Personal Finance: Parental pilfering

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Michelle Singletary
Thursday, June 17, 2010; 9:08 AM

Identity theft is a growing problem, and there is one form of this troubling trend that really stuns me.

Some parents are stealing their kids' identity and using it open up credit card accounts, take out loans or are putting utilities in their children's names. I met a young woman whose mother took out thousands of dollars in student loans in her daughter's name. The mother now can't pay back the money so the daughter is left with the debt.

In Financial abuses of deadbeat parents, Blake Ellis reports on the long-term consequences of parental identity theft that has left many adult children desperately in debt.

Linda Foley, founder of the Identity Theft Resource Center, says, "Some parents will do this because they still want to buy things they can't afford, and the easiest opportunity to do this for someone who is really desperate is to use their own family members."

However, Robert Siciliano, chief executive of IDTheftSecurity.com, says there are some parents who steal their child's identity for other reasons.

In the report Siciliano says, "Parents who are compromising their child's identity are generally doing it because of a need, like a single mom whose electric bill is too high and the lights get turned off, so the path of least resistance is putting it under the baby's name."

Many of the victims don't prosecute their parents. As a result, these young adults are forced to either pay the bills themselves or deal with decades of bad credit.

I wrote about this trend a few years ago.

I understand the reluctance to turn in your mom or pop, but I wouldn't take the financial hit to compensate for a parent's dishonesty. What about you?

Has this happened to you? What did you do? In fact, I'll make this the Color of Money Question of the Week: "Would you rat out your mom or dad if she or he stole your identity? Send your comments to colorofmoney@washpost.com. Put "Pilfering Parents" in the subject line.

Let's Chat Today

I hope you remembered I'm hosting an online chat today about this month's Color of Money Book Club selection. My guest is Reyna Gobel, author of "Graduation Debt: How to Manage Student Loans and Live Your Life."


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