Phishing attempts, credit counseling scams, data breaches…the list of ways your financial health can be affected never ends. So when your financial security is disrupted by someone you know, the hurt can be overwhelming and your path forward confusing. Should you let it go and quietly recover, or are there drastic measures that need to be taken to secure your future?
Identity theft by family members is a serious concern and a crime that shouldn’t be taken lightly. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) estimates that at least 6% of all frauds were done by the victim’s family member, and 3% of those victims were children.
If you’ve been the victim of having student loans taken in your name fraudulently, there are a few things you should do.
Step 1: Act fast
The sooner you take action, the better off you’ll be. Don’t wait to hear their side of the story or the guilt trip they’ll give you to doubt yourself. You must protect your financial future as quickly as possible; the longer you wait, the more difficult it will be to erase the fraud from your credit history. If you wait too long after finding out, you might even be seen as complacent in a court of law, so don’t put yourself in the way of more trouble.
Step 2: Freeze your credit
Contact all credit reporting agencies, Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian, and put a freeze on your credit. This will stop any new loans or credit cards from being opened in your name.
Step 3: Review your current credit report
Request your full credit report from each agency (you’re allowed one free report every year from all three bureaus) and check it over thoroughly. You’ll want documentation for every fraudulent account that’s there.
Step 4: Contact your school
Contact your school’s financial aid department to get records if you’re a current student. You’ll want to find copies of the signed promissory note and the original application. The more of a paper trail you have showing your identity was stolen, the faster things will go.
Step 5: File a police report
This step is the toughest to do as it involves setting in motion a felony charge for the relative that fraudulently opened accounts in your name, but it’s necessary to continue onto the next steps. You’ll need a copy of your filed police report to show that you never authorized student loans to be taken in your name; otherwise, it’s just your word against theirs, and your lenders will most likely say you’re still liable for the loan repayment.
Step 6: Contact your student loan lenders and the government
Now that you have a police report filed, you’ll need to submit this information to your lenders and file disputes against the ownership of the student loans. You’ll need the paper trail you’ve collected before, any communication records you have with you, the family member, the school, or the loan servicer, and copies of your ID, social security card, and signature.
You should also file a report with the Federal Trade Commission at IdentityTheft.gov. While this isn’t required, the FTC can provide additional recommendations and resources.
Finally, if any loans were from the US Department of Education, you’ll want to contact the Office of Inspector General to investigate how the loan got approved and what errors the school made that should’ve protected you from this.
The bottom line
Student loan fraud is a painful, exhausting process to recover from, especially when done by someone who’s supposed to love you. Don’t let them take advantage of you; it’s time to think about what’s best for your future. Take steps to protect your financial future and look out for what’s in your best interest, not theirs.
Name: Michael Bertini
Job Title: Consultant
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