My Nephew Stole My Identity

“Dear Steve,

I am 56 years old and i had perfect credit in 2008 and then a nephew moved in with me. I thought the kid was working when in reality he was stealing and opening credit cards in my name.

I was working 70 hr workweeks and he had full access to everything in the house (files) etc. He also was able to get to the mailbox before me so I had no idea that there were credit cards in my name.

After I caught him stealing I made him move out. This is when the summons started to appear. I got one after another and had no idea how to deal with them and they got 5 default judgements against me. They were all debt buyers. So far I have had my wages garnished for about $70,000 over the last 5 years.

When this first happened I hired a firm to file bankruptcy and they just took my money and sat on it for 2 years, never filed or contacted any of these debt buyers.

I have an outstanding judgement for $67,000 and another I have to go to court on in March.

I have no money for lawyers and will probably have to file bankruptcy in the near future but I feel that the debt buyers should have to have something with my signature on them.

When I went to court the only thing that they provided was a bill with my address on it and they never provided any sales slips or an application with my signature on it to prove it was me.

I feel since they are suing me against an Arizona statute of 6 years that is for a written contract that they should have to provide something with my signature on it and sales receipts with the same, to prove its me, but the courts do not make them provide these things.

They never provide any documentation proving anything and I am wondering what my options are now. I never filed a police report or contacted any of the bureaus as this is my nephew and i only have his father (my brother) left in my life and did not want to cause any family conflict. any suggestions.

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Should I just file bankruptcy and get on with my life and have my credit messed up for years. Or do you have any suggestions on how to go up against these debt buyers in court.


Dear Maria,

I understand why you never filed a police report. There is a lot of identity theft that happens among family members. I’d love to say this is the first time I’ve heard of such a situation, but it’s not. Not even close.

The reality is you are a victim here of your nephew’s criminal activity. You can either continue to pay for his fraud or you can get a fresh start under bankruptcy. It is your legal right to get a fresh start.

While you paid a lawyer a couple of years ago, it sounds like what they were really selling you was some form of advance fee debt settlement where they would contact the creditors and try to work out a deal on repayment. A legitimate bankruptcy attorney would have no reason to sit on your money for that length of time before filing bankruptcy.

Technically you are correct, debt buyers, or any creditor for that matter, must provide proof the debt is really yours. However, without good legal representation the creditors get by without really doing that. There is so much old debt collectors are trying to recover where no proof exists to validate the debt. But so much time has passed now it might be hard to go back and fix those old cases.

The delinquent debt in your name and judgments are already recorded on your credit report. In a perfect world it would have been better if you had filed bankruptcy when you first started receiving suits. At least it would have put this all behind you years ago and saved you the $70,000 in garnished wages.

While it is true you could have fought the individual suits, it sounds like there were a number of individual credit cards involved. You would have needed to locate an attorney who would have been willing to represent you in these cases if you did not want to fight them yourself.

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For many people, a chapter 7 bankruptcy is a faster and cheaper way to deal with the situation. Most people have their debt discharged in about 90 days and can get straight back to rebuilding their credit.

Don’t think filing bankruptcy has to be a horribly long sentence of bad credit. It’s actually pretty easy to repair your credit after filing bankruptcy. See Life After Bankruptcy: How to Quickly Have Great Credit and Dumb Mistakes to Avoid.

Please post your responses and follow-up messages to me on this in the comments section below.


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Steve Rhode is the Get Out of Debt Guy and has been helping good people with bad debt problems since 1994. You can learn more about Steve, here.
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