BROOKINGS, S.D. (KELO) – When your identity is stolen, it can cause a lot of problems and stress. When the person who steals your identity is someone you know and trust, it can be even more devastating.
One woman, originally from Indiana, whose family has been dealing with identity theft since she was 11 years old. Axton Betz-Hamiton, who is now an assistant professor at SDSU, eventually figured out who was doing this to her family- her own mother. She’s written a book that she hopes others will pick up and learn from her experience.
Just last week, the book ‘The Less People Know About Us,’ hit the shelves. This is Axton Betz-Hamilton’s personal story of identity theft.
“When I was 11, my grandfather died, and shortly after my mom said that our mail was missing, and my dad was noticing mail missing, and my pen pal letters were coming up missing,” assistant professor of consumer affairs, author of ‘The Less People Know About You,’ Axton Betz-Hamilton said. “After a while my mom said it was identity theft, and it must be someone with a vendetta against us and they want grandpa’s farm.”
It continued for years, eventually causing Betz-Hamilton’s family to stop interacting with people.
Her mom, Pam Betz, who also went by her maiden name Pam Elliott, was diagnosed with cancer and died in 2013.
“13 days after she passed away my dad called me and yelled at me for running a credit card over limit in 2001, and I said dad I didn’t,” Betz-Hamilton said. “That was one of the credit cards that was taken out in the identity theft, so what’s mom doing with it, and he said I don’t know but it’s here with your birth certificate and that’s when my blood ran cold.”
Axton realized her mom was the one doing this to their family.
Along with her book, she appeared on Dr. Oz Tuesday afternoon to share her experience.
“It was a very welcoming environment by him and his staff. It was enjoyable experience and I hope people learn from the segment,” Betz-Hamilton said. “I hope victims pick up my book, particularly victims of familial identity theft, pick it up and read it and they can identify with it and they can see that there is light at the end of the tunnel.”
Jessie Schmidt from the Better Business Bureau says having a family member being the identity thief is not uncommon.
“When people have had a deep violation of their credit, meaning several things have been taken, most often times those happen with a family member, or someone that you trust, that’s in your home on a regular basis, and that’s really disheartening when that happens, but it’s not that uncommon,” Better Business Bureau, Jessie Schmidt said.
To avoid falling victim to identity theft, Schmidt suggests freezing your credit, shredding important papers and checking credit periodically.