I Created A Monster

My 19 year old son has been stealing from me. I don’t mean a few bucks out of my wallet for gas. I am talking stealing several credit cards and maxing them out, writing checks to himself and going to check cashing businesses to cash them and spending more money than he has in the bank knowing that I linked an account for overdraft protection.

To make matters worse, since I don’t normally keep balances on these three cards, I wasn’t expecting bills. He was getting the mail and hiding them from me. My credit is now severelyl damaged due to last payments and over the limit fees.

I finally found out when I received a phone call from American Express about a past due balance.

My son has spent thousands of dollars at games stores, target, walmart and restaurants. THOUSANDS of dollars. He would use one until it was no longer good. put it back in my wallet and take another one. When I finally found out what he was doing, I locked up all my cards in my safe. That is when he started stealing my checks. I noticed a couple were missing out of sequence but assumed I just forgot what I had written them to and would resolve it when I receive my statement. I then noticed an entire book of checks were gone so I called up the bank and had them do a stop payment. Apparently I did this the day after my son cashed a check at one of those cashing places for $200. Of course, it bounced which resulted in my getting a letter from the establishment that I am responsible for the “bad check” I wrote. After getting the copy, I saw to whom it was made payable. My option at that point was to file a police report or pay the darn thing to prevent my son being prosecuted. I paid it.

My son lives at home and attends college. He is currently working but was not working at the time. He has slept through his shifts and has gotten fired from every job he has held in the past year. I don’t know how long this job will last.

I want him to leave my home but he states he has no where to go. This is untrue because my ex husband is willing to take him in to try to straighten him out. My son refuses to move out and go there.

I am really devastated by this behavior. He was always such a good kid. Good student, responsible, great with his baby sister, gentle and kind. He graduated high school, started college and turned into a stranger. I know he doesn’t have a substance abuse problem. Apparently he is addicted to fast food and Nintendo Wii. (Which I am pretty sure he purchased with one of my cards last month).

I don’t know if there is any advice out there about this. I am just venting. I cannot believe this is happening. It is like Invasion of the Body Snatchers and someone replaced my son with an evil pod person.

Oh, God, Foxy40, I don’t know what to say. He’s your son, but on the other hand, he stole from you, to the tune of thousands of dollars.

I’m afraid this is one of those situations where you have to file a police report. Maybe that will be enough to get him back on track.

I’m so sorry.

God, that sucks.

As someone who took some advantage of my parents after turning 18 (but nothing approaching what you’re dealing with) I’d say, the sooner you confront him and put a stop to it, the easier it will be for him to turn around. It’s like setting a broken bone in the wilderness- it’s gonna be painful, but the longer you wait, the worse it will be.

I’m surprised that all these places would accept the credit cards and cash the checks without question. A teenage boy using credit cards and cashing checks with a woman’s name on them?

File a police report. Your son needs to know that what he did was theft, and there needs to be some consequences.

Put his Wii (and anything else he owns) on ebay.

And maybe look into getting a post office box.

And you know there is no substance abuse because…? You are even sure what all he has bought.

Sorry but this change in his behavior just screams substance abuse. It’s not for dead sure but like you said, you don’t know him anymore. Don’t take anything for granted. Where is all this stuff that he bought? Can any of it be returned or at least sold on eBay to make some money for the payments?

double post – sorry

I disagree, most strenuously. Do not involve the police. Clearly, something has happened to your son, but if the criminal justice system happens to him as well, it can only make a bad situation worse.

You say you know it is not a substance abuse issue. How do you know? Double check that first, if you can. If that isn’t it, the most obvious cause may be a sudden onset of schizophrenia, which has happened to people I know (not that this confers any expertise on me, I’m as clueless as you…)

Get help. Immediately. At once. But leave the cops out as the absolute final last resort.

Geez Foxy nothing goes easy for you does it?
At some point your son is going to have to grow up and face the music. Sooner or later he is going to find out that if he does those stunts to someone other than his mother that there will be severe consequences.
You can either help him to grow up, or stand on the sidelines and watch him self destruct. IMHO the less consequences he has for his actions the more this encourages him to continue. IOW no consequence = positive reinforcement for doing bad shit. Somewhere in part of his brain he has to be thinking “I didn’t get in trouble for taking Mom’s MasterCard, so I can take her Amex card this month.”
I know you did not ask for advice, but I can’t help but throw in a little here anyway. (Don’t forget my advice is worth exactly what you are paying for it.)
I would suggest that you sit down with him and let him know in no uncertain terms that party time is OVER. A big part of this conversation needs to be my house MY rules.
Take the Wii away. The way I look at it, you paid for it, you get to keep it.
Have him examined by a doctor. I have a nephew that did similar (but to a lesser extent) things. Turns out he is mentally ill. With the right drugs he no longer does what the voices tell him.
Get him in some type of therapy.
He will attend classes, and keep a reasonable grade point average. (agree on a number)
Insist that he get some type of job, and keep it.
Have him agree to some type of restitution schedule. And force him to stick to it.
Make sure he is aware that if he fucks up, the door is over there. He is an adult, and he needs to take responsibility for his own actions. Both good and bad.
Good luck, I am sending good thoughts your way.

I was wondering about mental illness, too. At the very least it sounds like an addiction problem.

I’m so sorry you’re dealing with this.

I don’t have any advice for you, but I wanted to offer my sympathies and wishes for an improved situation as soon as is humanly possible. I am so sorry you have to deal with this. :frowning:

Wow. This is so difficult, and I’m very sorry you’re going through it.

But let me address this, if I may:

He is over 18, and it is your home. When he says he has “no where to go” what he no doubt means is no where he’d rather be than living under your roof. You know for a fact that he would not be homeless.

Now, you could choose to use letting him stay as a lever to insist that he get appropriate help (you determine what’s “appropriate”, not him). His problem may or may not be substance abuse, but there’s sure as hell some kind of trouble! He needs to understand that this behavior is unacceptable and will not be tolerated.

I also like the idea of selling the illegally obtained goods on eBay.

Your son has to get help. If he refuses it, either put him out or call the police. He is out of control, and he either has to accept this or get out of your house and your life until he starts acting like an adult.

As someone who stole from my parents when I was 15, I have to say you are not doing him favors by letting him stay. My thieving wasn’t nearly as damaging as your son’s, but I took some large chunks of change from my parents’ safe, because all my friends had new clothes and pretty shoes, and I wanted them too. While I was stealing, I knew that I would have to face the consequences eventually, it was just that at that moment in time, I didn’t care. I figured I’d deal with them when the time came, until then, I was going to enjoy my purchases. My parents did a good job of setting me straight. The first couple of weeks when they found out, they were furious. I was told by my mother to pack up my things and disappear for a few weeks… at least until my dad calmed down. My aunt took me in, and in that week and a half I was kicked out of my house, I really started to realize how I messed up and how good I had it at home, nice clothes or not. It would have been very easy for me to keep my belligerence on being kicked out, because they were my parents! They should take care of me and keep me under their roof even if I was a screw up! Well, after the first couple of days, I was starting to get scared my dad would never forgive me, but he did eventually calm down. My parents sat me down, expressed their disappointment and took away all my clothes save a pair of jeans and a t-shirt. It probably was not easy to hand down discipline, especially if there was a chance I wouldn’t learn from my mistake, but there really was no other option other than to try to get me to realize that my actions have consequences.

My parents went through something similar with my younger sister, at about the same age. They both took measures to make sure she couldn’t steal anymore. Some of the money she took she was using to help her boyfriend who was kicked out of his house by his dad (and may not have had a job either). No drugs were involved, nor alcohol addiction (although I’m sure some went towards booze).

Anyhow, my dad had very limited patience (I remember him making reference to “debtor’s prison” at one point – is there such a thing anymore?) – while my mom was more supportive and still gave my sister money if she needed it (my parents are divorced as well). Both parents, of course, encouraged her to get a job, and go to college.

Which is what she’s doing now (she and her boyfriend ended up getting a place together). I’m not sure if maybe she needed a combination of tough-love plus knowing that she won’t be completely disowned by her parents that has brought her around.

I guess I don’t really have any advice, just letting you know that people can still change, and these things don’t have to completely tear a family apart – but it may take some time (the above happened over the course of 3 or 4 years). And remember that it might not be enough to have that “one, big, sit-down, face-to-face, etc” talk - you might need to have that talk, or similar ones, again and again before it sinks in for your son.


This might be a case where you need to practice tough love.
You need to find out where all that money went. He might be in some kind of trouble. If so him getting out of it is top priority whether it’s drugs, gambling or whatever.
Then you need to make it clear that stealing all that money from you was very hurtful and wrong, and until he pays it back he can go live with your ex husband.

Also make sure he knows you love him.

If the problem is nothing more than late adolescent assholeitude, tough love works fine. If it isn’t, it may make a bad situation much worse. Stern discipline has no positive effect on mental illness. Have you a pastor, rabbi, priest? A friend in the social services professions, a nurse, a doctor, anything like that? Somebody who knows somebody?

We are all well meaning intelligent people, but we know diddly squat. Find somebody who does. Soonest.

I’m going to go against the mainstream opinion here and say, involve the fucking cops already!

When I was 18, still living at home, I screwed up quite a bit. My attitude about my folks was, what are they gonna do?

Well, what they were gonna do is, they were gonna call the cops. And they did. And I spent a few nights in jail.

I have not screwed up since. Call the cops already. If he can be saved at all, he’ll thank you for it later on. If he can’t be saved, you’ve at least put a stop to it.

How long before he moves on from stealing from you to stealing from your neighbors?

OK, this is going to be harsh, but I just have to say:

You find out he’s stealing your credit cards, so when your checks come up missing you think it’s your error? I’m sorry but if I found out my kid stole my credit cards, after that, anytime the remote control was missing I’d be looking at his ass. What was his punishment for swiping your credit cards, before he became a FORGER?

You “think” that he got the Wii with stolen money? Really, Columbo? What the FUCK? How else would an unemployed kid get a $300+ machine? How is it that an unemplyed kid brings a $300+ machine into your home and you don’t know where he got the money for it? Forgive me if I don’t trust your judgment on the drugs issue, but you smell like stupid.

Don’t call the cops - you’ll land your dunmbass kid in prison and after the leniency you’ve apparently displayed that almost seems unfair.

Yes, make sure that he knows you love him too much to cop out of your parental responsibilities, and stand by idly while he behaves like a boil on the asshole of humanity.

I’m a mom to a sixteen year old. I get how hard it is to figure out what to do when your kid turns into evil pod person. But he’s nineteen. Old enough to know better, and old enough to face the consequences. Boot his ass. Sell everything he bought with your money, and send him to his father. He doesn’t like it, tough shit. He can find some other living arrangement, but he’s going to have to do it on his own.

That doesn’t mean you abandon him. If you feel that he needs help, get it for him. If you feel that he needs his ass kicked, do that. But step one is to make him understand that you WILL NOT allow him to take advantage of you, or to behave this way without consequences.