To put it most simply, I am 23 years old. Never once had a credit card – always debit. Never did anything wrong.
Unfortunately, my father had my social security number, and completely destroyed my credit. It’s f**ked up, I know, but that’s the current situation. My credit score, I just found out, is legitimately in the 400s. I’m talking 474, or something AWFUL. I’m MORTIFIED. Especially because I haven’t contributed to this.
It’s fraud. However, my Dad is MIA most of the time, and his paying it back is verrrrrry unlikely.
Bills range from overdrawing my Bank of America account (which I no longer have), to flights and hotels he stayed in, phones he bought, cars, most likely….it’s a mess. Of course when you tell someone this: they’re like……….yeah…I’m sure you didn’t do it……but I actually DIDN’T and I have friends who can vouch for that, including family members.
I need student loans, typical things college students need, obviously. I would like to have my own home soon. I’m a medical student. It’s the worst.
CAN YOU HELP?
I’m desperately worried.
Sometimes financial advice and legal advice are the same: Go to the police.
You need to file a police report for this identity theft. You didn’t mention where you live, Laura, but ID theft laws vary state to state. You can get details from the National Conference of State Legislatures, which even says, “Five states — Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan and Tennessee — have forfeiture provisions for identity theft crimes.”
Basically, that means your father would be forced to pay you back with whatever assets he has left. Even if you don’t live in one of those states, I mention all this just to show you how seriously state lawmakers take ID theft. You can read more about these state laws, as well as the federal law, here.
So I urge you to report your father. I realize that’s a logical decision that’s runs smack into an emotional decision: Admitting to other people that your father treated your awfully.
Do You Have a Question You'd Like Steve to Answer? Click Here.
Another decision fraught with emotion, even when it’s the logical thing to do, is declaring bankruptcy. While it’s impossible to offer you ironclad advice on such a move based on what you’ve told me, I suspect it might be the best and fastest way to wipe out all this terrible history and burden – and get you that college education and home you eventually want.
If you’re still unsure about declaring bankruptcy – the very word is a stigma – Steve Rhode wrote something last year that I often refer people to. His article, Those That File Bankruptcy Do Better Than Those That Don’t is a long, technical investigation that you should at least skim, just to put your mind at ease.
Once you declare bankruptcy, your next step is rebuilding your credit. Consult the Debt.com Bankruptcy Recovery Guide for step-by-step instructions for doing that – and know that bankruptcy has zero impact on your ability to get federally backed student loans in the future.
What now? I suggest you call a Debt.com expert at 1-888-457-1633 for a free consultation. You’ll be better able to decide what to do from there.
Good luck, Laura.
Howard Dvorkin is a CPA, personal finance author, and Chairman of Debt.com, a leading resource for helping Americans achieve financial freedom and a partner of the Get Out of Debt Guy.