Dear Margo: All in the Family

What to do when fraud and identity theft become a family matter? Margo Howard’s advice

All in the Family

Dear Margo: How do you deal with a family member who has done something morally and legally wrong? My brother “borrowed” all of my parents’ retirement money and signed a promissory note to pay it back. He has no intention of paying it back. My parents have next to nothing to live on, yet refuse to take him to court. Additionally, he has stolen my father’s and his own sons’ identities, opening credit cards and taking out loans in their names. When they found out, they all refused to prosecute him because his “life would be ruined.”

He is in a relationship with a woman who has no idea any of this occurred and cannot understand why his relationship with his family is so uncomfortable. It is becoming increasingly difficult for me to have a relationship with my brother because of his actions. I also think his significant other who lives with him should know the truth so she can make an informed decision about the relationship. What do you think? — Devotee of Dave Ramsey and the 10 Commandments

Dear Dev: The people in your family who have been ripped off sound daft. They are worried about this criminal because his life “might be ruined”? What about their lives? To take it out of their hands, I would go to the local district attorney with the information you have, giving all the victims in the family a clear conscience. Your brother cannot be allowed to continue. And I don’t think there’s any need to cue in his significant other. I suspect the authorities will do that. — Margo, rationally

Of Facebook, Tags and Romance

Dear Margo: My boyfriend and I, both in our 20s, are not friends on Facebook. We used to be until I caught him untagging photos he did not want me to see. I thought not being friends was the best way not to “stalk” him. Well, a few days ago, we were hanging out, and he logged into Facebook. I glanced at his laptop and saw a picture of him and his ex-girlfriend. When I asked if I could look, he responded, “You’ve already seen my photos.” I told him I wanted to see him with his ex, and he told me it was an old photo. Then I saw it was in one of her albums labeled “Spring/Summer 2011.” He contended it was an old picture that must have been put there by mistake.

I looked through the album and determined by the dates that the other photos had been posted recently. He later admitted the picture was recent, and he didn’t tell me because he thought I’d get mad. The fact that he was hiding something from me is upsetting, and the fact that this picture is out there for others to see makes me feel disrespected and embarrassed. I asked him to untag the picture, but he refuses. Am I wrong to ask him to remove it? Are there rules of etiquette for dealing with an ex online? — Trying To Be a Good Girlfriend

Dear Try: You will forgive me — I have basically no idea what you’re talking about. I do not know from tagging and untagging pictures, but you do sound like a very good Facebook detective. What I think I understand is that you “unfriended” your boyfriend, which in the world of older people sounds somewhat odd. I also think an older generation would not have photographic evidence of the reunion, even if platonic. While I understand your feelings of jealousy, I am also thinking that your bf may feel a little hemmed in.

As for “rules of etiquette for dealing with an ex online,” I think that area is new enough so that each couple can make their own. If you think he has stepped out of bounds, he has. — Margo, situationally

* * *

Dear Margo is written by Margo Howard, Ann Landers’ daughter. All letters must be sent via e-mail to Due to a high volume of e-mail, not all letters will be answered.


Every Thursday and Friday, you can find “Dear Margo” and her latest words of wisdom on wowOwow

Click here to follow Margo on Twitter

84 comments so far.

  1. avatar Allaroundtheworld says:

    Regarding letter #1, this sounds alot like elder abuse. elder abuse doesn’t have to be physically, it can be emotional and finacial too.  I remember when my grandmother died, she promised me in front of my family a silve three dimension last support piece of art that my father gave her. When she did finally died, the whole family found out that my aunt had the will changed so that everything went to her.
    Letter #2 Hate to say this but once it’s on the internet you will never be able to get it off, even if your ex untags it. If any other person has looked at it and added it their picture file or even just looking at it, it is now on that person’s hard drive.  That’s why I never put up photos on any type of social network sites.

  2. avatar Koka Miri says:

    LW2: Firstly, I would never go out with anyone who had current pictures that I shouldn’t see!
    Secondly, you aren’t friends with your own boyfriend on Facebook, and then you found a pic of his *ex* with him in a current album on his fb, and somehow you think you know enough about this boy to know he wouldn’t cheat? I should probably say this more tactfully, but buy a clue. If you aren’t close enough with someone to be fb friends, you probably shouldn’t be dating. I’m fb friends with people I met once at a party for goodness’ sake. If he has that much you don’t want to know about then why do you want to know about him at all?

    LW1: I agree with Margo! It is probably not going to make your relations with your family great, but you will have done what you can to protect them, which is real love. Good luck.

  3. avatar Mishy Smith says:

    LW#2, pardon me but I know EXACTLY what you are talking about. When you were friends, he repeatedly untagged himself in photos because he didn’t want YOU to see them. You know this is the reason, correct? So you decide to unfriend him, which he is okay with, because it makes it easier for you NOT to see what he doesn’t want you to see. This is silly, but that also means you guys are not “Facebook Official” either, since you can’t be in a relationship with someone you aren’t friends with.

    Now, you see him clearly in pictures with his ex, lying about when they were taken and refusing to untag himself from the pictures with HER. So on Facebook, and let’s face it, nowadays, what’s on that site is more “real” to people than meatspace, it clearly looks like he is with her and not you.

    Doll, I hate to tell you this, but you aren’t in the relationship you think you are with this guy. And from the looks of it, everyone knows that but you.

  4. avatar Elizabeth L says:

    LW#1 I was just reading a post this morning about older folks being ripped off mostly by family members enough is enough follow Margo’s advice and go to the Police and DA’s office
    also your town ,county and state more likely than not have an office devoted to protecting the elderly from abuse call them they will help you.
    LW#2 What you need is a good boyfriend dump this eejit and find someone worthy of you.

  5. avatar ilovemypets says:

    A family member wrote this letter to Margo and it is both interesting and helpful to read everyone’s comments and advice on how to handle the situation with “the brother”.    We are so engrossed in the dysfunction of it all, it is good to see what “outsiders looking in” would suggest to do, what might be wrong with “the brother”, etc.     Thanks to everyone who has commented thus far, and who may continue to comment after me. 

  6. avatar French Heart says:

    Ltr#1: The brother sounds like a greedy sociopath and the parent’s indulgent. Perhaps there’s an advocacy organization for elders that together with the family can stage a ‘Come To Jesus’ confrontation with the son. Threaten legal but try to settle it within the family and not enlarge the embarrassment/family break-down/angst while also protecting the parents.

    Ltr#2: How would she feel if in the BF’s home/workplace photos of his ex were all over the place and her’s excluded? This is what he has done online. GF needs to wake-up. This guy is not for her. The photos are an important clue of where his heart is. He may say otherwise to keep his temp ‘bedwarmer’…but that’s what she is.

  7. avatar Angeleyes13 says:

    LW#2:  WHY is he seeing his ex-girlfriend in the first place?  Lets see, he doesn’t want to friend you and he hides stuff on Facebook, which is stupid in and of itself!  You know what they say, “What happens in Vegas ends up on Facebook!” It would have eventually spread like wildfire! Can’t believe it took as long as it did!   Call me crazy, but I think he might be cheating on you……kick him to the curb!  Unfaithful, dishonest and secretive a husband does not make!