My friend’s teenage stepdaughter thinks she has been a victim of identity theft. The perpetrator, unfortunately, is her mother. Increasingly, children are becoming victims of identity theft as their parents, who can’t get credit themselves, hijack their information.
My first recommendation was for the daughter to get her credit report from the federally mandated free report site www.AnnualCreditReport.com so she can find out what is listed. But when she tried to order it, she discovered minors cannot request a report online from that service.
So I called my contacts at Experian (whose execs are always very quick to respond to my questions – thank you!). Their spokesperson explained that generally, minors should order their free reports by mail, and include a copy of their birth certificate, along with a copy of their parent’s driver’s license or other id to verify the current address.
This particular situation is tricky, however, because Mom may be the one misusing her daughter’s information and so the daughter can’t enlist her help. Experian offered to call the girl’s father (who lives at another address) and get a copy of her report to her through him.
What will this girl do if she does find out her mother is using her information to commit identity fraud? There is no easy answer. The companies that extended credit or services are going to want to get paid. And they aren’t likely to just say, “No problem” if she explains what happened. She probably won’t want to report her mother to the police. But if she doesn’t act, she may be stuck with bills or bad credit for years.
The best advice I could give her is to read the Identity Theft Resource Center’s guide which details the different types of adult/child identity theft and suggests ways to deal with it. The site offers numerous tips and strategies for this tragic situation.
Parents have no right to ruin their child’s credit and future in this way. If you are tempted to “borrow” your child’s information to get credit because you can’t, stop. Even if you plan on paying the bill on time, if anything goes wrong you can affect your child’s ability to get a job or go to college. Get help from a non-profit agency or debtor’s anonymous immediately.
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