family identity theft

Ask The Expert: My Mom Stole My Money, What Now?

Question: I have debt from Wells Fargo that was $125 — but in 2014 turned into $300. Now I have no idea where it is. I also owe Verizon $1,300 and Comcast $1,500, because my mother used my name and Social Security number to order these services for herself — knowing she wouldn’t pay.

I’ve never really been taught to be responsible with cash, which is kinda why when I got a lump sum of $30,000 dollars from an accident I had as a child my family guilt-tripped me into taking, stole from me, and copied down my credit card numbers to the point I’m now broke. I live with the same mother who stole from me and threatens to make me homeless if I bring it up. I just wanna know how I can clear my debts and become responsible with my money.

— Patrick in Pennsylvania

Howard Dvorkin CPA answers…

Howard Dvorkin on family identity theftI’m so sorry to hear about this, Patrick. Your family has wronged you twice: not teaching you the basic life skill of money management, and stealing whatever money you’ve managed to acquire.

Parents need to have “the talk” with their children — not just about sex but about money. You didn’t get that, but it’s not too late to learn.

First, let’s fix the problem you have right now…

Get your credit reports

Go to AnnualCreditReport.com — and only there. As I’ve detailed before, other websites offer you “free” credit reports, but then slyly try to tack on other services.

 But ACR is government-approved and completely free. You can order one credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus each year at no cost. Usually, experts advise you to order one every four months, but you need all three right away.

Once you order these reports, you’ll see what debts are outstanding and what company is holding those debts. That will answer your Wells Fargo question.

Then you need to call those companies. You may be able to negotiate with them. Of course, that raises an obvious question: Why would they be willing to negotiate with you? I explained that to another Debt.com reader back in January, so check the tactics for making those calls.

You should also check those credit reports to see if there are other credit-card accounts opened in your name by other people. Here’s what to look for. If you didn’t sign up yourself, tell those card issuers it was done so fraudulently. They’ll close them, and they’ll investigate.

Given your family history, you may want to consider credit monitoring. Given your debts, you should explore professional solutions. Debt.com has a section called Finding the Right Debt Relief Strategy.

After you do a little reading and digging, Patrick, can call one of our certified counselors at 1-800-810-0989 for a free debt analysis. They may be able to get you back on track.

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Have a debt question?

Email your question to editor@debt.com and Howard Dvorkin will review it. Dvorkin is a  CPA, chairman of Debt.com, and author of two personal finance books, Credit Hell: How to Dig Yourself Out of Debt and Power Up: Taking Charge of Your Financial Destiny.

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