Family Fraud: When Mom Steals Your Identity

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Mom son identity theft fraudYou probably already shred sensitive financial documents and keep your Social Security card locked in a safe place. But have you made sure your mother isn't digging in your trash for discarded credit card solicitations?

A 2012 identity fraud report by Javelin Strategy & Research says that cases of identity theft increased by 13 percent in 2011, with more than 11.6 million U.S. adults becoming victims. But that study doesn't reveal an even scarier reality about identity theft -- how many thieves are actually related to their victims.

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According to a 2011 study by ID Analytics, approximately 500,000 children under the age of 18 have had their identity stolen by their parents, and about 2 million elderly parents have been victimized by their adult children.

Cynthia Hampton (Courtesy photo)Cynthia Hampton, a certified credit counselor with ClearPoint Credit Counseling Solutions in Memphis, has seen several cases of family-instigated identity theft. But there's one in particular that stands out.

"A woman came to me several years ago and asked to be put on a debt repayment plan for five credit card accounts that she could no longer handle," says Hampton. "She had been making the minimum payments on them all so there weren't any late fees yet, but she was laid off and her unemployment compensation wouldn't cover the bills."

When Hampton pulled up the accounts, she discovered all five of them were in the woman's adult son's name. She had used his Social Security number, signed applications in his name, and maxed out the credit limits on all five accounts, charging approximately $13,000 worth of purchases.

"The mother wanted to do the right thing and pay off these credit card bills, but unfortunately I couldn't help her because none of the cards were in her name," says Hampton. "She was trying to pay them off before he found out what she had done."

Payoff Vs. Prosecution

When the son found out, he was furious, but unless he wanted to press charges against his mother, he was responsible for the debt. It took three years on a debt management plan to eliminate the the debt and repair his credit score, starting with a monthly payment of $272 that he eventually increased to $499 per month.

"It's sad, but I actually hear stories like this all the time about family members opening accounts in relatives' names," Hampton explains. In some cases -- like that of the mother of a 19-year-old who'd been putting credit cards, utility bills and cellphone contracts in her daughter's name since the girl was 12 years old -- the parent is committing out and out fraud.

"Nine times out of 10, if the family members have a good relationship, the person who committed identity theft will at least help pay for some of the debt," says Hampton. "But some people will deny to the end what they did, even if it's obvious."

Protect Yourself From Loved Ones (and Strangers)

Straightening out identity theft can be even more difficult when a family member is involved, because their relatives often refuse to file a police report.

Hampton says everyone should take the following steps to protect themselves:
  • Safeguard your Social Security number, even from your family. "Ninety-nine percent of the time, Social Security won't issue a new number, so you'll need to fix the damage to your credit regardless of who's responsible," says Hampton.
  • Don't just tear up your mail, shred it. "You'd be surprised how many people are willing to tape together a piece of mail to get your information," she says.
  • Check your credit report every year carefully to make sure everything on it belongs to you.
  • Beware of anyone you think might use your information and be even more vigilant around them about your mail, your online accounts and your ID numbers.
None of those steps would have helped the 19-year-old escape her mother's actions, but she may have found out about her situation a little earlier if she had checked her credit report as soon as she turned 18.

Michele Lerner is a contributing writer to The Motley Fool.

Jean Chatzky on Identity Theft [DailyFinance]


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15 Comments

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Rhianon

ROFLMAO......I got an email stating that my comment from a couple of days ago violated their policy! Can you believe that?! WOW! Whatever. How rediculous. I've seen worse on here.

February 05 2013 at 11:43 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
nyriza

My exgirlfriend's mother did this to her. Her mother is scum. That's the nicest thing I can say about her. Her daughter will probably end up the same way.

February 05 2013 at 4:21 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
nyriza

That is so idiot. Who the hell is checking their credit report at 18?????????????????

February 05 2013 at 4:21 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to nyriza's comment
nyriza

Oops. I meant idiotic.

February 05 2013 at 4:25 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
vlady1000

Wow, hard to imagine doing that....a spending addiction of some kind and it takes somebody that has no concept at all of the damages this can cause to the kid (both in the realtionship and financially). Parents are to be there to help!!!!!!!

February 05 2013 at 12:00 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
miamiprep

I know it might be difficult, but why wouldn't the child file charges so the evil parent could be prosecuted?!!!

February 04 2013 at 8:54 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to miamiprep's comment
nyriza

You sound like a lowlife.

February 05 2013 at 4:22 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Don Collins

Reminds me of someone know !

February 04 2013 at 2:41 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
frenchblue367

I call bu#$h!t on this story. Though the message is a good one, the examples are pure fantasy. The 19-year old son--well, he was a 'son' at the beginning of the story:

"When Hampton pulled up the accounts, she discovered all five of them were in the woman's adult son's name. She had used his Social Security number, signed applications in his name, and maxed out the credit limits on all five accounts, charging approximately $13,000 worth of purchases."


The son either had a sex-change or morphed into a daughter:

"None of those steps would have helped the 19-year-old escape her mother's actions, but she may have found out about her situation a little earlier if she had checked her credit report as soon as she turned 18.

Okay, I get the message here. Protect your SS# from everybody, even family, as they may potentially be a threat to your credit. I get it. But why the fictitious stories? They couldn't even stick with consistencies such as the person's gender!

February 04 2013 at 1:22 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to frenchblue367's comment
Storm

There were two stories there..one a woman defrauded her son and the 2nd one where a women did it to her daughter,,,need When you are a minor which the girl was you cannot protect nyour SS number from your parents..the son has no idea what the mother had done until she lost her job because he apparentlyt had never applied for credit yet as he was only 19..

February 04 2013 at 4:20 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
nyriza

Try learning how to read.

February 05 2013 at 4:24 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
gmydogbud

When a parent does this, the child should never see them again and they should be put in jail. However with our justice system or lack there of, they are most likely receive little or no time as they will be called misunderstood, troubled or unbalanced.

February 04 2013 at 9:36 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to gmydogbud's comment
setanta_1

with the system---

February 04 2013 at 10:28 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to setanta_1's comment
setanta_1

HOW IT sometimes goes is bad------PROVE YOU didn't do IT.
they'll wave that papers around showing you your name etc

February 04 2013 at 10:29 PM Report abuse rate up rate down
ramyadivya

Protecting our personal information is important to prevent the risks of ID theft. Just read an informative whitepaper on " Wire fraud and Identity theft : Risks and prevention for Banks and consumers",readers will find helpful @ bit.ly/S639ew

February 04 2013 at 6:23 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply