Published: August 07, 2023

If You’re Recovering From Parental Identity Theft, Read This First


Clare Stouffer

Staff writer

+ More
A woman looks at financial information on her computer while working to recover from parental identity theft.

Suppose you’re a person who has never bought anything online. You’ve never given out any personal information over the web, you never use email or social media, and you don’t even have an online bank account. You might consider yourself safe from someone stealing your personal information and using it illegally for their own financial gain, right? 

Well, not if you’re a 5-year-old.  

At that young age, children can represent a prime opportunity for an identity thief. They have a social security number, a clean credit report, and it’s unlikely that they or anyone will be checking in on their credit rating for years to come. It’s a crime called child identity theft. 

A recent study from Javelin Research shows that 1 in 100 kids were victims of child identity theft in the U.S. in 2022. Two in three of the victims of child identity theft knew their identity thief either personally or online. Perhaps most upsetting, the study shows that a parent, a guardian’s partner or spouse, or a stepparent are the most likely perpetrators. 

Whether called parental identity theft, child identity theft, or familial identity theft, an alarming number of parents and family members are leaving young adults with crippling financial commitments, shattered family connections, and little recourse for recovery. It’s a crime that can impact young people’s lives for decades.  

From the perspective of a victim, you have to imagine the extra layers of pain inflicted. Not only has a crime been committed with your information, not only is it now your job to sort through all the repercussions, but all of this was enacted by someone in your family. That person might have disappeared from your life years ago, or they might still be living under the same roof.

Don’t pay off stolen money yourself. There is a road to recovery, and we can help.

The path to reclaiming your credit identity

Recovering from parental identity theft can be complex and time-consuming, but taking the following steps can help get your credit and financial health back on track. 

File a police report
This is the first and arguably the toughest step, particularly if it involves holding a parent accountable in the eyes of the law. Creditors and credit reporting agencies want official documentation of a crime, especially when that crime has taken place between two people who know each other. A police report is your proof to financial institutions that this is a serious situation.

Change all your passwords
While you’re getting on the road to recovery, be certain that there’s no further access to your accounts by anyone but you. Change all of your passwords, don’t use the same password for different services, and create strong passwords for your email and financial accounts. Enable multi-factor authentication (MFA) on any service that offers it. Using strong passwords can be difficult at first, so consider making things easier with a password vault

Contact the Federal Trade Commission (FTC)
In the United States, you can file a complaint with the FTC online at or call 1-877-ID-THEFT. The FTC will then provide you with an Identity Theft Report. This report can be used to block fraudulent information from appearing on your credit report, prevent a company from collecting debts caused by identity theft, and prevent a company from selling a debt related to identity theft

Contact the credit bureaus
You'll want to contact all three major credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion) to place a fraud alert on your account. You should also get a copy of your credit report from each bureau to identify all fraudulent activity.

Dispute fraudulent transactions and accounts
Once you have your credit reports, identify any accounts or charges you did not authorize and dispute them. This process involves writing to the credit bureaus and providing copies of your police report and Identity Theft Report from the FTC.

Close fraudulent accounts
Contact the fraud departments of each business where any accounts that were never yours were opened or a fraudulent transaction occurred without your consent. Ask the businesses to close these accounts, and ask them to flag that the activity was the result of identity theft.

Monitor your credit reports
Once you’ve addressed the immediate issues, you should monitor your credit reports regularly to ensure no new fraudulent activity occurs.

Consider a credit monitoring service
Services like LifeLock will monitor your credit reports and alert you when suspicious activity occurs. This line of defense can help prevent further loss or damage to your credit records.

Consider freezing your credit
A credit freeze makes it harder for someone to open a new account in your name because creditors can't access your reports. You can enable a freeze with all of the credit bureaus, and turn that freeze off later when you’re ready.

Be tenacious about reclaiming your identity

On the road to recovery, remember it's important to stay patient and persistent. Keep your records from the companies and bureaus you contact. Lock down your credit and take measures to ensure there’s no further fraud. Restoring your identity can take time, but it's worth the effort. You got this.

Editorial note: Our articles provide educational information for you. LifeLock offerings may not cover or protect against every type of crime, fraud, or threat we write about. Our goal is to increase awareness about cyber safety. Please review complete Terms during enrollment or setup. Remember that no one can prevent all identity theft or cybercrime, and that LifeLock does not monitor all transactions at all businesses.

How to help protect yourself against identity theft — because prevention is impossible
You may have wondered how to help protect yourself from identity theft, particularly if you know others who’ve experienced it. Learn more from LifeLock.
Read More
What is personally identifiable information, and why does it matter?
Your personal information is any piece of information that could be used to identify you. Identity thieves may use PII to commit fraud. Here’s what you need to know.
Read More
What happens if you lose your Social Security card?
If you lose your Social Security card, helping to protect yourself against identity theft matters most. Find out how to replace your lost or stolen SSN card here.
Read More
How to dispute a credit report error in 5 easy steps
Errors on consumer credit reports can be a common occurrence. If you find something in your credit report that doesn’t belong there, here’s what to do.
Read More

Start your protection,
enroll in minutes.

Get discounts, info, protection tips, and more.

Sign up for promotional emails.