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Saturday, August 23, 2008

When A Family Member Commits Identity Theft

I applied for and received my first credit card in college. I had no credit history, so I had a clean slate to start with. Soon after, pre-approved credit card offers started arriving at my apartment and my parent's house. The temptation was too much for my mom. She applied for and received two credit cards in my name. I first suspected that something was up when an envelope addressed to me arrived in the mail, but she refused to let me see it. Even though I had a nagging suspicion and a bad feeling, I chose to ignore them. She was my mom, after all. I didn't think she would ever do anything malicious to me.

After I graduated, I noticed statements arriving at the house for credit cards I didn't have. I opened one and discovered it had a $6000 balance. I didn't want to say anything, and I didn't. I still wanted to believe that my mom would never do anything to hurt me, but eventually, I did ask when the balance continued rising. She told me she was building my credit for me. I was young and had no practical knowledge about finances, so I accepted her excuse, even though the idea still felt wrong.

About five years later, my mom quit her job to open an antique store. She needed money to purchase inventory, rent a building and pay start-up fees. She borrowed against her retirement fund, and when that was tapped out, she cashed checks from credit card companies. I should rephrase that: she cashed checks from my credit card companies. I remained blissfully unaware until I noticed my statements no longer arrived in the mail, and when I called the bank, my balance had doubled. My mom tearfully admitted she had made charges on my card. She promised to pay me back and never do it again. I believed her until my balanced tripled and then finally maxed out. My mother never gave me any money towards her charges, even when confronted. I paid off the balance over the course of five years, totally unaware of the total impact my mom had made on my credit.

Those credit cards she had taken out when I was in college returned to haunt me, and still haunt me, long after I thought they had been cancelled. After maxing out the credit limits, she defaulted on them. They were sent to collection agencies, and the collection agencies came after me.

I had become much more financially savvy, and after my mom had stolen checks and statements from me, I switched my mail to a post office box so she no longer had access to them. The first letter from a collection agency arrived at my box announcing I had 30 days to pay a balance of $7000 or I would be prosecuted. I pulled my credit report and did some research. Then I wrote a carefully worded letter based on ones I'd seen on the ID Theft Center website. That collection agency never contacted me again, and the collection account and all things associated with it were removed from my credit report. According to my credit report, another default card was still out, and I took action to get it removed as well. I wrote letters and disputed the account on the credit report. I wasn't so lucky this time.

Since I lived with my parents, the majority of my mail arrived there, including letters related to that other card. It had a massive balance, and with interest and past due charges, the bank wanted almost $30,000. I knew about the card, and I took as much action as I could without filing a police report.

I never saw letters from the creditors. My mom accepted the summons to appear in court. I never saw that either. I knew nothing about the extensive court proceedings, or my mom's involvement, until I stumbled upon some court records at work. I could only stare in disbelief, not really certain what to do. The court had tried and failed to contact me, and they were about to garnish my wages. I chose not to confront my mother. Instead, I called a legal assistance program offered by my employer. They put me in touch with an attorney who agreed to take on the case and find out what had happened. I was left with the unpleasant task of talking to my mother.

She couldn't understand how I had found out. She had gone to great lengths to keep me in the dark about the whole mess. She had intercepted all letters she could. She had spoken to the sheriff when he came to the house, assuring him I had nothing of value. She had appeared in court in my name, but the day the judgment was rendered she had been unable to appear because of a doctor's appointment. She tried to call the court, but they refused to cancel or move the court date. She swore she never thought the case would result in a judgment. She hired an attorney to try to clear up the situation. The best the attorney could offer was to have me sign over all of my assets and accounts to my mom so I truly owned nothing. At this point, I knew more about finances, and I had no intention of signing anything over to the woman who had created the entire mess. Instead, I took the case back to court.

My attorney gave me copies of the court records where my mom had signed my name. He recommended I find a new place to live, and he advised against signing anything over to my mother. I had never filed a police report, because I didn't want to send my mom to jail. The rest of my family urged me to settle the whole situation out of court, set up a payment plan and just pay off the balance. I had already paid off one balance, and I didn't intend to pay this one. My attorney wanted my mom to sign an affidavit admitting her guilt, but when I asked her she informed me that she did not want to be saddled with the $30,000 worth of debt. I let the case go to trial.

Part of the process involved filing a fraud report with the creditor. I listed my mom as the thief who stole my identity. The creditor withdrew the case and the judgment was thrown out, but it remains on my credit report. It will be there for another five years. It affects everything I try to do. When I bought my house, I had to provide copies of court records. I cannot get new credit cards, and any loans automatically have a higher interest rate. Even though the nightmare has passed, its effects have not.

Financial ghosts of the mess will probably stick around to haunt me for years to come. I have developed phobias related to debt and money. I feel guilty for spending money and worry constantly about debt, even though my monthly income is more than enough to live comfortably. I cannot trust my family's advice related to financial matters. When I look at my mom, I have a slow, seething anger towards her that I'm not sure will ever go away. I feel obligated to love her, when in reality I want nothing to do with her. I resisted turning the theft over to the police, but if this same situation were to happen again, I wouldn't hesitate. I wouldn't let family ties stand in the way of justice.

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13 Comments:

Anonymous Adam said...

It's kind of hard to believe that that is a true story. In your blog you don't seem angry at all at your mom for doing that...

Monday, September 01, 2008 11:49:00 AM  
Blogger Vicki said...

This is a very true story, and I am very angry at my mom. I can talk about this now without sounding angry. I barely speak to my family anymore.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008 12:22:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I completely believe you and know you are telling the truth. Usually, a person will try to discredit you when you tell your story. My mom did a lot of crazy things to me. Sure enough, somebody in complete ignorance, tries to discredit the truth. Don't feel bad, they did the same thing to me. My mother tried to throw me out of the house, and when she did she called up my school and told them I ran away. I could tell you story after story, but I don't want to even talk about it anymore. I know how you feel! *Big hugs* Just know you are not the only one who had gone through some pretty horrific situations from a family member(s). I went through some really horrifying things that took many years to overcome. I think I suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder for years. And yea, to make matters worse, a bunch of people who are totally ignorant in their approach tried to discredit me. Don't worry! Be strong because you can overcome this. Move away, and start your life over again. Put this behind you and forgive. That's what I've had to do, and I really am happy once I focus on all the good things in my life. I have a friend who had a mother just like that. Worse yet, her father was raping her. I found a lot of comfort talking to her because when I heard her story, I didn't feel so bad. It's great to find another person to talk to that went through something much worse. Hey, at least your dad wasn't raping you on top of you mother stealing from you. Take comfort in knowing you're not alone!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010 10:29:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This shit happens! My sister/best friend/life companion who i love so dearly had for 3 years taken out every line of credit out in my name. And she's 40 years old! Mother of 3. Not a crack addict, just a selfish bitch! That was 2 years ago i found out. I was coached by everyone into paying off her debts and letting it go! I did. What a mistake!

She just stole 15,000 out of my moms business bank account in which she may have to shut down, cause she can't pay her staff! She stole the debit card numbers right out of her home.

I believe it didn't start with me, but started with her 3 gorgous kids. I know she's done this to them, but her husband won't help me find out. He keeps protecting her. AHHHHH

Friday, August 06, 2010 7:01:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My mother did something very similar to me, telling me that she had taken on a second mortgage to pay for my college, when in fact she had forged loan papers in my name. I even have a copy of the master promissory note in her handwriting and with a forged signature on it. Then, naturally, she defaulted on $50,000 in federal funds. My credit is toast.
I also have not filed a police report, as she is after all my only mom, and she and I have worked thus far with the collection agency to set up a payment plan, but she keeps threatening (if I don't visit at xmas, if I don't call on mother's day, etc) to stop "taking care of someone else's (ie, my) problem for someone (ie, me) so ungrateful."
Having come through this, what advice would you give?
Thanks, Vicki, and MASSIVE hugs to you. There are certainly easier ways to discover your own personal strength, ha ha, but you are tremendous for what you have done so far.

Thursday, January 06, 2011 11:10:00 AM  
Blogger Steve Brown said...

Hmmmm...so you mom commits a heinous crime against you, and then she adds insult to injury by calling you "ungrateful." IMO, if you don't take action against her in a way that will teach her a lesson, she will commit more evil acts against you in the future. She's needs to learn that what she did is exceptionally evil. Your patience and understand WILL NOT be rewarded. Trust me.

Thursday, January 06, 2011 11:41:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I seriously believe you, my mom has done a very similiar thing! I am 20 and in college, my credit is absolutely DONE! I am now reading up on the entire situation and plan to take action; however, it is going to be extremely difficult because I do not want to send her to jail...I have a lot of animosity towards her.

Sunday, January 09, 2011 4:59:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My husbands mom did the same thing. We are in ruins our dream of ever owning a home may never come true.

Thursday, May 24, 2012 8:11:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I totally believe everything you wrote here as it is exactly what my parents have done to me for years.
"Adam" is either an ignorant troll or he is your mother behind the screen working hard to discredit you.
"In your blog you don't seem angry"????
When you live with creeps for parents like this you do everything in your power not to let the anger destroy you. They are snakes. And all you can do to maintain sanity is simply list it out for others to see and try to detach yourself from it, but your description is enough to make me very angry FOR you, and it is exactly what both of my parents did to me.
Like you, I made the big fat mistake of TRUSTING them.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012 10:57:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I recently discovered the evil side of my mother then I stumbled upon your blog. I was looking for guidance on what to do about my own mother stealing my identity and opening new lines of credit in my name. I wanted to improve my credit but my mother obviously doesn't care about me. She is a Jesus freak in the sense that she has used God to control me my whole life. I recently broke free of from her over the past few years. I didn't officially put in a verified change of address with the post office until now. I'm glad that I did change it now. As the new mail started coming in I recognized bills from a company I never opened an account with before. When I first opened it and called to dispute it I never suspected my own mother would do it. Then I thought back to when I was a minor and she opened a cable account in my name. It all makes sense to me now. I wish I would have realized the worst ones are your family because they know everything about you. Anyway, I just filed an affidavit for several of the disputes and I am questioning if I should take it to court. Should I just let it go? I've ignored her for the time being but I know my family will be on her side when they hear about it. She always finds a way to spin the wheel in her favor and I'm sick of it. They would say to me," If you care about your mother then let it go." But if she cared anything about me she wouldn't have committed a crime against her own daughter. I don't think it's fair that family gets a free pass. Meanwhile, my credit will suffer and so will my name if I continue to let it go right? what would you do?

Tuesday, April 30, 2013 3:18:00 PM  
Blogger Steve Brown said...

> " If you care about your mother then let it go..."

Anyone who gives you that advice is a sociopath just like your mother.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013 3:42:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I feel your pain - I have a brother that forged my signature on a business contract and he even testified at a sworn deposition when his deed was uncovered that I signed that contract before I even found out about it. He was going to let me burn for that, and now that I am trying to put him behind bars because I know he's not going to grow up and change at almost 52 years old, my family thinks that I am the evil one and "full of hate." Really? To h*** with them, I'm forging ahead to ensure my name and financial future are safe. I'll be 50 early next year and I work for the federal gov't and losing a job after 50 is NOT a good thing...my good name is of the utmost importance (working for the gov't) and I can't go through life wondering what other documents this clown has signed my name to. The family will have to come around. If they don't, OH WELL, I will have preserved my identity.

Tuesday, October 08, 2013 9:27:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I believe you and Im dealing with this situation with my old sister of ten years. Thank you all because now I'm going to take action against her.

Monday, November 30, 2015 12:56:00 PM  

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