A Relative Stole My Child’s Identity: What Are My Options in New Jersey?

nj identity theft

Having one’s identify stolen is stressful, and remedying the breach is complicated and time-consuming. This is all doubly true when it is not your own identity that is stolen, but rather your child’s. Worst of all: realizing that you are one of the thousands of Americans whose own relative has stolen your child’s identity.

6 in 10 of the children who are victims of identity theft know their perpetrator well. By contrast, a scant 7% of adult victims of identity theft were acquainted with the person who had stolen their information.

While it might seem obvious to you that your kindergartner couldn’t possibly have taken a weekend trip to go scuba diving without you noticing, that won’t make it any easier for you to straighten out the chaos left in the wake of child identity theft; regretfully it’s just as complicated as adult identity theft.

A child’s SSN can be even more valuable than an adult’s; after all, a child’s identity is a blank slate. That means it can be used as part of a con to seek government benefits, to open lines of credit or bank accounts, and to rent housing without conflicting information showing up on the radar.

The following guide will take you step by step through the procedure you’ll need to follow once you’ve discovered that your child’s identity is being used illegally.

1. Contact The Authorities

If your child’s identity has been stolen by a relative, you may be feeling conflicted about reporting your relative to local authorities. Even when we’re betrayed by a family member in such a reckless and selfish manner, many of us would rather not see a loved one prosecuted.

Unfortunately, credit institutions will require a police report detailing the crime of identity theft before they’ll permit you to rectify your child’s good name and credit standing. You must set aside your feelings for your family member and allow the law to intervene.

Before you contact the police, prepare yourself for the reality that is soon to follow. Turning in your loved one means accepting the likelihood that they’ll receive a felony conviction. New Jersey Identity Theft sentencing guidelines suggest prison terms ranging in length according to the severity of the financial damage and hefty fines to go with them.

2. Place a Fraud Alert

The next step is contacting one of the credit reporting companies and placing a fraud alert. The one you choose is supposed to alert the other two, but if you want to be sure this happens, it would be wise to follow up and make sure it’s been done.

Here are the contact numbers for the 3 major credit bureaus:

Experian (TRW) 888-397-3742

TransUnion 800-680-7289

Equifax 800-525-6285

3. Submit a Report to the FTC

Complete the form online here. Once this form has been submitted, you’ll be given a full report on your identity theft and an individualized recovery plan. This report serves as proof of your child’s identity having been stolen, so under no circumstances should you skip this step.

What’s Next?

Once the above steps have been completed, you’ll begin the potentially lengthy process of contacting each institution or individual who has been duped by the con.

Contact the fraud departments for each point of theft and inform them that your child is a minor who is not legally permitted to enter into contracts. Attach a copy of your child’s birth certificate, if necessary.

Close any accounts that have been opened in your child’s name. When you contact a business or bank who lent money or extended credit to the thief, request letters confirming that these accounts do not belong to your child. This letter needs to declare your child free of these debts and confirm that the accounts have been removed from your child’s credit report.

Consider a Child Credit Freeze

Finally, you may consider freezing your child’s credit until they are old enough to use it themselves. A credit freeze simply restricts access to your child’s file, meaning it’s much more difficult for a thief—related to you or a total stranger—to open new accounts in your child’s name.

Contact a Credit Repair Professional

If you’ve worked your way through all of the steps above or got stuck on one of them, reach out to a NJ credit repair attorney. Repairing your child’s credit now is crucial to their financial wellness later in life.

How to Put a Stop to Familial Identity Theft

identity theft

Identity theft is a crime, regardless of who is doing it – and it’s important to know how to put a stop to it if it’s happening to you. There have been reported cases of identity theft among family members who share the same name. A father and son, for example, even if they are Jr and Sr, still for all intents and purposes have the same first and last name.

A recent case came to light wherein a man’s father was essentially manipulating his son’s credit rating by posing as the son to apply for a multitude of things, including a mortgage loan – complete with forged signatures! A situation like this can be extremely detrimental to family ties, but must be dealt with accordingly.

Anytime someone knowingly poses as another person in order to make use of their credit, action must be taken. If this has happened to you, it may feel very conflicting to report your family member to the authorities. In that case, you should attempt to talk to the person in question first and let him/her know that what is occurring is illegal and very damaging to you personally and financially.

You can also investigate whether or not the Consumer Reporting Agencies are at all at fault for combining both of your financial identities.

If, after a proper discussion and investigation, your family member continues to use your personal information for his/her own financial benefit, your next step would be to connect with a credit repair attorney in your area. An experienced attorney will know exactly how to help you take back control of your identity, and will be able to send a formal cease and desist letter to the family member in question.

Your attorney will help you make contact with all of the Consumer Reporting Agencies to report what has happened and to demand that corrections are made to your file so no further damage is done to your credit score. At this time, legal action may have to be taken against the identity theft in order to stop them from using your name and other personal information. It is never pleasant when we have to take legal action against a family member or friend, so make sure that you’ve made every attempt to mediate the situation before taking it to an attorney.

After your current situation gets resolved – either through the court system or via mediation – you’ll want to take steps to prevent something like this from happening in the future. If you get the feeling that the behavior may repeat itself, you may want to think about legally changing your name. This will eliminate any confusion about your identity being separate from that of the perpetrator.

Remember: identity theft is illegal! Using a family member’s identity is NOT OK, and needs to be stopped, regardless of how emotionally difficult the process may be.

Image credit: Nellie Mckay