Identity Theft: Mattie

Identity Theft: Mattie

A 23-year-old victim of identity theft writes:

 

Dear Dr. Phil:

 

Ever since I was old enough to read, I would find mysterious bills in my name. Later, I found out that my mother had cell phones, cable, phone and electricity bills, as well as multiple credit card accounts, in my name. When I would ask her about the mail with my name on it, she would tell me, 'It's none of your business.' At 21, my debt was so extreme, that I had to file for bankruptcy. The person who would help was my grandmother.

 

Just recently, I've had to file charges against my mother because I'm still receiving bills with my name on them. What can I do to stop my mom from stealing my identity again?

 

Sincerely,
Mattie

Mattie says she has trouble talking to her mother. "She's always lied to me about it. I never got the honest truth," she says, tears coursing down her cheeks.

 

"Do you see her now?" Dr. Phil asks.

 

"No, I can't."

 

"How do you know she's at it again?" Dr. Phil inquires.

 

"In October, I got another bill in the mail. We had just gotten a loan approved for a house. We didn't know what to do. We called her, and we wanted to know why, and she wouldn't tell us," she replies.

 

"What did she say when you asked her about it?"

 

"It was none of my business," Mattie replies. "She didn't know what we were talking about."

 

"Just complete denial," Dr. Phil sympathizes.

Dr. Phil addresses Mattie's grandmother, Barbara. "She's your daughter. Have you talked to her about it?" he asks.

 

"I lay it right on the line. I say, 'What the hell do you think you're doing to this kid? She can't even get a credit card,'" she replies, face contorted in pain. "I didn't know the extent of Mattie's debt. As the bills were coming in, they were living in a house that my husband and I owned, and she'd say, "Grandma, all of these bills. What are they?' And I said, 'Start grabbing them, start getting them, and bring them to me.' And she did. She was 12-years-old, and she brought me cable bills, credit card bills, light bills, cell phone bills. It was terrible."

 

 

Dr. Phil addresses Mattie's grandmother, Barbara. "She's your daughter. Have you talked to her about it?" he asks.

 

"I lay it right on the line. I say, 'What the hell do you think you're doing to this kid? She can't even get a credit card,'" she replies, face contorted in pain. "I didn't know the extent of Mattie's debt. As the bills were coming in, they were living in a house that my husband and I owned, and she'd say, "Grandma, all of these bills. What are they?' And I said, 'Start grabbing them, start getting them, and bring them to me.' And she did. She was 12-years-old, and she brought me cable bills, credit card bills, light bills, cell phone bills. It was terrible."

 

 

Dr. Phil introduces Tom Syta, Deputy Director for the Federal Trade Commission's Western Region. "What do you do in Mattie's situation?" Dr. Phil asks.

"They need to try to fix their credit report. That means you have to know what's on your credit report by checking it regularly. You have to go to all of those credit reporting agencies, send them letters," Tom replies. He turns to Mattie. "Put a fraud alert on your credit report. Hopefully the next time somebody tries to open something under your name, that will flag it, and they won't be able to open the credit card and the other accounts under your name."

"Your agency recommends that people check their credit quarterly, to look for unauthorized activity so the bleeding doesn't go on for a long time without them knowing what's happening, right?" Dr. Phil asks.

 

"Exactly," Tom answers. "The sooner you find it, obviously, the less damage that's been done. At annualcreditreport.com, you can get one [free] credit report every year from the different credit reporting agencies, so you can stagger those, and you get to see [your report] every four months or so."

Although Barbara was aware of her daughter's fraud, she couldn't bring herself to contact the authorities. "I confronted her. I said, 'You have these bills.' 'I'm paying on them, Ma. It's none of your damned business,'" she explains. "My husband said, 'We've got to do something. You've got to report her to the police.' I couldn't do it. She was my daughter. I know she loved her kids."

 

"She knows that you won't call the police on your own daughter," Dr. Phil says. "She knows this in her mind, which is why she takes the liberty to go and do it because she knows she won't be held accountable for it. But that came to an end, right?"

 

"Hopefully," Mattie says.

 

"You have filed a complaint. What did you allege in your complaint?" Dr. Phil asks.

 

"I had gotten a bill and called her about it. She admitted it. I called the police. She came over, the police officer came over, and all she did was ask if my mother admitted to doing this. She talked to my mother, and now we don't know what's going on with it."

 

"Did she do the right thing, Tom, in terms of getting the process started to stop what's happening?" Dr. Phil asks.

 

"If you're the victim of identity theft, obviously, filing a police report is one thing you can do to help that process," he replies. "It varies on the jurisdiction, it varies on the amount at issue, but as you've seen from other instances, it can result in serious prison time."

 

Tom suggests that Mattie, and other victims of identity theft, go to the FTC's Web site and fill out an identity theft affidavit to take to the credit reporting agencies.