Student Discovers Her Parents Opened Several Credit Cards In Her Name While She Was Away At College — And Now She Owes $15k In Debt

They committed a federal crime in her name. Now they're demanding she be the one to fix it.

woman shocked after finding out her parents opened credit cards in her name Wavebreakmedia / Getty Images / Canva Pro

And you thought you had terrible parents. 

A college student on Reddit is reeling after finding out what her parents have been up to while she was off at her freshman year of college—an astonishing combination of federal crime, lies, and a level of abusive audacity that is frankly difficult to even fathom.

Her parents opened credit cards in her name while she was at college—and now she owes $15,000 in debt.

Identity theft is a terrifying experience, and even more so when you realize we are all sitting ducks: Data security experts say there have been so many data breaches in the digital age that it is almost certain that everyone's social security number has been compromised. 


Yes, everyone's.

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Of course, there are measures you can take to keep strangers from leveraging your information. But what about your parents, who are often the keepers of the very information needed to steal your identity in the first place?


That's the unthinkable situation this Redditor has found herself in after coming home her freshman year of college for the summer to find a letter addressed to her from a debt collections agency.

"I discovered I supposedly owed nearly $5000 on a Capital One card I had no idea I was ever signed up for," she wrote in her post. But that was only the beginning of the drama.

mom and daughter fighting fizkes / Shutterstock


When she confronted her parents, they gave her an ultimatum: Declare bankruptcy or move out.

After getting the collections notice, her mother's weirdly cagey behavior about rushing to get the mail before her every day suddenly made sense. Confronting her, the young woman found out she now owed $15,000 to three different credit card companies her parents had opened in her name.

You might be expecting to hear that her parents felt remorseful. Think again. "We ended up having a huge argument about it with my mom saying her parents did this to her when she was 18." Oh, okay, that clears that up then, no problem, Mom!

It got worse from there: "She said that I could file for bankruptcy and that it wouldn't hurt me because I wouldn't be trying to buy a house for several years." Sure, it's that easy!


The problem is this young woman is pursuing a career with the government, "and a bankruptcy would probably disqualify me for it. She knows this, but it doesn't seem like she cares."

They finally gave her an absolutely insane ultimatum. "Either I can declare bankruptcy once they spend up to the credit limit of the last card with any credit on it, or they said I could move out at the end of the month."

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Opening a credit card in someone else's name is identity theft, even if it's family and pressing charges is the only recourse.

The law is crystal clear — identity theft is identity theft, whether it's family or a stranger, and it is a federal crime. Yes, as in prosecuted by the Department of Justice. Federal and state laws vary on whether it constitutes a misdemeanor or a felony, but either way, it carries up to a 15-year prison sentence.


identity thief hacker Kaspars Grinvalds / Canva Pro

This poor girl's sociopathic parents have put her in an unforgivable bind, but what they may not realize is that bankruptcy is far from her only recourse — and she actually holds all the cards (no pun intended).

If she wants to avoid being held liable for the charges and destroying her credit rating, she must report the theft to the Federal Trade Commission and then press criminal charges. All experts say that it is essential to treat identity theft as the crime it is, regardless of who perpetrates it.


If she does so, the case could result in a lien on her parents' house, which could potentially mean the house belongs to her if they don't pay up. So much for their insane "let us steal from you or get out" ultimatum.

Of course, a reversal of fortune and justice being served will do nothing to help this poor girl through the trauma and strife of having to file criminal charges against her own parents, especially since, at 19, she's still little more than a child herself.

But it is likely the only way to avoid the myriad knock-on effects of identity theft, from insanely high interest rates and insurance premiums to being forced to put down deposits on utilities — as well as a potential criminal record if her parents have used her credentials to commit other crimes.

@jahlen.johnson The most insane identity theft case I think I’ve heard. Victim William Donald Woods had to fight for years to finally be vindicated of the crimes committed by Matthew David Keirans. Jail stays and institutionalized because he wouldn’t admit he was someone he wasn’t! #donaldwoods #identitytheft #matthewkeirans ♬ original sound - jahlen.Johnson

Pressing charges will surely end her relationship with her parents, too. But the pain of betrayal and estrangement can be healed. Things like criminal records often can't.

And in the end, they aren't parents anyway. Blithely ruining your daughter's future for your own gain and then having the temerity to put the onus on her to fix it is more than a crime. It is abuse. And they deserve to be in jail for that alone.

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John Sundholm is a news and entertainment writer who covers pop culture, social justice, and human interest topics.