The bond between a parent and his or her child is supposed to be one of the most selfless and pure in the human condition. Of course, history tells us that’s not always true. It’s Shakespearean and would fit nicely in a modern day Romeo and Juliet; indeed, they are mysterious and dark and unrelenting when those bonds are broken because of such material desires as credit ratings and the latest clothing trends.
Like Taking Candy from a Baby…Literally
What happens when a child steals her mother’s Visa or a parent, after trashing his own credit rating, takes the identity of his toddler son, thinking he has years to right the wrong? It happens and worse, it happens often. Just last week, a father turned his daughter into law enforcement after learning she’d stolen his credit card and withdrew $30 in cash.
He told law enforcement that he was sure his daughter, who is 22, was the one responsible for fraud, partly because it had been used at her former employer, a local pizza shop. Court documents filed in Superior Court in Massachusetts show that she has been charged with theft and using a stolen and/or fraudulently obtained credit card. This father is clearly determined to teach his daughter that stealing is wrong that it matters little if it was $30 or $3,000. It’s a lesson she won’t soon forget.
But there’s a new trend, this time it’s the parents who are betraying the trust of their children, even if those children are too young to understand such emotions as trust and faith. There are many young adults who can attest to the years of problems that result when a parent steals their identity when their children, only to annihilate their credit ratings before they’re even old enough to begin creating a credit history for themselves.
19 and $100K in Debt
Two years ago, Larry Braziel, who was 27 at the time, sat down with ABC News to tell his story. At the time, he said he’d spent years trying to pick up the pieces and “clean up” his credit. He learned there was a problem when he was 19 and received a call from a collection agency demanding payment for a credit card in his name. The only problem was, he didn’t own a credit card. Turns out he was more than $100,000 in debt – and he’d just graduated high school. After he’d pulled his credit report, he learned that not only was he in major financial trouble, but he was the proud owner of a home he never knew existed. He owed more than $41,000 on that mortgage – one that was taken out before he was even legally able to do so. Turns out, his father had used his social security number to open a number of credit accounts, including the mortgage and several credit card accounts.
He soon learned that his father likely had very little trouble in opening the accounts,
It’s extremely easy to do, especially when the father and the son have the same name.
ID Theft Growing
Millions of Americans become victims of identity theft; two years ago, there were around 6 million of those victims. And now, this new trend is become more than worrisome: it’s nearing epidemic proportions. In 2010, 13% of identity victims were made so because of someone they know, most often a family member. However, TransUnion reports those numbers are now closer to 32%. That’s a lot of family members stealing identities from other family members. Not only that, but identity theft in any form is the fastest growing crime in the U.S. For victims like Braziel, it can be far more time consuming and emotionally taxing. After all, not only had he been victimized for years, but then there’s the the fact that it was his own father doing the crime.
And if you think this is just a brief frustration that’s easily fixed and forgotten, think again. On average, TransUnion reports it takes hundreds of dollars and more than 30 hours to correct the damage done by these fraudsters. Of course, some cases take much more time and far more money to repair.
The fact is, parents have easy access to their child’s information; it’s their job to ensure a social security number is issued. It can be tempting for some of those parents to start anew with a fresh new identity that will allow them to bypass their own past financial mistakes and then roll the dice with the future of their offspring.
Parents are privy to children’s information and if they’re desperate enough, or if they’re that type of person – they seem to have no reluctance using their children’s social security number,
said Linda Foley of the Identity Theft Resource Center.
So are most parents and children like the ones who believed turning his daughter in over a $30 cash withdrawal was the only way to ensure she learned her lesson or do these family members opt to keep law enforcement out of the picture? Most, including Braziel, chose not to bring law enforcement into the mix. He referred to it as an “emotional rollercoaster”. For Braziel, he said he wondered what kind of horrible son would he be if he turned his father in.
So what can an adult child do when he learns his own parent has set him up for a lot of headaches and emotional turmoil? First, identity theft experts say it’s important to request copies of your credit report so that you can see just how bad the damage is. You can’t fix it if you don’t know how deep the problems run.
If it’s some kind of legal protection, such as a fraud alert, you’re looking for, odds are you’ll have to report the crime. That’s a tough call since the punishment could mean decades behind bars. No adult child (or any child) wants to see his parent in jail. Many say there’s really no other options, regardless of how difficult it is. Others, however, disagree and say it’s not realistic to believe a son or daughter (or mother or father) would actually be the catalyst for sending his parent to jail for an extended period of time.
Either way, it’s important to get a handle on just how bad things are as soon as possible so that you can turn the train around. If nothing else, you’re now aware that your family member is capable of committing those types of fraud. That’s a difficult truth to have to live with.