It’s a parent’s nightmare to find out their child is a thief. Discovering the target is you can be the beginning of an emotional roller coaster that includes denial, anger, feelings of betrayal, and confusion. You may find yourself up at nights, wondering what you did wrong. The answer is: you didn’t. Your adult child chose to take certain actions that have consequences. You did not cause them to do this.
Points to consider:
Identity theft is a crime that can drain your bank accounts, trust funds and retirement savings.
This is an opportunity to send a strong message to your child before they commit more serious crimes.
It’s not easy to tell the police your child is a thief. But if you don’t, who will? Who will be the next victim? Will your child progress to more serious crimes?
Here are some of your options. Each option has distinct ramifications. They are:
File a police report. Remember that anything that follows was a result of your child’s actions, not yours. The police report is a necessity to help clear your records and restore your good credit and reputation.
Don’t file a police report. Pay the bills. Assume the debt on your credit report. With this option, there will be consequences to you for the thief’s behavior. ITRC wants to make this very clear. If you pay the bill, you live with the damage created. Anything on your credit report remains your responsibility and will continue to affect your credit score for a period of seven years or more.
Draft an agreement with your child, stating that the “thief/child” will pay all the bills and accept responsibility. The problem is some creditors may not accept this agreement. The only acceptable agreement with most creditors is an agreement made between the creditor and your child. You should have absolutely no part in this process.
Be aware: Open conversations with the offending person can critically harm your position and case against them. Any hint of threat or coercion will undermine your ability to file a police report or seek prosecution.
Should you decide to take action against your child, then these are the first few steps to take.
Place fraud alerts with the three Credit Reporting Agencies and then obtain your credit reports (ITRC Solution 3).
Once you have proof of a crime, file a police report in the jurisdiction where you live. Make sure the police understand you will NOT change your mind and will participate in all prosecutorial matters. The police need to know you are firm in your commitment.
Refer to ITRC Fact Sheet 100 – Financial Identity Theft and proceed as recommended. For additional assistance and support, call the ITRC at
888-400-5530 and speak with an advisor. ITRC does not charge for assistance.
In the words of one mother, speaking to a judge sentencing her son: Your honor, please ignore my tears. Being here hurts me deeply. But I have done all I can to help my son understand that actions have consequences. Now I need your help to get him straight and bring back the son I still love.
ITRC Fact Sheet 115 – When you Personally Know the Thief
This fact sheet should not be used in lieu of legal advice. Any requests to reproduce this material, other than by individual victims for their own use, should be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright 2010, Identity Theft Resource Center®, all rights reserved. Created by ITRC