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What to do about a major secret my mother has kept from me?
April 10, 2010 9:31 PM   Subscribe

My mother has always been emotionally abusive and unable to support me in any way, but after what I found out today I feel like never speaking to her again. Has my family gone too far this time? I really feel lost on this one and would love any and all advice, including legal advice. This is going to be quite long...

A little background information...I am currently 23 years old and two months away from a Master's degree. My mother has been emotionally unstable and abusive for as long as I can remember. We were poor as a family for most of my childhood and adolescence, not only due to my Dad's bad luck in the job market (not for lack of drive, intelligence, or initiative), but also to my mother's complete and total mismanagement of our family funds, which my father allowed her to control.

My father, while caring, never stepped in to stop my mother from being crazy and abusive to himself, my younger brother, and I. I will spare you all of the details of the abuse, but here is a random sampling: crazy-making (saying something and later denying it), accusing us constantly of not loving her, screaming at us if we didn't get her tea/do the dishes/come talk to her the very moment she asked us to, leaving for hours and/or threatening to kill herself if we didn't do what she wanted, trying relentlessly to force religion on me, misrepresenting me and my accomplishments to everyone around her thus causing me much embarrassment later on, behaving in such a socially unacceptable manner or meddling in others' business so much that my friendships with those people were ruined, taking any and all money made by or gifted to us with the empty promise of paying it back, reading my diary when I was in high school and angrily notifying everyone around her of my private sexual experiences, freaking out when I told my parents I was bisexual and later denying that there was a problem...really, all of this only scratches the surface. Every expression on my face was a "dirty look", she hated all of my friends, I was "always trying to purposely ruin our relationship", and I was "a spoiled, selfish brat". I did not know how truly beat down I was until I got to college and found freedom. I finally learned to stop looking down as I walked along the sidewalk, to stop saying "I'm sorry" about 1,000 times per day.

I have since been fairly distant by choice, seeing my family for about a week a year during the winter. I am a successful student who has supported herself through college with hard work and student loans. I am two months away from graduation from my Master's program and I will be moving in with my fiance, who I will be marrying in March of 2011. Life has been going pretty well.

Today however, a bomb of information was dropped on me. My thoughts are almost paralyzed.

It is no secret that my parents have mostly been living off of credit cards since I went away to college. I have not approved of this as a way of life, and have told them so, but ultimately sat back and watched my mother make a series of poor choices and routinely go out and buy things they didn't need. I figured that they were adults and if their choices led to their own ruination, then so be it.

My mother called me today and told me that for the past four years both of the credit cards they had been using were in MY NAME. Those annoying offers that you get in the mail and just rip up and throw away? Yeah, she filled two of those out on my behalf without ever telling me. For FOUR YEARS. In that time, they managed to rack up $10,000 in debt, which they will only have paid off (apparently) this next month. My mother said she had "waited to tell me about it because she wanted to make sure they could pay it all off before they told me"!!!!!???? My father and brother supposedly knew the whole time as well, but I have yet to talk to them directly.

I am beyond livid. How could they play with my future that way? What if they hadn't been able to pay it off? My father is getting old and my mother suffers from a slew of physical ailments. Were they just going to die and let me find out then? And all of this time, mind you, my mother has bought me unwanted birthday presents and care packages and later guilted me about that being their food money, when all of this time those things were being bought with credit cards in my name. This was the excuse she gave for this behavior. That they wouldn't have been able to eat if they had not done this.

I really have no idea what to do, either legally or relationally. Sure the debt is supposedly gone now, but how can I prevent this from happening in the future? Should I still pursue legal action? I wasn't aware that they were getting mail for me. My wedding is coming up and my whole family is supposed to be in it. Should I let them? Should I try to maintain a relationship with people who I can't trust? Help me, please. Give me any advice at all.
posted by delicate_dahlias to Human Relations (79 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
 
You need to start by ordering your credit report to see what accounts are open in your name. You can ask for the cards to be canceled and reissued only to you (it may be better for your credit score to just keep them open for a while). You can get a free credit report at annualcreditreport.com.
posted by liketitanic at 9:35 PM on April 10, 2010 [19 favorites]


First, you need a lawyer for advice on the financial aspects. Second, you need to give yourself time to figure out how you're going to deal with the emotional aspects of all this. Therapy might not hurt either, especially if you have insurance that will cover it.
posted by infinitywaltz at 9:35 PM on April 10, 2010


First call--a lawyer. First thing Monday morning. Second call--a therapist. Immediately following. You need as much professional support and advice as you can get, both from a legal standpoint and a psychological/emotional standpoint. I would suggest not doing anything rash (or doing anything at all) until after you've spoken with a lawyer and a therapist.

I would not suggest attempting to talk to other relatives (your dad, your brother) at this point to find out more details. They might be too overwhelming to digest. Also, there are plenty of crisis phone lines to call if you need to talk to someone over the weekend. Google mental health crisis line and the name of your city and please call!

Your situation sounds both awful and overwhelming! I'm so sorry for what you are going through right now. It sounds like you made huge strides after moving out of your parents house and I believe your strength will carry you through this as well.
posted by rglass at 9:41 PM on April 10, 2010 [14 favorites]


You do need to get those credit cards off your credit report - having carried a balance affects your score, even if it is paid off.

And reading as an objective outsider, I have a hard time believing that they are as close to paid off as your mom claims.

Also, how to opt out of those pre-approved credit card offers.
posted by R a c h e l at 9:44 PM on April 10, 2010 [4 favorites]


You do need to get those credit cards off your credit report - having carried a balance affects your score, even if it is paid off.

But simply closing the accounts can also lower your score because your ratio of available credit immediately drops. So look into this. Suze Orman book?
posted by liketitanic at 9:46 PM on April 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


You can easily tell if the debts have been paid in full -- and if they have, you can close the accounts now so that your mother can't spend any more on the cards. Order copies of your credit report from the three credit reporting agencies at annualcreditreport.com.

The report will detail all outstanding credit lines and debt. You can use it to make sure everything's been paid off.

If it has: close the accounts by writing to the credit card companies and saying you'd like the account closed at your request.

If it hasn't: if you don't want to expose your mom, and the balances are low, you could pay them off yourself and then close the accounts. If, on the other hand, you can't pay the balances, or you don't care about exposing her at this point, contact the credit card companies and the credit reporting agencies to report this as identity theft. I'm not sure how things would go from that point on.

As a final step, look into putting a freeze on your credit, which will require extra steps before anyone can take out credit under your identity (including yourself, which can make this kind of a pain, but probably worth it when your own mother is stealing your identity).

I have no advice on whether you should include them in your wedding, but I think that at this point, it's more important that you take these practical steps toward protecting yourself and your future, and then worry about setting other kinds of boundaries with your mother, probably with the help of a therapist.
posted by palliser at 9:50 PM on April 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


Lawyer up. Your college should have information about legal aid for students.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 9:51 PM on April 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm really sorry. My dad did something like this to me, and I haven't spoken to him since. I am now hyper-vigilant about checking my credit reports, and I wouldn't hesitate to prosecute him if it ever happens again.

It's not even so much the money (which I ended up having to pay back--I discovered his fraud when I started getting calls first from the companies themselves trying to follow up on late payments, then after confronting him and having him promise to handle the situation, having collection agents start calling). It's the fact that someone whose role is supposed to be to take care of you and to serve as a guide through life has failed you so utterly. You are justified in feeling angry and hurt, and you are justified in pursuing any legal remedy available to you. I wouldn't waste much time worrying about how the rest of your family will feel about it, either.

And please do, as suggested above, seek any help you need in sorting your feelings about this. In my case, my dad wasn't particularly abusive, but he was pretty weak sauce as a father and as a man, and it was easy for me to see this not as something he was doing to me, but simply as one more thing that he was just failing at getting right. In your case, it seems that the problems have run much deeper and more grim and talking it out with someone may help. Or, this may simply be the impetus you need to cut bait.
posted by padraigin at 9:52 PM on April 10, 2010 [3 favorites]


they managed to rack up $10,000 in debt, which they will only have paid off (apparently) this next month

After four years, why is she telling you about it now? You probably know this already, and I'm not trying to add to the stress you must be feeling, but this person is not to be trusted. I can't help feeling that the other shoe is about to drop.

Get an attorney. Protect yourself.
posted by scatter gather at 9:54 PM on April 10, 2010 [30 favorites]


Closing the accounts won't "get them off the credit report" -- the history of their use will still be there, as well as the fact that they were closed at the OP's request.

It will, however, keep her mother from using them anymore, which seems pretty urgent at this point.
posted by palliser at 9:54 PM on April 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Obviously what you're parents did was horrible. But that said,

Check your credit score before you do anything. If they were never late, and paid everything off, it could actually improve your score, I think. You'll need to get your score and not just your credit report (which you can get free at annualcreditreport.com -- don't use any other free service). You have to pay to get your score.

If the score is good, just make sure the accounts are closed -- but remember to keep one card open for yourself. Not having any credit cards is actually bad for your credit score (It's quite a racket these banks have going)

If the score is bad, you should be able to get the stuff removed, and you might want to talk to a lawyer. In theory you can start off by sending dispute letters to the credit bureaus for the items you are not responsible for, and this won't cost you any money. But it could be tedious.
posted by delmoi at 10:05 PM on April 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


Closing the accounts won't "get them off the credit report" -- the history of their use will still be there, as well as the fact that they were closed at the OP's request.

They should roll off after 7 years or so, IIRC.
posted by delmoi at 10:05 PM on April 10, 2010


File a police report. What she did was illegal--fraud, identity theft, etc. The entries on your credit report that she made should be completely taken off your credit report so it will not affect you in the future. If you do nothing, you will only encourage her bad behavior. So sorry you have to go through this.
posted by MsKim at 10:07 PM on April 10, 2010 [53 favorites]


Not a lawyer, banker, or credit counselor - but what I'm wondering seems relevant: aren't the banks that issued the card at all liable for not verifying the identity of the card issuee? Maybe that's not practical, but geez, don't they require any kind of identity verification?

It's been a loooong time since I opened a new credit card account, and yes, I know this kind of identity theft is rampant - but since this is essentially *like* identity theft, I'm hoping that there are some kind of legal protections in place.
posted by amtho at 10:13 PM on April 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Could those who are advocating retaining her own personal attorney detail their thinking on that a bit? Seems to me she's the victim of a crime, and in those cases, law enforcement is usually a victim's first step for finding legal help, rather than paying for their own attorney. OP, your state attorney general's office probably has a consumer credit department, which could be a good resource for information on identity theft.
posted by palliser at 10:14 PM on April 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Absolutely consult a lawyer, first thing Monday morning. I too would be suspicious as to how much exactly is still outstanding. They've lied to you this far, I see no reason to take them at their word that it's almost paid off without seeing the paperwork.

What they have committed sounds to this bartender like felony fraud and identity theft. People spend multiple birthdays in cages for stuff like this. And be prepared that they may have to suffer legal consequences of their fraud if you are to get your record sorted out.

As far as the wedding... I predict a Dramapocalypse if you allow both of your parents to show up. I predict you will be miserable if you have to look over and see them sitting there receiving kisses and hugs and "You, doesn't your little girl look so happy" from the guests.

I predict the uncomfortable whispers about why they aren't there will feel cleaner. I suggest commissioning trusted friends/attendants to let it be known that under NO CIRCUMSTANCES is anyone to question the bride on her wedding day about why the parents aren't there or you too can leave the reception, this is the news. *BRIGHT SMILE*

A wedding is supposed to be about the couple standing up in front of their family, friends, and community to pledge themselves to each other, and to ask the support and guidance of the assembled celebrants in building a life and family together.

Are you really going to be looking to your parents for guidance and help in building your marriage? Are these the people you want babysitting your hypothetical future kids? They don't sound like they've earned the right to sit up in the front row and beam as the proud parents of the lovely bride on the special day. They can look up the Flickr group when it's all said and done.

Congratulations on getting married.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 10:17 PM on April 10, 2010 [23 favorites]


I hate to say it but I really think you have to report this as credit card fraud. Here's why I say that - your mother obviously knew that her own credit (or their credit as the case may be) was in bad enough shape that she/they wouldn't qualify so she went through several extra steps to get your credit. At the very least she opened your mail. She sent in forms using YOUR INFORMATION to get cards IN YOUR NAME. There's NO FREAKING WAY she didn't know all of that was WRONG/illegal.

Put a freeze on your credit. Opt out of the offers. Take all steps necessary.
posted by fluffy battle kitten at 10:23 PM on April 10, 2010 [3 favorites]


If my parents did this shit to me, I would not hesitate to report them to the police. Your mother, long ago, ceded any claim to treatment as family.

Lawyer up, and call the cops.
posted by Netzapper at 10:27 PM on April 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


I am very sorry about your situation.

I can't speak to the legal action angle of this (not being American), but certainly you must take steps to safeguard and possibly disconnect yourself from them financially. I'm sure others here can offer good practical advice to that end.

As someone who has faced the choice of what to do about my relationship with my mother, I would ask about your own needs from your family, and what, if anything, you feel that you can and/or should do to help them.

Since your question lists lots of very compelling reasons why you really shouldn't be around your family anymore, I guess the question now is why you think you should - particularly with your mom.

The fact that you were already distant from them makes their action all the more terrible, although if your mom did it single-handedly, I can understand that your father and brother wouldn't want to tell you until they could pay it off. So, talk to your brother and try to judge what happened - who exactly perpetrated this gross violation.

(Don't get too involved in their reasons though - I am sure she/they were able to rationalize it )

Also don't rush to make a decision. Once you have taken steps to protect yourself financially, you don't need to take severe all ties completely. Your wedding is still a ways off, and I am sure your feelings will become clearer to you over time.

Cutting ties with family is a very difficult thing to do, but many people do it and thrive. Put your own well-being first - that will lead you to the right decision.
posted by mondaygreens at 10:31 PM on April 10, 2010


Could those who are advocating retaining her own personal attorney detail their thinking on that a bit?

Filing a police report is about catching the criminals and seeing that they are stopped and punished by the justice system. This is the cop's job.

Consulting a private lawyer is about "What steps do I need to take to protect myself, my credit, my identity, etc. What are my rights, who do I need to contact, what do I need to be aware of when navigating the complex, arcane wilderness of credit finances and fraud." This is the lawyer's job.

If the fraudsters go to jail but the OP's finances still end up screwed long-term because she didn't jump through the right hoops and file the right paperwork on time, that would suck.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 10:32 PM on April 10, 2010 [14 favorites]


Your wedding is a year away - you don't need to make any decisions about it now.
Second, I would go ahead and check your credit report - this is the link for the official free version. That will give you an idea of how many cards and the current balance are really involved. You feel differently if your mother was telling the truth (two cards, almost paid off) than if she is telling another lie (more cards, more debt).
Third, contact the credit card companies and ask them to put a fraud alert on your account - it requires people to double check with you before issuing credit. Also, opting-out as mentioned above will help protect your financial identity.
Fourth, find someone you can talk out loud to. Someone you can trust to hold your story in confidence. Tell them you don't advice, you just need to talk at this point. Longer term, you will probably find it helpful to talk to a therapist, just to help you process what has happened to you. You can probably get free counseling at school for the next two months, giving you some short term support.

The biggest decision you are going to have to make it if you need to report this as fraud. There is where talking to a lawyer before you do anything else will help you understand what the choices and consequences might be. That is going to be a very hard decision on you - this is where emotional support, including a therapist. You also need someone who knows what they are talking about to help you figure out how to turn off the current credit cards in the way that best protects you. I'm not sure who that would be, but you need better advice than you will get from the random folks on metafilter.

Finally, I am very, very sorry that your mother has failed you so badly. Good luck moving forward with your own life, surrounding by the people that you choose to share your life with.
posted by metahawk at 10:43 PM on April 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Your mother committed identity theft. She needs to be reported to the police. Long ago, she began acting in ways which destroyed any and all obligation of loyalty that you owed her. You are in a kill-or-be-killed situation with your mother. She committed multiple felonies against you personally, and harmed you at a time when you were just starting out for her own selfish ends. She needs to be tried and punished by the authorities. I am not kidding.

I speak from some experience similar to yours. My own mother, starting when I was six or seven years old, constantly threatened to kill herself and flew into daily rages and verbally abused my brother and I. To say that this has had a gigantic effect on my entire life is an understatement. I conservatively estimate that she has threatened to kill herself 1,200 times to me in her life.

And your mom did worse. She committed multiple crimes against you at a time when you were just starting out and may have permanently harmed you. For this she must be punished.

Some may argue that she is your mother and you should look the other way. These people do not understand the singular experience of having the one person, who, above all others, is supposed to be looking out for you act as a betrayer and enemy against whom you must defend yourself. They do not understand how hard it is to protect yourself from someone your very biology is designed to love and trust.

In short, you are on your own and must defend yourself.

Remember also that family members likely enabled this behavior. Do not listen to them when they tell you that you ought to help a person who committed multiple felonies against you. It was their responsibility to defend you against all comers and instead, they also betrayed you by not protecting you. They failed in the most basic duty a family member has towards you. They are not to be trusted or listened to under any circumstances. Do not heed any advice that says differently. Persons who give you such advice, no matter how well intentioned, cannot understand what it is to suffer a betrayal of this type. They will give you advice based on their own circumstances, which, fortunately for them, they have never, ever experienced.

Unfortunately, I have to tell you that this is only the beginning. You have obviously suffered tremendous abuse. You are going to have to deal with the myriad emotions
posted by Ironmouth at 10:51 PM on April 10, 2010 [46 favorites]


Dealing with these emotions is going to require therapy. It won't be easy.

I am a lawyer. I am not your lawyer. However, without doubr your mother has committed multiple felonies against you and will have to be punished. Do not be loyal to her. She is not loyal to you. Do not listen to your family who will tell you that you should ignore this. Only through a police report will you even begin to be able to protect your credit.

If a stranger did this to you it would be identity theft and fraud. That is what your mother did to you.

One final note. It will take a long time to learn and understand, but this is not about you. You did nothing to deserve to be victimized by this. Nothing. Nobody deserves this.

Please send me MeFi mail if you ever need to talk.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:58 PM on April 10, 2010 [14 favorites]


Take a deep breath, take care of yourself today: food, water, a hot bath, a good night's sleep. Turn the ringer off on your phone so you don't get drawn into a conversation with your family over this right now. What your parents did is crazy, but you are an adult, and you can arrange your life so that you don't get drawn into their madness.

Follow these steps described in the FTC's page on identity theft:

1. Put a fraud alert your accounts; the linked page has phone numbers.
2. Place a credit freeze on your accounts. (The linked page explains the difference)
3. Get your credit report.

Then you can think about whether to report this to the police. You don't need to decide that now.
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:13 PM on April 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Dahlia,

* check your credit profile - FREE! https://www.annualcreditreport.com/cra/index.jsp

* Sign up for no credit offers (no cards for your mother to apply for): https://www.optoutprescreen.com
They will ask your SSN but the thing is legit

* CLOSE the cards of your mother ASAP

I would not report your mother for now. Think about this carefully.

"I have since been fairly distant by choice, seeing my family for about a week a year during the winter."

From personal experience: One week is much too much. Make it an hour or two every year or two in a cafe or restaurant.
posted by yoyo_nyc at 11:21 PM on April 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


Let me put this another way. It will be very, very difficult for you to prove credit card fraud and identity theft if you do not report your mother. The credit bureaus and the credit card companies will assume this is a scam which you and your mother are working together and will not provide you relief. You must, I repeat, must report this as the crime it is. Indeed, there is a danger that they will see you as a willing accomplice in this fraud otherwise.

Again, I am a lawyer but I am not your lawyer. Seek IMMEDIATE competent legal advice in your jurisdiction. If you are within the District of Columbia or Maryland, contact me immediately. I can probably get you a referral anywhere, especially in the mid-Atlantic states.

Persons who advise not reporting identity theft or credit card fraud on your account because she is your mother do not understand the legal, nor personal implications of a betrayal of this magnitude. The dangers are real.

Think of it this way. If a stranger stole your offers and then obtained credit cards in your name any human being would tell you to call the police immediately. You are in a great deal more danger because this person is close to you--not only because they will likely continue to have access to credit offers in your name, but because it will be very difficult to convince credit card companies and bureaus that you are not a willing participant in this scam.

This is a person who will do this again. You need only look at her behavior this time to know that. You must protect yourself. It will be difficult because biology will hold you back. However, remember that it did not hold your mother back. Persons who have not dealt with people capable of these actions do not understand the danger.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:38 PM on April 10, 2010 [63 favorites]


I agree that you are going to need a lawyer to clean up your credit history, which will certainly have been polluted by this. You will also need to look into putting a credit watch on your record so they can't do this again. I'm really sorry you're going through this. If I were in your position, I would be as angry as you are. You may have to report this to the police to ensure if gets cleaned up; it is credit card fraud, after all. If that's what a lawyer tells you, don't feel bad about doing it. You're the victim here; don't sacrifice a thing to protect your mother. All the best to you, you have my sympathy.
posted by Dasein at 11:44 PM on April 10, 2010


I don't know about the legal or criminal implications, but the response that would devastate your mother the most would be to not punish her. No sane person could say she doesn't deserve it, but you want to punish her because you want her to accept responsibility for how she's hurt you, because your deepest hope is that if she did that, maybe you could start rebuilding your relationship. There's a famous saying: war is diplomacy by other means, and something similar applies here. Punishing her is a way to continue having a relationship with her, when that isn't really possible. She will use the fact that you want a relationship with her against you: tell you she doesn't deserve it, she didn't really do anything wrong, what about all the things that you've done, how could you do this to your own mother, etc., etc. and you'll get sucked into justifying and debating it. You should cut her out of your life, and the only way to do that is to walk away.
posted by AlsoMike at 11:46 PM on April 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Punishing her is a way to continue having a relationship with her, when that isn't really possible.

If this didn't involve your credit and $10,000 in identity theft, this position would be one that I would take, apart from a single discussion or letter which explained my point of view. Personally, I would never engage her again.

However, legally, this requires reporting the matter to the police immediately. Too much is at stake.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:50 PM on April 10, 2010 [3 favorites]


Get the lawyer to explain what your options are. Here are some questions to ask the lawyer: Can you report this and create a paper trail showing that she did this without your knowledge, while minimizing the disruption to your own life this will cause? (For example, if you report it to the police, do they have to bring criminal charges against her? If they press charges, will you have to testify against her? Will the trial take a long time? Will it mean that you have to travel?) The lawyer should be able to help you work through all these repercussions in a factual, non-speculative, non-panicky way.

What she did is wrong. Certainly, see a lawyer and take this seriously. But also - take care of yourself. You have a bunch of decisions to make about how you want to handle this, legally and in terms of family fallout, and you should have good support (therapist, friends, fiance) in making decisions that are good for you.
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:54 PM on April 10, 2010


.... Taking a deep breath. Check the credit report before all of this freaking out.

No doubt your mom deserves to be put in jail for all the shit she has put you through. But if (IF!) it's true that these cards are paid off or nearly so, and if (IF!) they made payments on time, all they have done is give your credit rating a big boost.

In that case, you don't have to report fraud, you don't have to call the police, you don't have to hire a lawyer. You can just take all the actions you would have taken if you had suspected she would ever do such a thing (like tell her never to do it, and monitor your credit report and credit card accounts), and take all the actions you need to take from having grown up in such a household (like going to therapy for the next decade).
posted by salvia at 11:55 PM on April 10, 2010


Also, don't close those accounts; just monitor them. If she uses them again ever after you tell her to never, ever use them again and demand them back, then close them.

It costs $12.95 or something a month to monitor your credit. Maybe you can ask your mom for $780 to cover five years, since her betrayal here necessitates you paying for that service to make sure this isn't still happening.
posted by salvia at 11:59 PM on April 10, 2010


I will second that you should consider pursuing legal action, if only for self-protection. Above and beyond the moral issue, it is very difficult to separate the-things-you've-done from the-things-done-in-your-name in the corporate/legal system. The best approach you can take is one that's proactive and by-the-books. Even if you don't want to press charges, you want it on record that these things were not done with your permission, and the earlier you can establish a paper trail showing that, the better.

Also, start keeping a record of when various things have happened. When did the accounts get started in your name, when did you first find out about them, when did you first contact an officer/lawyer, etc. This information may be of importance one day.
posted by dephlogisticated at 12:08 AM on April 11, 2010


It's obviously clear that the mother committed a crime. But it's not all that clear that the poster wants to press charges. The mom sounds like a horrible person, no doubt.

But if the debts are paid back, the only potential damage here (other then the pain of betrayal and feeling of being violated) is to the credit score. That shouldn't be too big of a problem if the parents made payments on time.

But the best thing to do would be to hire a lawyer to go through all this stuff. The most reasonable course of action would be file a police report though, in order to get this off your record.
posted by delmoi at 12:25 AM on April 11, 2010


My sympathies to you for the immense betrayal you've experienced by your family. It really is unfathomable that your own famil would do this to you.

It's important to remember that only you can decide which path is best for you, but I agree with two themes above:

1. Get a lawyer FIRST THING!
2. Think about how you want to deal with your family long and hard before you commit yourself.

It matters not to you, but if this happened to me, I would prosecute anyone who can be found responsible for this, and then disown every family member who betrayed me. I would even go so far as to think about legally changing my last name just to better cope with this, but I can be a very vindictive person when I'm innocently wronged, and I can hold grudges on a geologic time scale.

I also believe it goes without saying that you need to close the cards opened by others and lock down your credit as best you can, but the lawyer would know more about that than me.

You have my best wishes, and please try to remember that this, like all things, will pass. I'd also like to wish you and your groom-to-be a hearty congratulations and I wish you both all the best for your wedding and your new life together. Good luck!!
posted by InsertNiftyNameHere at 12:59 AM on April 11, 2010


I nth the lawyering up advice, but also remember this:
your mother gave you an awful start in life and plenty of shitty baggage. And you made yourself into the great person you are. You are strong, resourceful and smart, and also you sound like a good person. You don't deserve this crap from your mother and you do not need to feel guilty about doing what you need to do.
posted by Omnomnom at 2:31 AM on April 11, 2010 [5 favorites]


Minus the financial stuff, I could have written your question. My mother is exactly the same kind of crazy. I try to be reasonably amicable towards her. But if she pulled something like this on me? I would file a police report and have her charged with fraud.

(Also, my understanding of US's arcane credit rating system is limited, but isn't it possible to get fraudulent use of your cards somehow wiped from your credit record?).
posted by embrangled at 3:19 AM on April 11, 2010


1. Call the police and report this.
2. Get a copy of your credit report (available for free here).
3. Call a consumer-rights lawyer.
4. Have the lawyer write letters to both your family and the creditors so they take this matter seriously.
5. Send copies of letters and the police report to every affected creditor and to the credit reporting agencies to remove them.


Your family fucked up, you don't owe them anything.
posted by autoclavicle at 3:24 AM on April 11, 2010


A postal worker opened a credit account in my name. Horrible that your family would do this to you, but the basics are still the same -- it's fraud. This is how it worked out for me:

1. I called the police and filed a report. They gave me a report number.

2. I called the credit card company, and spoke to someone in the Fraud Department. They asked for the police contact information and report number, which I supplied. The police and Fraud Dept. (and Postmaster, in my case) took it from there. I needed to sign some affidavits swearing it had been fraud. Of course, the account was closed.

3. I requested a free copy of my credit report (from the links others supplied above) and went through it carefully. (Repeat Steps 1 and 2 for all cards.)

4. I contacted the credit bureaus and explained the fraud. We put a Fraud Alert on my account, and a Security Freeze. (In Texas, these are free for identity theft victims. Read more about how to do this here.)
- The Fraud Alert is a notice on your account that fraud has taken place.
- A Security Freeze means that nobody (including yourself) can get an immediate copy of your credit report for purposes of issuing a line of credit. The bureau gave me a confirmation number. If someone requested credit in my name, the bureau would contact me and ask me for that number. Without the correct number, they would not release my information. That would be within a few days of the request, but not immediate.
posted by Houstonian at 3:36 AM on April 11, 2010 [4 favorites]


I'm with those who recommend prosecution, even though that is a difficult step to take. Ironmouth said it best: if you don't, "it will be very difficult to convince credit card companies and bureaus that you are not a willing participant in this scam."

And I strongly second the recommendation to follow the steps on the FTC site. Monitoring the accounts is not enough. Closing the accounts is not enough. You need to be ON RECORD that a fraud has taken place and that these accounts were never yours.
posted by megatherium at 4:32 AM on April 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


You should sue your parents for the money that is owed to you. I mean that honestly, you must despite the feelings you hurt sue both of your parents.
posted by parmanparman at 4:47 AM on April 11, 2010


I am a lawyer but don’t need to reiterate all of the good advice you received in this thread (in particular looking at your credit report and score to see the damage done deciding what to do next). I want to focus instead on the relationship aspect of your question. I can tell you from personal experience that it is possible to lead a happy and fulfilling life without your family of origin in the picture. In fact, in many ways, it is much easier to do so without the drama and pain that they inflict.

Many people will tell you that you can’t cut off contact with (or in your case, seek prosecution of) your mom because she’s your mom. While well-intentioned, these people have a much different parental experience than you have had and simply can’t imagine the circumstances of your life. You will also be inclined to believe them (as I once was) because of that biological urge and because you were conditioned to believe that you are the crappy daughter your mom said you were on countless occasions.

But you are not a crappy person or daughter. You did not deserve the abuse heaped on you. Your parents’ main job was to protect you. Not only did they fail you on that, but they are the ones you needed protection from! They utterly and fully violated the parent-child bond. Your mom’s actions (even before the identity theft) have absolutely and fully absolved you of any obligation you might have had to her.

I know it is hard to contemplate cutting them out of your life and not having them at your wedding. And I won’t tell you that it is easy when big life events happen to be estranged from your family. I went through this when I got married and when I was pregnant with my beautiful son. But my sadness over the estrangement was short-lived when I honestly assessed what it would be like in reality as opposed to the fantasy of what it could be like if they were different people. But my parents are who they are and yours are who they are. They will not magically morph into acceptable parents.

You have the blessing of this internet stranger to do whatever you need to do to protect yourself---cut them off, have your mom prosecuted, whatever you need to do. Remember that anything bad that befalls your mom now is her own damned doing, not yours. All you are doing is protecting yourself because she not only failed to, but because she affirmatively harmed you.

God, my heart breaks for you. Good luck and memail me if you need to chat.
posted by murrey at 4:58 AM on April 11, 2010 [21 favorites]


Nthing that you urgently need to take legal advice and lock this down firmly and immediately. Half-measures that involve proceeding as if they were your cards and not evidence of a crime committed against you, may make you look like an accomplice or otherwise undermine your attempts to protect yourself.

I also suspect this is the tip of the iceberg, and potentially not the last crime she will commit against you if she thinks she can get away with it. So your only good choice is to take and follow legal advice, even at the risk of seeming ruthless. Your safety first, diplomacy later.

Maybe the lawyer you consult will tell you that the whole thing can be handled much more diplomatically than anticipated. If so, at least it would be your lawyer telling you that rather than a bunch of us.

And I'm sorry. It sucks. You obviously deserve better.
posted by tel3path at 6:18 AM on April 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


Nthing all the advice above to a) report this to the police as soon as possible, and b) seek advice from a lawyer, preferably one specialising in identity fraud.

And don't let her fool you into accepting her confession at face value: there's no reason to believe that what she told you today is the full extent of her fraud. It may well be more than $10,000. A lot more. It may not be nearly paid off. And she may have implicated you in other frauds. If you don't report this current crime immediately, you may be considered an accomplice in any past or future financial crimes she commits in your name.

If I were you, I would cut off all contact with my family for at least a year, and I would not invite them to the wedding. I'm so sorry this is happening to you.
posted by hot soup girl at 7:08 AM on April 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


My mother said she had waited to tell me about it because she wanted to make sure they could pay it all off before they told me

And if they hadn't been able to pay it off, when would you have found out about this? When the credit card company goes into collections? Nthing the advice to file a police report. I can't imagine what it's like to have this happen between family members and wouldn't presume to offer advice on how to treat your relatives, but this is the sort of situation that law enforcement should be dealing with. I'm really sorry, this is terrible.
posted by _cave at 7:25 AM on April 11, 2010


Not to derail anything, but once you've pursued the your options, please read up on Borderline Personality Disorder; what you've said about your mother *screams* it to me. A good therapist should help you address the damage your mother has done and still might do.
posted by kimota at 7:26 AM on April 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


And when this is all over but the shouting, please do find a good therapist because you will need support and healing from this nightmare. A neutral voice who can remind you, over and over if need be, that you are the innocent party in all this.

(please do contact the police. In the long run it's the kindest thing you can do for your mother. Believe it or not.)
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 7:43 AM on April 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


Card fraud specialist here again with my own little bit of advice based on my own experiences.

Absolutely order your credit report. www.annualcreditreport.com is fantastic.

File a police report. I know it's your mom, but do it anyway. It's fraud!

Writing to have the cards closed at your request is very, very different than reporting a fraudulent application. Fraud app will get us to work with the bureaus to remove it from your credit report.

Speaking of bureaus, place a security freeze or fraud alert on your ID with the three bureaus.
Equifax: Security freeze; Fraud alert
TransUnion: Security freeze; Fraud alert
Experian: All-purpose security alert page

Also, call the banks/issuers of the cards that aren't yours and report family fraud. Having the police report number will help their investigations a bit.

INCOMING LIST OF FRAUD CONTACT INFO FOR ISSUERS THAT I CAN THINK OF OFF THE TOP OF MY HEAD:
Wachovia
HSBC and HSBC Card Services
Chase and Chase Card Services
Key Bank fraud: 800-539-1539, option 2.
Discover: 1-800-347-2683
CapitalOne: 1-800-955-7070
M&T Bank: 1-800-724-2440
Citibank: 1-800-950-5114

Oh, and also report any fraudulent bank accounts or things like that set up in your name as well:
* Telecheck (800) 366-2425
* National Processing Company (800) 526-5380
* SCAN (800) 262-7771
* CrossCheck (800) 552-1900
* Market Block List (888) 567-8688

Whew. That's all I can think of off the top of my head without my gigantic binder of information here. If you have any specific questions about your situation, feel free to MeMail me as well.

Good luck; you have my hopes for the brightest future possible.
posted by Verdandi at 8:09 AM on April 11, 2010 [34 favorites]


Nthing report her to to the police and talk to a lawyer. Even though it may seem drastic, and if even if you don't have the desire to prosecute your mom, this is the only way you can fully protect yourself from this happening again, or from it damaging your credit.
You have no duty to this woman anymore.
posted by fructose at 8:13 AM on April 11, 2010


IANAL Check your credit. Close the account(s), to make further charging impossible, though the balances still have to be paid. Put a security freeze on your credit so nothing further can be opened. Do a change of address at your parent's address, so ensure no more mail gets through to them. You should change all the passwords/PINs to bank and online accounts.

You have to make some decisions. Whoever signed up for the card has committed several crimes, likely felonies. Mail fraud, identity theft, probably more. You'll be better prepared to decide when you see your credit report, and have actual facts.

If you chose not to involve the police, give them 30 days to pay off the balance completely.

If you choose to involve the police, notify the credit card company that the account is not actually yours. They'll take it from there. Before this shit hits the fan, retrieve anything that's yours from your parent's home.

In either case, I encourage you to maintain a relationship with your brother, who needs someone stable in his life. Your parents have betrayed you, and cannot be trusted. They don't seem to have much to offer you, but it's awful to lose your parents, and to lose them while they're alive, and because they're criminals who are willing to le to and steal from their children is really painful. If you have any relationship at all, it will be severely limited.

You sound like you have a good head on your shoulders. Build yourself a new family and be proud of how far you've come.
posted by theora55 at 8:57 AM on April 11, 2010


No doubt your mom deserves to be put in jail for all the shit she has put you through. But if (IF!) it's true that these cards are paid off or nearly so, and if (IF!) they made payments on time, all they have done is give your credit rating a big boost.

In that case, you don't have to report fraud, you don't have to call the police, you don't have to hire a lawyer. You can just take all the actions you would have taken if you had suspected she would ever do such a thing (like tell her never to do it, and monitor your credit report and credit card accounts), and take all the actions you need to take from having grown up in such a household (like going to therapy for the next decade).


Do not take this advice. This advises you to be an accessory to identity theft and to attempt to benefit from the crime. Again, these persons are well-meaning, but do not have the legal background to understand what they are talking about. Go straight to a lawyer.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:12 AM on April 11, 2010 [8 favorites]


Listend to Verdandi. He or she is a credit fraud specialist. They understand the implications of this. Do not listen to anyone who is telling you not to report your mother. They are well-meaning, but are falling into the trap of believing that you have to protect someone who has given up all rights for protection from you. You have been victimized and abused. Your mother does need to pay the piper on this one.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:14 AM on April 11, 2010 [4 favorites]


Not to derail anything, but once you've pursued the your options, please read up on Borderline Personality Disorder; what you've said about your mother *screams* it to me. A good therapist should help you address the damage your mother has done and still might do.

Absolutely. Absolutely.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:15 AM on April 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


Nthing the advice regarding contacting the police and a lawyer.

These articles provide similar and valuable advice:

Misuse of Children's Personal Information to Establish Credit by a Parent
"This is problematic, because I find a lot of times, these young adults don't know what to do to fix the problem, and he or she doesn't want to file ID Theft, because it was a family member. They feel conflicted, and seem to accept their unfortunate fate. This always makes me feel like taking them and shaking them to make them understand the implications of what this bad credit really means to them."
Parents Abuse Kids' Good Credit.

Identity Theft and Children.

The Newest Identity Thieves: Parents.posted by ericb at 9:16 AM on April 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


On a related note:

Keep in mind all the security questions that most online accounts ask of you are typically things your parents can answer. You may want to use a fake answer or always put a character before your real answer (for example, *mother'sMaidenName) to prevent your family from accessing any accounts you have.
posted by ifandonlyif at 9:18 AM on April 11, 2010


It's obviously clear that the mother committed a crime. But it's not all that clear that the poster wants to press charges. The mom sounds like a horrible person, no doubt.

But if the debts are paid back, the only potential damage here (other then the pain of betrayal and feeling of being violated) is to the credit score. That shouldn't be too big of a problem if the parents made payments on time.


Again, this advice is legally dangerous and should not be taken under any circumstances.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:19 AM on April 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


You really need to do what Ironmouth says. Take him up on his offer to refer you to counsel.
posted by spaltavian at 9:19 AM on April 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


I understand where you are coming from. My mom is not as severe as yours, but I don't have any delusions that she wouldn't do this to me if given the chance.

If you don't report her to the authorities you are doing a great disservice to yourself. She may have raised you to feel like garbage, but you are a Person who has the right to justice. If you found out that your mom had stolen a stranger's identity would you report her? If she had committed some other crime would you report her? If your answer is yes, then you owe it to yourself to report her. Treat yourself at least as well as you would treat an anonymous stranger.

I think you should include your fiance in the decision making process. If you are planning on combining your finances when you are married then this effects him too.

I agree with the people above who say that this may only be the tip of the iceberg and that you won't know the truth until you take action to prosecute your parents. They have completely lost your trust. To them the money was more important than your mental, physical, and financial well being. If they accept the consequences of their actions then they can start to earn your trust back.

You absolutely must report this to the authorities. As the legal minds above have pointed out, you have to cover your own behind. Just because this 'worked out' this time does not mean that it will the next. If you don't report it there will be a next time, and it may be much worse. Stop her before she does the same thing to your brother (if she hasn't already.)

If your mom really is like mine, one thing you need to be prepared for is that she won't accept responsibility for this and it will turn into something that you 'did' to her. If she does go to jail she won't see it as serving time for her crime, instead she'll see it as getting locked up because her daughter turned her in. Don't let that stop you. She still has to face the consequences of her actions. People who steal the identities and use credit cards in other people's names are committing crimes and deserve to be punished. She knew she was breaking the law, and she needs to face the consequences. It's cause and effect, and that's just how the world works. If you play with fire you will get burned. Your mom needs to learn this.

As far as your wedding goes, I think the same rule applies. She put the money ahead of you and that should show you where you stand in her mind. How do you know that she won't pocket the cash people give her at the wedding that was meant to go to you? Can you really trust her not to walk off with some of the wedding presents? I wouldn't. If it makes things easier for you, you could consider a destination wedding or an elopement where family is not necessarily a feature of the wedding.

You have reached a crossroads. It's time to let go of your family and move on. You have a fiance and a bright future ahead of you, make that your priority. Report this to safeguard that future, and then move on with your life.
posted by FootInMouthDisease at 9:33 AM on April 11, 2010 [3 favorites]


You must be really, really fucking pissed and hurt. Like you just got hit by a truck. Like everything you knew is crumbling around you.

The same thing happened to me with the addition of student loans in my name while I was working my ass off to graduate debt free. Still have those student loans, couldn't get rid of them.

You're in a delicate position. I handled it without a lawyer, but it could have gone bad. Considering that my mother is a lawyer, it could have gone very bad. I can't endorse my course of action 100% but I can show you my thought process and what I did and how it worked out.

My first move was to refuse to answer the phone and handle everything via email (in writing) or they could leave voice mails (also able to save those). That way stupid and possibly incriminating excuses, abusive bullshit, all of it was recorded. I shunted it all off to a separate inbox so that I wouldn't have to read it right when it came in. I still have a separate folder in gmail for her stuff.

After calling her on her shit and then cutting off her ability to berate and control me, she got infuriated and the barrage of abuse was intense. And on the record.

I made it absolutely 100% clear that I would go to the police in a heartbeat. I put on my super-mean game-face and gave her a deadline past which they all needed to be paid off, no matter what. She whined about how it was too soon. Too bad. I didn't give an inch because I didn't want it to become a negotiation. It was, I think, a month? After that I would go to the police. She paid.

I demanded all of the passwords for the online versions of the accounts so I could see everything, print all of the statements.

I called the credit card companies and made the situation clear. One mistake I made was telling one company (BOA, rot in hell) after they sorta talked me into it that I was going to work with my mother and possibly report to the police later--they then told me a few weeks later that I had agreed to pay it so they wouldn't shut it down as fraudulent. So be careful what you say.

You can also cancel the cards even while they're still paying them, that might make you feel better.

I then cut off contact with my family completely--my mother and anyone who sided with her. After a few years, I speak to her very rarely and only via email. Other financial sketchiness has cropped up since then an again, I only talk to her about it via email for obvious reasons.

I slowly let family members back into my life at a rate that feels comfortable for me. If they bother me again, I let them back out of my life quickly. I refuse to discuss my mother with them, if they insist on encouraging me to talk to her I cut them off and stop talking to them for a while. It seems overly strict but I go with my gut, and only talk to family members when I really feel like it will be a pleasant and actively positive thing for me to do. I don't talk to them out of duty or loyalty.

Get all 3 of your credit reports. I bet there's other stuff on there. Put fraud alerts on them, too.

To this day I consider changing my social security number.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 10:34 AM on April 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


Woah there, you are not obligated in any way to go to the police because of your mother's bad behavior. YOU DO NOT HAVE TO DO ANYTHING YOU DON'T WANT TO DO. You do not have to go to the police. You do not have to do anything. You are in control of you. Your mother's behavior obligates you to do NOTHING besides what you want to do for yourself. Going to the police is your decision, and only yours. If you do decide you want a lawyer and to go to the cops, you might consider speaking to the lawyer first to make sure that you go to the cops in the most productive way.

I repeat, you do NOT have to do anything you don't want to do. You have no obligation to anyone but yourself.

On another note, OP, the best thing I ever did was not therapy, it was telling everyone I know that I don't talk to my mother and why. Putting it all out there, she's abusive, she stole all this money from me, letting it all out. No secrets. It felt awesome. I was tired of protecting her and being ashamed of her and apologizing for her and trying to be the good dutiful child. Fuck it. When people asked me why I wasn't going home for Christmas, I told them because my mother is an abusive thief and my family sticks up for her.

Now I am more mellow about it because I get bored of discussing it, but damn, it was so therapeutic to tell people everything.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 10:42 AM on April 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


Oh no! How horrible for you! This puts you in the awful position of needing to deal with both the economic and emotional clean up of this enormous mess.

It is perfectly reasonable to cut off contact with your parents at this time. It doesn't need to be a permanent decision - you can simply decide not to talk to them for the week, or the month, or until you feel ready, or whatever works. If you feel like following up about this specific issue, I agree with the above suggestion to use email. That way you have everything documented.

I also agree that first thing tomorrow you must get your credit report, cancel every card, and, if there is a significant outstanding balance on anything, or if your credit has been damaged, consider filing a police report and reporting this to the card companies. The fact is your identity was stolen - it doesn't matter who stole it (from a legal point of view) and giving anyone the impression that you are OK with this could really screw you over. I'm not sure why you would need a lawyer at this point.

I agree with the above suggestions that a therapist will be very helpful at the moment because in the face of such terrible violation it will be very hard to think clearly without help from an outsider. Again, you dont' have to think of this as a long-term commitment to therapy (though you might). You simply need help in this moment.

I'm so sorry this is happening to you! Take care. You'll get through it.
posted by serazin at 12:04 PM on April 11, 2010


This is shitty, but not that hard. Get a lawyer. You've already bootstrapped yourself out of the crap they stuck you in. If you want one, by all means get a therapist, but I don't see any indication that you need one.

Deal with the legal issues, and then fuck 'em.
posted by cmoj at 12:17 PM on April 11, 2010


Woah there, you are not obligated in any way to go to the police because of your mother's bad behavior. YOU DO NOT HAVE TO DO ANYTHING YOU DON'T WANT TO DO. You do not have to go to the police. You do not have to do anything. You are in control of you. Your mother's behavior obligates you to do NOTHING besides what you want to do for yourself.

OP, your mother's behavior has put you in a precarious legal position which could cost you thousands of dollars. It will be difficult enough overcoming your natural sense of defending your mother, horrible as it is. Anyone explaining to you that you do not have to take the critical legal actions to defend yourself from the giant credit card companies who will surely go after you with hammer and tongs should there be any fallout should also include an offer to pay for the damages that will occur to you personally if you do not report this to the police.
posted by Ironmouth at 1:41 PM on April 11, 2010 [8 favorites]


Do exactly as Ironmouth says.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 1:50 PM on April 11, 2010 [5 favorites]


seconding IFDSSN9 and Ironmouth. and here's what the gummint has to say about changing your social, which I think is a really good idea.

I know kids in middle school whose credit is already ruined because of their parents' improper use of their (the kids') social security numbers to open utility, media and credit accounts.
posted by toodleydoodley at 4:07 PM on April 11, 2010


Please listen to Ironmouth. I am so sorry this happened to you.
posted by ms.v. at 7:25 PM on April 11, 2010


I'm terribly sorry that this happened, and I have little to add, but wanted to pipe up about one thing.

When you request your credit reports, be aware that even if your parents have paid off the accounts in full, it quite probably will say that there's still a balance. I used to work in customer service for a credit card company, and if I'm remembering correctly, while we reported to the credit reports every thirty days, they had up to ninety days to reflect those changes. So when you get the credit report, don't freak yourself out if it says that the accounts are still open or carrying a balance--it's probable that the information is out of date. Phone the credit card company to verify.
posted by MeghanC at 8:07 PM on April 11, 2010


Ironmouth: "You are in a great deal more danger because this person is close to you--not only because they will likely continue to have access to credit offers in your name, but because it will be very difficult to convince credit card companies and bureaus that you are not a willing participant in this scam."

Yeah, and I'd be worried if I were in this situation that if the cards aren't actually paid off, that I could be liable for the debt. Filing a report of identity theft will protect you from that.

While this could be a case of borderline personality disorder, let's leave the diagnosing to the professionals. It's an extremely stigmatized disorder and no one needs to get stuck with that label unnecessarily.
posted by IndigoRain at 8:11 PM on April 11, 2010


I escaped with no damages and I did not go to the police, mostly out of luck. In one case because the credit card company was being nice (USAA) and was willing to quietly close the card and work with me to put the payments due on hold I decided what to do (I love them so much, they were really wonderful to me). In another situation (BOA) I could have easily been completely fucked by the credit card company had my mother decided to call my bluff. At that point I would have had to pay them and, I guess, sue her for the money? Hellish.

My thought process about going to the police: it would have been very upsetting and I had the horrible fear that the police would laugh at me or not believe me, or tell me they could do nothing, thus leaving me with absolutely no leverage and an incredibly pissed and humiliated abuser with nothing to lose. So "go to the police" is complicated advice. Then there's--what police? What if you're in a different jurisdiction? What will they do to your mother? It's pretty complicated stuff that I know nothing about and that was scary to me. I am obviously not a lawyer so I don't know what credit card companies can and can't do in situations like this (considering how credit card companies operate, it's not surprising that they're opaque in this regard).

Legal advice would have been extraordinarily helpful to me and I have no desire to dissuade you from going that route, nor from going to the police if you think it's the right thing for you. At the same time, I want you to feel free to make the choice that is best for you, even if it's not the choice that I would have you make. I know it's hard. Hang in there.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 8:30 AM on April 12, 2010


I can certainly understand where mr. station number 9 - may I call you internet fraud detective squad? is coming from, because in this case the perpetrator was not only his mother, but a lawyer. So taking legal action against her might have been a struggle against strength. In any case, his intuition told him to evade that course of action as long as possible and luckily it turned out all right.

If the OP's mother isn't a lawyer (and it sure sounds like she's not), then I'd recommend doing what Ironmouth says.
posted by tel3path at 9:48 AM on April 12, 2010


internet fraud dective squad, I'm sorry to pick on you but what you're basically saying is:

- You chose not to involve the police and only managed to escape being "completely fucked," "mostly out of luck."

- Instead of seeing a lawyer to better weigh your options, you based your decision on a rather irrational "horrible fear that the police would laugh at you or not believe you."

- You admit that the legal implications were "pretty complicated stuff that you know nothing about and was scary to you," and

- Legal advice would have been "extraordinarily helpful."

I must say I've never been in your situation so I'm in no position to judge, but in your own words your method of dealing with the situation left you fearful and uncertain, and left you relying on luck. You seem very concerned with sheltering OP from any emotional fallout and clearly you mean well...

However, it seems to me that having the professional, expert advice of a lawyer would give OP great peace of mind. Knowing the options and the consequences of each, and actually knowing the real world worst case scenario rather than feverishly imagining one would go a long way toward alleviating OP's fear and confusion, and preparing OP for what's coming down the road.

And tel3path, I am speaking as a lawyer when I say that Ms. station number 9 had no need to fear Her Mother The Lawyer. Lawyers are not wizards, they can't put on a magic cloak of invincibility and become immune to the same laws that everyone else abides by. In fact, lawyers quite often get into huge trouble for their indiscretions - just go to your local Law Society website and check out all the disciplinary hearings. If OP's mother happens to be a lawyer that's even more reason for OP to lawyer up, not to turtle and hide.
posted by keep it under cover at 5:31 PM on April 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


First, I wanted to thank all of you for your kindness and helpful advice. If it weren't for my fiance's support and the support and encouragement of this community I don't think I would have been able to do what was necessary. I especially want to thank Ironmouth.

So...the first thing I ended up doing was calling to have my name taken off of the pre-approved credit mailing lists. I then checked out my credit report. Sure enough, there were the cards. I can't believe I never paid attention before. I will certainly be more vigilant about checking my credit report in the future. However, the good thing was that my mother had actually been paying the minimum on a regular basis. If anything good can be found in all of this, that is. My fiance, who lives in another city until I move there in June, came up to be with me and support me.

I investigated the possibility of legal council but found that it would be much too expensive for this soon-to-be graduate to afford. I felt that it might be counterproductive to put myself into debt so that I would not be in debt. My university does not have very good support services for students in general, and has no legal support services.

On Sunday I did one of the hardest and most awkward things I've ever done and filed a police report on my mother. However, I chose not to press charges. You see, my mother has rheumatoid arthritis, among other major health problems. If my mother went to jail or prison and subsequently died, I am not sure I would be able to convince myself that it wasn't my fault. I didn't think I could live with the death of my mother on my hands. The policeman was very helpful. He called my parents in front of my and let them know that what was transpiring was very serious and that they should be ecstatic that I showed mercy by not putting them away for five to ten years. My mother tried to inform the officer that this was a "family matter", and hung up the phone. My phone rang not a minute later, and the officer answered it for me. He was firm yet again, and my mother responded by telling him he didn't know how horrible I had been when I was young. Ouch. That stung. Horrible how exactly? By getting straight A's? Being involved in activities? Never doing drugs or drinking?

After a paper trail had been established, I called the credit card companies and Experian. I have a fraud alert on my credit report and the financial situation looks close to being resolved. I have encountered no problems when talking to any of the companies involved and I anticipate my credit report being within my control very soon. If she ever manages to do this again, I will definitely press charges.

The hardest part in all of this is the emotional toll it is taking, especially since I am trying to finish up my full-time student teaching in an elementary school. I don't know what I think about therapy yet. I was a psychology major, so I know exactly what I would be in for. Also, to those wondering about Borderline Personality Disorder, my brother and I actually decided about a year ago that Paranoid Personality Disorder was most fitting, especially given that my uncle on my mother's side suffers from Paranoid Schizophrenia.

Right now I am coming to terms with the fact that I will most likely never talk to my parents again unless they sincerely beg for forgiveness, and even then it would not be given unguarded. I simply cannot trust them. I am also desperately trying to contact my brother to make sure they didn't do this to him too, but I think they got to him first.

Thank you again.
posted by delicate_dahlias at 11:21 PM on April 12, 2010 [14 favorites]


Dahlias,

You did good. Really good.

Even if you were a horrible child who set fire to things and tortured small animals your parents do not have the right to use your name and credit. Your mom is saying those things to justify her behavior to herself and to the police. I hope you realize that. You are a good person and you did absolutely the right thing. Your mom should be wetting herself with gratitude that you didn't press charges! If it had been my mom I can't say that I would have been as charitable. That shows how really good you are.

I'm glad that you realize the relationship with your parents is over. Think of it like lancing a boil. It will hurt really bad at first but as the infection drains you are going to start to feel so much better.

If you need a shoulder to cry on you can MeMail me.
posted by TooFewShoes at 7:54 AM on April 13, 2010


Wow. You done great.

I think you're right that law enforcement resources and the fraud departments of the credit card companies and bureaus will be enough to guide you through this, as long as you keep on top of stuff, which it sounds like you're eminently capable of doing.
posted by palliser at 8:18 AM on April 13, 2010


I am glad that you are moving forward with this. Please memail me if you ever want to talk about this (or anything else).
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 8:53 AM on April 13, 2010


Wow, dahlias, you are so resilient in the face of this huge mess. I am sorry if you are hurting from this betrayal and your mom's ridiculous response to her own felonious activities. Hang in there...I promise it does get easier.
posted by murrey at 10:06 AM on April 13, 2010


Wow, what strength, focus and compassion you've shown! You sound like the kind of person who is going to be a great partner to your fiance and a wonderful teacher to your future students. Good for you and don't forget to be compassionate and gentle with yourself as you process this.
posted by serazin at 2:01 PM on April 13, 2010


dahlias, I'm so impressed. You sorted all this out with lightning speed and with the least possible damage done. You're an example to us all. I am really sorry that your mother doesn't appreciate what a brilliant, tough, compassionate daughter she has. FWIW I'm proud of you and I wish I could hug you right now.
posted by tel3path at 3:17 PM on April 14, 2010


I know this is months and months later, but I just came across the thread. delicate_dahlias, I so admire your fortitude and strength of character. You're just so impressive.
posted by waldo at 4:32 PM on July 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


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