Identity theft is a serious and rapidly growing crime that can have significant consequences for its victims. While we often think of identity thieves as anonymous hackers, a shocking reality is that the perpetrators can be much closer to home. In some cases, it’s the parents themselves who are stealing their children’s identities, wreaking havoc on their credit scores and financial futures.
In this article, we will delve into the alarming trend of parents committing identity theft against their own children. We will explore the devastating impact this crime has on credit scores and provide actionable steps for victims to repair their credit and protect themselves from future fraud.
- The Widespread Problem of Child Identity Theft
- The Shocking Reality: Parents as Identity Thieves
- The Emotional Consequences for Victims
- The Financial Impact on Credit Scores
- Steps to Repair Credit and Protect Against Future Fraud
The Widespread Problem of Child Identity Theft
Child identity theft is a pervasive issue that continues to affect countless families. A landmark study by Carnegie Mellon CyLab found that children are uniquely vulnerable to identity theft, with 10% of the children analyzed having someone else using their Social Security number. This means that children are 51 times more likely to fall victim to identity theft than adults.
One in 50 U.S. children falls victim to identity theft every year, according to a study by Javelin Strategy. What is even more alarming is that 73% of these victims are targeted by someone they know personally, often a family member. The close relationship between the perpetrator and the victim makes it even more challenging to address this issue.
The Shocking Reality: Parents as Identity Thieves
It is a heartbreaking truth that parents, who should be the protectors of their children, can become the perpetrators of identity theft. The story of Axton Betz-Hamilton is a prime example of this disturbing phenomenon. When Betz-Hamilton set up her first utility bill at college, she discovered that her credit rating had been destroyed due to identity theft. To her shock, she found that her own mother was behind the fraudulent credit card entries that had plagued her credit history since she was 11 years old.
The motives behind parents committing identity theft vary. In some cases, families facing dire financial circumstances or grappling with addiction resort to stealing their children’s identities to access clean Social Security numbers. Parents may also be driven by a desire to maintain an illusion of wealth and impress others with material possessions.
The Emotional Consequences for Victims
Discovering that your own parents have stolen your identity can lead to a barrage of emotions. Betrayal, anger, and confusion are common reactions for victims. The sense of trust and security within the family unit is shattered, leaving victims to grapple with the emotional fallout of the crime.
One anonymous victim shared her experience of finding out about her mother’s identity theft when she was a junior in college. She described the struggle of confronting her mother, fearing retaliation and the potential damage it could cause to their relationship. The emotional toll of such a revelation is immense, and it takes time for victims to process their emotions and come to terms with the actions of their parents.
The Financial Impact on Credit Scores
Identity theft has a severe and lasting impact on victims’ credit scores. Betz-Hamilton’s credit score plummeted to 380, well below the average American FICO score of 714. Repairing the damage to her credit took significant time and financial resources. She had to start by obtaining a credit card from a subprime lender with exorbitant interest rates and a low credit limit. Even securing a car loan became a challenge, with high-interest rates making it akin to putting a used car on a credit card.
The financial consequences of parents stealing their children’s identities extend beyond the immediate damage to credit scores. Victims may find it difficult to secure loans, credit cards, or even rent an apartment due to their tarnished credit history. The impact on their financial future can be long-lasting and hinder their ability to achieve financial stability.
Steps to Repair Credit and Protect Against Future Fraud
If you have discovered that your parents have committed identity theft and damaged your credit, it’s essential to take action to repair the damage and protect yourself from future fraud. Here are the steps you should follow:
1. Review your credit history
To understand the extent of the damage, request your credit reports from the three major consumer credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. You are entitled to one free credit report from each bureau per year, and you can obtain them through AnnualCreditReport.com. Go through your credit reports carefully, noting all fraudulent accounts that you did not open.
2. Report the identity theft
Reporting the identity theft is a crucial step in rectifying the situation. By law, you can have fraudulent accounts removed from your credit report, and many states have laws protecting consumers from liability for debts incurred through identity theft. To support your claim, file an identity theft report online at IdentityTheft.gov. This report will serve as documentation when disputing fraudulent accounts with creditors and credit bureaus.
3. Notify credit bureaus and creditors
Contact the credit bureaus, Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion, to inform them of the fraudulent accounts. File disputes online and provide your identity theft report as evidence. While the credit bureaus are obligated to inform creditors about fraudulent accounts, it’s also advisable to contact each creditor directly to expedite the process of shutting down the accounts.
4. Protect yourself from future fraud
Safeguarding your personal information is crucial to prevent future identity theft. Consider freezing your credit, which blocks unauthorized access to your credit report. This prevents potential creditors, including your parents, from opening new accounts in your name. Freezing your credit is free and can be done online through each credit bureau’s website.
Another protective measure is setting up a credit fraud alert with the credit bureaus. This adds an extra layer of security, requiring creditors to verify your identity before approving any new credit applications. Additionally, regularly monitor your credit reports for any suspicious activity and be vigilant about protecting your personal information.
Discovering that your parents have stolen your identity is a devastating revelation that can have far-reaching consequences. The emotional and financial impact can be overwhelming. However, by taking immediate action to repair your credit, report the identity theft, and protect yourself from future fraud, you can regain control of your financial future. Remember, you are not alone in this struggle, and there are resources available to support you in the process of recovery. Stay vigilant, protect your personal information, and seek assistance from professionals if needed.