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How to Handle Identity Theft

Ask Savvy: My Boyfriend's Parents Ruined His Credit


Dear Savvy,

My boyfriend's family has had a lot of money problems in the past few years that they kept hidden from him. Things all came out in the open when he was kicked out of school because his parents couldn't pay his tuition, which they had told him was already paid. Turns out they had almost lost their house and had to resort to opening credit cards in both his and his brother's names, which they couldn't afford to make payments on.

He's been working hard to try and pay off the debt his parents put him in, but it seems like every time he gets close they tell him of another loan or credit card in his name that he didn't know about. He can't even go back to school because he can't get a loan anywhere to pay for it, and is now afraid he will never be able to get a good job. Is there anything he can do to help his situation, or is his credit going to be bad forever?

See my answer when you read more.

Your boyfriend's parents have stolen their son's identity. They've taken advantage of him and put him in a terrible position; how selfish to use their son's blank slate and put his own financial health in jeopardy. His parents might have a good reason for not selling their home and downsizing to something cheaper, but it's obvious they aren't concerned with taking responsibility for their situation and instead rely on their son's credit to get by.

This type of thing is unfortunately not uncommon for parents feeling desperate and just a couple weeks ago a man was arrested for using his 8-year-old son's social security number to rent his apartment. The first step is damage control: I suggest that your boyfriend request an extended fraud alert on his credit report through all three credit bureaus. He would be notified if there are any attempts to check his credit (when his parents inevitably try to open another account in his name) and would have to give permission for the alert to be lifted. Make sure that he reviews his credit report for any accounts he didn't know existed, and if he finds any he can sign an affidavit of fraud and begin the process of having those accounts removed.

Your boyfriend does have the option of filing a fraud report to dispute the existing charges, but this could prompt a criminal investigation of his parents. That's some very serious business and so is identity theft — your boyfriend needs to weigh his options and decide how far he wants to take things. Learn more about identity theft and victims' options by visiting the government's website dedicated to this type of fraud.

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