Liz Pulliam Weston wrote an article responding to someone who wrote to her, asking what they should do in the following situation:
A woman’s sister has stolen the information of their mother…
and committed an identity theft, getting loans or other credit in the mother’s name, to the tune of $30,000.
The question of the person writing in is basically that Mom and Dad don’t want to file a police report on their own daughter, but if they don’t, they’re stuck holidng the bag, because the $30,000 was taken out in the mother’s name.
I’m generally a fan of Ms. Weston. She is very knowledgeable with regard to financial matters. However, her advice in this situation seems less than adequate to me.
What she advises the sister to do is have everyone in the family place credit freezes on their accounts, and to then point her parents in the direction of the Identity Theft Resource Center (a very helpful group). While credit freezes are, generally speaking, the best way to prevent criminals from using your personal credit to their advantage, and credit freezes probably are the right thing for everyone in the family to do in this case, Ms. Weston has only addressed one of the five major types of Identity Theft.
What if the daughter decides to use the mother’s health insurance information to get treated, or tested for disease (which can later show up on the mother’s Medical Records)?
What if the daughter decides to get a driver’s license in her mother or sister’s name and gets a DUI or other ticket?
What if the daughter applies for a job in the mother’s name, and the mother is now responsible to pay the IRS the taxes on that job?
A credit freeze only addresses 20% of the problems that this family can face going forward, which is why I consider this advice to be less-than-adequate.
This is their daughter, the mother of their grandchildren, and certainly, they have spent more than $30,000 in the process of raising her. While the parents may be able to recover from this loss, $30,000 is a lot of money. If their daughter is allowed to simply get away from this issue by pawning her debt off on her parents, then she is free to rationalize that if it was okay to do it once, it’s okay to do it again, and if it was okay to commit identity theft using her own mother’s information, then why not the information of her kids, her neighbors, or even complete strangers? It’s not that hard to get someone else’s name, address, and social security number, which is all you need to get approved for credit in their name.
All unknown circumstances excluded, the SuperSleuth thinks that it is really in the best interest of everyone, including the public at large, for the parents to file a police report, and set up a system which monitors not only their credit, but also the rest of their public information that is available under the freedom of information act. They need a plan which will monitor their DMV Records, their MIB (Medical Information Bureau) Records, and (supposedly) non-public information like their Social Security Record.
What do the rest of the SuperSleuths think? Your comments below are most welcome.