his parents had gotten my contact info from my aunt). I said sure but I never heard from “Brandon” again. Later, I learned that when he went for his interview, he used me as a reference and that he subsequently got the job.

So I contacted him and asked why he’d lied about me giving him a reference. He said he was sorry, but he really needed a job. Is that a reasonable excuse? What can I do about this?

– Furious, Los Angeles

Dear Furious: Invite the little weasel over and feed him some bad clams.

Kidding aside, there’s no excuse for what Brandon did, and here’s what you should do in response: Ask your aunt to contact Brandon’s folks and say to them, in a friendly manner: “I’m calling because I’m concerned about Brandon. He used Furious as a reference when he applied for his job, even though Furious doesn’t know him. I know Brandon’s a good kid, but he must not understand that misrepresenting things when you interview can get you into trouble – even cost you your job if anyone finds out. Maybe you should explain this to him.” Since Brandon’s parents are involved enough in his life to obtain your contact info for him, you can bet they’ll let him know you’re telling friends and family about his misrepresentation.

Hopefully the embarrassment will encourage him not to lie like that again.

Also: Consider contacting your supervisor where you used to work and explaining that Brandon is not someone you know. People who are willing to lie the way Brandon did often make a habit of doing so, so you probably don’t want anyone to associate him with you. If making this call damages his career, too bad. He clearly isn’t worried about yours.


Dear Jeanne and Leonard: My ex-husband, the father of my two sons, died recently. I have a judgment for back child support. Can I collect from his estate, or am I just out of luck?

– Ex-Wife, Jackson County, Mo.

Dear Ex: Your ex-husband’s debts – whether to you or to, say, a credit card company – did not evaporate with his death. It’s the obligation of his estate to settle them. We hope this deadbeat dad was not so much of a deadbeat generally that there isn’t enough in the estate to cover all of his obligations, including the back child support he owed you.


Dear Jeanne and Leonard: I made the big mistake of lending my sister money to buy a car. Now she’s helping out her daughter financially, and she’s stopped repaying me. Whenever I ask about the payments she promised to make, she says she’s sorry, but she has to put her daughter first. Is this fair? She’s been stalling for six months, and I need the money.

– Getting Desperate, Buffalo

Dear Desperate: While it’s all well and good for your sister to help out her daughter, she had no business borrowing your money to buy a car if she didn’t plan to repay you. Look, had her daughter been arrested and left to rot in a third-world jail – had something calamitous and totally unexpected happened to your niece that money could help fix – that would be different.

But your sister isn’t “putting her daughter first”; she’s putting owning a car first and you last, and she’s just using her daughter as an excuse.

Please email your questions about money and relationships to