Helping a teenager escape abusive finances
August 28, 2016 1:18 PM   Subscribe

Where can I find information and resources for a teenager trying to make first steps toward financial independence from controlling/unstable/abusive parents? Particularly parental identity theft prevention.

I’ve done financial management and credit counseling before, but not for minors. Are there any online resources or places to start specifically intended for teenagers with controlling, unstable, or abusive parents?

In addition to basic stuff like how to open a back account without parental knowledge, I'm also looking for advice on detecting/preventing parental identity theft.
posted by Ndwright to Work & Money (9 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Check with the three major credit reporting agencies to see if there has been credit established in the name of the minor. It seems likely that you could at least make it more difficult by placing a fraud alert, and I suspect that you could assist the teenager in placing a credit freeze on their files, which would make it very difficult for damage to occur.
posted by jgreco at 1:29 PM on August 28, 2016 [3 favorites]

Preventing identity theft should be easy.

First call utility companies to make sure there are not utility bills past or present in his name, get his free credit report online to check for already open loans and other lines of credit.

If they are there, honestly the police should get involved. If that's not possible then your going to have to problem solve it, more likely in a different question.

But if not freeze his ability to create accounts/credit after he has established a checking or savings account of his own with enough money in it to protect from any fees or charges. A company like Lifelock will do it for a fee.
posted by AlexiaSky at 1:31 PM on August 28, 2016 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Auntie Sparknotes covered this recently.
posted by Violet Hour at 1:40 PM on August 28, 2016 [4 favorites]

Minors have limited rights in this regard. You might look into legal emancipation instead. Get emancipated as a teen states that one reason to seek emancipation is that your parents have stolen money from you. However, emancipation involves moving out and supporting yourself, a thing they may not be ready for.

If interested, you would need to look up state specific information. I believe in most states you need to be at least 16, but I think California will allow a 15 year old to petition for emancipation.

When I was a minor, I had to have a parent co sign to open a savings account. A quick google suggests this is still true.

But they apparently can get a prepaid card without a parent. I would pursue that and other grey area things that are relatively new and primarily aimed at poor people.

Legal minors cannot make contracts, so a regular cell phone may be unavailable without parental permission, thus giving the parent legal access to the account, but a prepaid phone may be do-able because there is no contract.
posted by Michele in California at 1:46 PM on August 28, 2016

Best answer: Here are some resources and similar stories
posted by Sophont at 2:13 PM on August 28, 2016

Response by poster: I should have added to my original question: assume legal emancipation is not an option, and that said teen will have to finish high school before he/she can realistically leave the household.
posted by Ndwright at 2:17 PM on August 28, 2016

is a guardian ad litem possible for this situation? anyone here have the facts?
posted by j_curiouser at 3:04 PM on August 28, 2016

How to Prevent Child Identity Theft

I have done some research in this area. One of the big things you should check on is the child's social security number.

Ideally, the child should try to arrange a place to hide things like a prepaid card and learn to not drop verbal hints. Information security is a very big part of coping effectively with this kind of hostile environment.

If the child has a lot of friends or relatives they can "visit," routinely couch surfing to keep them away from the family home may be a kind of grey area of "I have not moved out, honest!" that will help limit their contact with the parents. Alternately, it may help to just be an incredibly busy teen who is involved in lots of stuff and has meetings all the time so they basically only go home to sleep.
posted by Michele in California at 3:08 PM on August 28, 2016 [7 favorites]

Should it turn out that their parents open a credit card in their name, it's very important that the teen never make payments on that debt as an adult and instead report it as fraudulent. My understanding is that disavowing such accounts is relatively straightforward as long as you stick to your guns but it's best done promptly and without doing anything that might be construed as "claiming" the debt.
posted by teremala at 5:39 AM on August 29, 2016

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