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Financial abuse

Lamiya already had a sizable debt burden by the time she’d turned 18. That’s when she found out her father had accrued debt, in her name, after taking her to get dental work done as a teen — without ever paying the medical bill. All of this was done without Lamiya’s knowledge or consent.

To help get it under control, she’d initially appeared on an episode of Hammer’s show back in September 2023.

“Did you just exit the womb and start swiping cards?” Hammer asked her sarcastically at the time. However, Lamiya explained that it was her father that did the swiping on her behalf.

Unfortunately, child identity fraud in America is a relatively common issue. One in 50 kids have had their identity stolen, according to a 2021 report by Javelin Strategy & Research.

It estimates the total financial impact of these child identity fraud cases at nearly $1 billion annually. The issue is prevalent enough that Credit One Bank has a guide to help people resolve credit issues created by their parents.

Like Lamiya, nearly three-quarters (73%) of child identity loss victims knew the perpetrators of the theft. These breaches of trust can have lasting impacts on any child’s financial future.

Lamiya revealed that she’d paid off collections; however, her father frequently stole money from her by rummaging through her purse for her credit cards in the middle of the night. Hammer pointed out that this was a case of “abuse — financial and emotional.”

She fell further into debt after her father — as a condition of her living in the family home — made her pay for everything from her siblings’ video game consoles and her father’s cigarettes to larger items such as the family car.

Resolving these cases is time consuming and expensive. However, Lamiya was determined to salvage her financial future.

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Turning things around

By the time she’d appeared on Financial Audit the second time around, Lamiya had already negotiated the medical bill her father had put in her name. She’d successfully cut the bill from $2,400 down to $1,200 and paid it off over several months.

Meanwhile, she also managed to avoid student loans by funding her studies through part-time work and by attending community college. Additionally, Lamiya told Hammer she received a grant from college to help with her studies.

This grant gave her the breathing room she needed to focus on her enormous debt burden. She also committed to living below her means in order to pay off her debt in less than a year.

Some financial experts may recommend the avalanche method to help get you out of a cycle of debt. You essentially start with your highest interest debt, while making the minimum payments on your other credit cards or loans.

On the flip side, if that feels too daunting, the snowball method may be more to your liking. This debt-reducing strategy has you paying off the smallest debt first while making the minimum payments on all other outstanding debts. Once you’ve paid off the smallest debt, you move on to the next smallest debt.

Another resource that Lamiya could have leaned on was a trained credit counselor. They can offer advice on budgeting and dealing with various expenses as well as paying down debt.

Credit counseling is usually offered by non-profit organizations and you can speak with a professional over the phone, online or in person. Some may even offer free services.

“Things are so much better [now]” Lamiya said in her follow-up call with Hammer.

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Vishesh Raisinghani Freelance Writer

Vishesh Raisinghani is a freelance contributor at MoneyWise. He has been writing about financial markets and economics since 2014 - having covered family offices, private equity, real estate, cryptocurrencies, and tech stocks over that period. His work has appeared in Seeking Alpha, Motley Fool Canada, Motley Fool UK, Mergers & Acquisitions, National Post, Financial Post, and Yahoo Canada.

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