I had a very challenging upbringing. My parents got married very young, and they have been divorced since I was six months old. My mother has not been a source of stability, and she has a very tumultuous financial life. In 2005, my mother lost her house, and from then on, she began a downward spiral financially. She never wanted us to think something was wrong, so she lied about everything. I eventually found out, piece by piece, about her financial destruction, and it broke my heart.
She began opening accounts in my name in 2009. I found out that same year, when I was 18, but I didn’t understand what credit was. I wasn’t worried — she promised me everything would be fine and said she would just pay off the cards.
In 2012 I thought her money troubles were finished, because my grandfather passed away and she came into some money. She was doing so much better, and our relationship flourished. I truly thought she had changed. I think that everyone on some level wants to blindly trust their parents. I thought the accounts my mom had opened were in the past, and that she had paid them off and closed them out when I was 18.
I now know that the money she came into didn’t change a thing, and that behind my back she continued to rack up debt in my name.
l recently checked my credit — and the score read 508. I was floored. While I knew my score wouldn’t be perfect, I didn’t expect it to be this bad. I’m in excellent standing on my one credit card and have never missed a payment for anything in my life.
Then I got a full credit report, and it all started to make sense.
The statement showed account after account, delinquency after delinquency, and even a credit line from a company I’d never heard of. I knew immediately that this was my mom’s doing. I went into crisis mode and secured all the accounts in my name, closed everything she had opened, and, for the rest of the week, fought bitterly with the creditors.
I had never been this hurt by someone. And now that I realize the importance of credit in my life, I have never felt so betrayed.
Initially, she denied it all, which was to be expected. I wanted to go to the police, but I have younger siblings, and they begged me not to. My mother doesn’t feel any remorse about what she has done, and I think that is the worst part. When we eventually got to the truth, she said she was sorry, but she hasn’t contacted me since.
Last week, I saw on social media that she got two puppies, took my sister shopping, and spent the week gallivanting around town with her friends. It feels like a slap in the face.
This discovery put my plans on hold. My fiancé and I have had to regroup completely. We were planning to move in with my mom for a few months to save money while we started our careers. That’s off the table now, so we’re frantically looking at our finances and searching options. The money we saved to move went to the creditors and to pay off the accounts my mother opened in my name. My credit is ruined and I’m scared we won’t be able to qualify for an apartment. I feel broken — but not completely defeated.
Thankfully, I have already begun to rebuild. For now, as hard as it is, I am cutting my mother out of my life. I’ve frozen all my accounts and (thanks to some good negotiating) have been able to get three of the delinquent accounts deleted from my credit report. There are some accounts that will not be struck from my record without a police report, so we’re paying those off as soon as possible, too. I have a long road ahead, but I am willing to do whatever needs to be done to clear my name and make sure the real me is reflected in my credit score.
Devin is a California transplant living in Illinois, where she is finishing her master’s in opera performance and literature. When she isn’t performing, she spends her downtime with her wonderful fiancé and two mouthy cats.
This post originally appeared on The Financial Diet.