Get Out of Debt Guy

My Mother Stole My Identity and Took Out a Discover Card

Posted July 24, 2015

Question:

Dear Steve,

I am now a sophomore in college, during my first semester in college my mother took $1,000 from my financial aid refund because my bank account was connected with hers since I was not 18 at the time I opened my bank account.

My mother has a bad history of taking money from people, she took a lot of money from my older brother when he first started college the same way she took money from me, from what our father told me she took all the money from our bank accounts that he would deposit money into weekly while we were children when they separated, we couldn't live in our house that had been damaged by a tree during a storm because she wanted some of the money from the insurance company (they resolved the issue by my father giving her $30,000 after getting a divorce, which forced him to pay the remainder of the repair costs out of his pocket), and I believe my father has recieved a letter or two from the IRS about debts that he was not aware of which she had taken out in his name (I've witnessed her say shady things about using his social security number).

Recently I checked my credit score for the first time while on the phone with my father and my credit score was very low. My father explained that my student loans would make my credit score low and the loans that appeared on the credit report seemed to match what the loans display on the financial aid information displayed by my school.

The strange thing was that there was a credit card with Discover in my name with an Open CC Debt of $540 and the credit card limit is $500. It's strange because I have never applied for a credit card in my life and I have never dealt with any banks besides BB&T and PNC and that was only to open a savings and checkings account and get a debit card. Then there are 11 credit inquiries. (I'll type them in the way they appear.)

Lender Type
SCREENING REPORTS, I Miscellaneous
CBNA Oil Companies
CCB/PPC Oil Companies
CCB/PPC Finance
CCB/BML Oil Companies
CCB/BML Bank
CHASE BANK USA, N. A Oil Companies
SYNCB/JCP National Credit Cards/Airlines
DISCOVER Finance
SYNCB/AMERICAN EAGLE Oil Companies
SYNCB/AEVISA Bank

I have no clue what any of these things mean but I know that I had nothing to do with anything they involved. I kept reading and it shows that my employer is JTRANSIT and I have no clue what that is about since I have never been employed in my life, even the phone number listed for me is incorrect.

Knowing my mother, my father and I both agree that she is probably behind it in some way, I might be wrong but I think the JTRANSIT is her boyfriend's trucking company or something like that because I think I see letters and papers that have JTRANSIT on it around the house.

Is there a way I can find out about the credit card that is apparently in my name?

Why is there an employer listed for me when I've never been employed?

Is there a way I can prevent these random things from happening to me even though my mother knows my social security number?

Christian

Answer:

Dear Christian,

I'd love to tell you I'm shocked and surprised by this, but I'm not. Identity theft is a bit like date rape, it often is perpetrated by people we know. Over the years I've seen many cases of parents and kids stealing the identities of each other. Roommates get in the act as well. Typically it has to do with access to sensitive information and opportunity.

Based on what you shared I would suspect your mother is fooling around with your credit. It looks like there have been a number of inquiries for new cards. Gas cards are usually the easiest to get so fraudsters know to go after these first for easy credit.

To best protect yourself moving forward we need to both protect your credit and clean up the mess.

On the mess side there is the issue of the frequent inquiries and card you don't recognize. I would contact Discover at 1-888-251-8003 and report the fraudulent activity to get off the hook on this account and not be held liable for it. Discover may ask you to file a complaint if you confirm this is not your card with Discover. They may also ask you to file a police complaint and that will implicate your mother.

Both the number of inquiries and fraudulent card are negative impacting your credit report.

Your father said your student loans hurt your credit as well. I would disagree with that position. While the amount of debt to income ratio is important in determining your credit score, you have no income at the moment. But I think the factor that hurts having good credit more is not having a history of the responsible use of credit. You don't have that.

A credit score has to be based on something and your credit report seems to contain just student loans which count less, a bunch of inquiries which hurt you, and a fraudulent card.

When you get ready to build your credit you are best to turn to a secured credit card that will report your good account to the credit bureaus and show responsible use. You don't need more inquires for unsecured credit and rejection.

On the protection side of this issue I would urge you to go to AnnualCreditReport.com and get a free copy of each of the three major credit bureau reports about you. Look them over carefully and for every item on your credit report you don't recognize, dispute it. The instructions to disputing items will be on the reports.

Based on the likelihood of you being a victim of identity theft by your mother I would suggest you consider freezing your credit report. There are pros and cons to this approach. Read this article for more details.

The credit freeze will give you the most restriction to your credit report by your mother but can also be a pain in the butt for you as well when you need to access your credit report.

You can also decide to pay for a three bureau credit monitoring service to keep tabs on real time activity of your credit reports. Here is one such provider of the service. There are others but look for three bureau monitoring.

Once you confirm the fraudulent activity on your credit report you can ask each of the three credit bureaus to add an extended fraud victim statement. As Experian says, "If you find evidence of fraud on your credit report, you may want to add a seven-year victim statement to your credit report that asks potential credit grantors to call you before granting credit in your name. If you did not apply for credit, you can instruct the creditor not to process the application. This should prevent a new account from being established using your identification information. The victim statement has a section for two phone numbers to display."

That is a middle ground to just putting a total freeze on your credit.

There is no doubt that dealing with this situation and protecting yourself moving forward is going to take work on your part. But keep in mind all of this was probably caused by your mother so if you want to blame someone for the administrative pain in the butt you are going to have to go through to fix this, blame her.

And finally, go get a bank account in just your own name and start being solely responsible for all the money in your name. It's the best way to stop other people from dipping into your money.

Steve Rhode
WRAL Get Out of Debt Guy

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About this Blog:

Steve Rhode has had careers in opthalmology, real estate and as the head of a nonprofit debt counseling firm. On his blog, he offers hard-won, free advice about getting out of debt, consolidation and making the right choices as you manage your money.