I've been doing a lot of reading on this forum lately, and seeing how active and helpful the members of this community are, I thought I'd pose a question of my own.
I'm 22 and just graduated from college this past May. In July, I'll be starting a good job in NYC, and will be leaving my parents' home and moving into an apartment of my own. As I enter the professional world, I'd like to start building my credit and get into good financial shape. I know that nothing on a personal level will prevent me from being able to do this - I'm a very diligent person, good at saving and spending, etc. However, I have a rather unscrupulous father who may pose a problem for me with regard to my finances.
My father has a horrible track record with finances (I could go into details, but that would require pages and pages of writing). He did OK for a short period from around 2002 to 2010, when he had a decent full-time job and didn't accumulate any debt. However, he has been unemployed since 2010, and has focused his energy into some business idea. My father claims that his work on building this business will reap some reward, but I highly doubt it, and he seems to be getting more and more desperate for funding to run this ill-fated enterprise. This would be his 4th business since his 30s - the 1st failed utterly - he got into a lot of trouble in our country of origin, and we lost our home there; the 2nd and 3rd also failed utterly, this time after we had moved to the US, causing my father to declare bankruptcy which, according to him, the lawyer screwed up and he ended up having to pay his creditors anyway while the bankruptcy remained on the credit report. In dealing with these problems, my dad received considerable support from his well-off brother and sister, but that was generally after he had stooped to doing lots of immoral things, like issuing bad checks and opening credit card accounts in my mom's name without her knowing.
What worries me now is that, given his current financial shape, my father might try to capitalize on my credit in the coming months and years without my knowledge. After all, just last year, my mom closed three of her credit cards after she found out that my dad had maxed them out without her knowledge. I'm afraid that my dad could open new credit cards in my name and then max them out - as I've mentioned he's done this before to my mom, and he certainly isn't above doing it again to my mom or myself. I've even become paranoid with the mail since I've returned from college - not wanting my dad to get his hands on any credit card offers in my name or my mom's name. I've since opted-out of these types of mailings for both of us, but I'd like to do more to protect myself from my father in the months and years ahead. I've considered putting a permanent freeze on my credit report with all 3 bureaus to prevent any one from checking my credit without my knowledge (for example, to issue a credit card in my name). There would be a fee ($5) to temporarily lift the freeze if I ever needed to (to get a credit card or something), and I wouldn't need to keep the freeze forever - just until I'm fully established with my own family or until the old man keels over, whichever comes first. Of course, I know that if I don't freeze my credit reports or do anything else to protect myself, and my dad opens an account in my name that would constitute ID theft and fraud and can result in him being prosecuted, but I'd rather not go down that avenue. Any suggestions on what I should do? Thanks in advance!
You should absolutely put a freeze on all of your credit reports. Also if you haven't recently checked your reports for any accounts that you didn't authorize, do it now.
Freeze it! Then when you are around your father complain about how credit is a massive scam, make up some minor problems with your credit, say your score is not as good as it really is. Or you could even say that you were a victim of identity theft.
This is a very ugly situation!
I think the $5 fee to unfreeze each report is minor for the peace of mind that you do not end up with such an ugly family situation happening.
Thank you both for your advice - freezing my report seems to be the way to go. However, do you have any suggestions on how to prevent my father from getting my credit card info from credit card companies so he can make unathorized charges? I will be applying for and (hopefully) getting my first credit card (or 2) very soon. My father will learn about these cards at some point or another (as he knows that I will need to get a credt card to start building my credit), but if I am ever pressed for details, I will lie. However, partly due to paranoia and partly because of my father's past behvior, I am afraid that he might randomly start calling credit card companies and claiming that he is me to get information, and if I do happen to have a card at one of those companies I could get screwed. Are credit card companies willing to thoroughly verify my information every time I call? And, by thoroughly, I mean going well beyond asking my SSN, as this is something my father would obviously know. Thanks!
Do not use your mother's real maiden name to secure your information. Make up something. Your mother's maiden name is just confirmation that CCCs use to confirm who you are. Once you get a card or two talk to the CSR at each company about setting up some sort of expanded security measures. Tell them honestly you are worried about family members using their knowledge of you to gain access to your accounts. I am pretty sure they can set up some sort of extra security layer for you.
use a mailing address like a PO box for bills
try to have ONLINE bills only too
No paperwork for him to snoop
Freeze your reports.
Any enhanced security measures.
And monitor your CR's monthly, or more if you can afford to.
You have a plethora of options.
It's sad that he's doing this to your family. But you need to be smart about your own CR's too.
Follow my financial journey: http://www.frugalrican.com
I'm sorry your dealing with something like this in your family. I had a similar issue. You must put a fraud alert with all 3 credit bureaus! However, it maybe difficult since he is your father and knows all your information. My other advice. Divert your mail to a PO box instead of to your fathers home. That will help stop credit card offers from coming into his home. You may also opt out of credit card offers. That would reduce the "offers" that you would get in the mail.
My brothers girlfriend "used" our last name. Since her first name was similar to mine. She would run around town running up bills. Therefore, when I was doing legitmate business. These creditors would try to collect her BAD debt from ME! Some of her crap ended up on my credit reports. So, I have a permanent fraud alert on my credit report! It is so tight, I can't even get credit sometimes!