In My Name: The Drama Of Fixing Your Credit After A Parent Has Ruined It


Worried single mother of black ethnicity doing home finances while taking care of her baby boy.

Recent data shows child identity fraud costs U.S. families about $1 billion annually and affects one out of every 50 children. A large group of the victims are children. The likely perpetrators? Their parents.

Credit specialist Markia Brown says despite the lack of empirical data, she believes parental identity theft takes place more often in Black communities than research reflects.

“For most Black parents, the justification is always that the end justifies the means,” Brown tells ESSENCE. “‘We need somewhere to stay, and I can’t make it happen, so I’m just going to do this, or we need electricity, so I’m going to do this.’ There’s some shame around it, so it’s less likely that the stats will be accurately reflected. Because of the systemic issues we face when building wealth, we are forced to make tough decisions to survive today that will ultimately affect the ones they love the most in the future.”

Brown says dealing with family identity theft can sometimes be tougher to deal with than if a stranger commits the crime.

“We aren’t raised to turn against family,” Brown says. But she says there are ways to clean up the damages to your credit without ruining relationships in the process.

Step 1: File A Police Report

This may sound jarring, but Brown says the best way to fight parental identity theft is building a paper trail.

“If anybody has used your identity to get an account without your permission, even your family, the first thing you’re going to have to do is file that report. Now, as soon as I say that, everybody’s like, ‘oh my God, I don’t want to do it. No, I could never.’ But you don’t have to say my mom did it. All you have to say is, ‘somebody stole my identity and opened this account.’ That’s it. You do not have to implicate anybody in this crime. You just have to say a crime was committed.”

She goes on to explain that the police report is just a formality.

“The authorities are likely to not going to dig into it at all, to be honest with you,” Brown says. “And the formality is that you get that police report and that’s going to help you contact the creditors, contact your credit bureaus.”

Step 2: Alert the major credit bureaus

“Immediately contact the credit bureaus to let them know you’ve been a victim of identity theft,” Brown advises. “Let them know you do plan on disputing or working with some companies on a couple of the accounts. This also allows them to add a code to your account called an e-Oscar codes. These dictate how disputes are handled, how accounts report on your credit reports when they’re pulled, comments that may appear, things like that. And so they’ll assign a code to you so that when they pull, your creditors know, ‘hey, this person was a victim of identity theft.’

These three major credit bureaus Experian, Transunion and Equifax, have guides on their websites to contact them about identity theft issues.

“Next you have to familiarize yourself with the policies of the companies you owe,” Brown says. “This means research in the company and look into their policies for identity theft? It usually outlines how long they have to investigate, how they will respond, how long it will take them to respond, and then what happens after. And then do the same thing for the credit bureaus. You can reach out to them and ask them, ‘what are the options that I have when I’m a victim of identity theft?,, they all have resources for people who are victims of identity theft, and it will guide you through the process step by step-by -step. You don’t even need me as a middleman to do it for you. Where I come in usually is if you need assistance with a more aggressive rebuild strategy.”

Step 3: Devise A Rebuild Strategy

Once you realize damage has been done to your credit, it can be paralyzing, especially if it’s at the hands of your loved one. Fortunately, there’s a path forward.

“We work on establishing relationships with creditors that they want to continue long term relationships with, like banks,” Brown says. “What bank accounts should you open? What credit cards should you open? Do you qualify for any loans? What loans can you get?”

Once that is established, writing down your goals and laying out the options available to you can set you on the right track.

Step 4: Reach Out To Your Family Member

“It’s important to put your well-being first, so that means taking action steps toward credit repair ahead of the tough conversation you have to have with your family member,” Brown says. Remember not to feel guilty about prioritizing your financial well-being.

“As much as you love your mama, there are no bunk beds in the casket,” Brown adds. “When she goes, you can’t go with her, and when you go, she can’t go with you. Your parents had the opportunity to live their life. They did the best that they could, and this is where they ended up. That has nothing to do with you. Now it’s up to you to take the reins and say ‘thank you so much for everything that you’ve done to provide for me over the years, but now it’s time for me to live my life.’


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