On the “Money Tree” episode of Criminal podcast, author Axton Betz-Hamilton discusses the story behind her new book The Less People Know About Us, a true crime memoir described by Publishers Weekly as “astonishing and disturbing . . . perfect for true crime fans.” As a child, Betz-Hamilton’s family suffered through the repercussions of identity theft. As a college student, she once again found herself a victim of the crime. Now an expert in identity theft, she’s dedicated her life to understanding the intricacies of the motivations, consequences, and nuances of the crime. Read about her picks for the best true crime books about identity theft and deception below.
Glen Hastings; Richard Marcus
This Little, Brown book is an exploration of a child’s attempt to understand and untangle a web of lies told by a parent, much as I have done in my book and continue to do. In this absorbing nonfiction graphic novel, Laurie discovers that the father she idolizes is not who he says he is, and she must attempt to piece together both her family secrets and her own identity.
Give Me Back My Credit! is a first-person account of a long and arduous journey against fighting against errors on one’s credit report. This is similar to my own journey, as there is still erroneous information on my credit report, after 26 years!
Frank W. Abagnale; Stan Redding
This true story details the account of a con man who was able to manipulate hundreds of individuals. Author Frank Abagnale donned various aliases to pull off his scams, including a Pan Am pilot, a doctor, and a sociology professor. His story is outrageous, but even more fascinating: after a brief stint in jail, he’s now a recognized authority on identity theft and other financial crimes.
Blake Ellis; Melanie Hicken
A Deal with the Devil: The Dark and Twisted True Story of One of the Biggest Cons in History by Blake Ellis and Melanie Hicken is an exploration of one of the longest-running financial fraud schemes in history. In this thrilling investigation, Ellis and Hicken track down an elusive psychic known as Maria Duval, who has been targeting the elderly with personalized letters and financially exploiting them. While this story unfolds like a page-turning international mystery, it also brings to light the all-too-common ways that vulnerable people are victimized financially, which is something I explore in my book as well.
About the Author
Axton Betz-Hamilton is an expert in identity theft, having personal experience that she’s now turned into a career. After discovering her own mother had stolen hers and her father’s identities for years, Axton made understanding the nuances of identity theft her life’s work. She frequently speaks on the topic at a wide range of conferences and has won multiple awards for her research, teaching, and service.
Axton has a Master’s degree in Consumer Sciences and Retailing and a PhD in Human Development and Family Studies, focusing on child identity theft and elder financial exploitation perpetrated by family members. She teaches at South Dakota State University.
In this powerful true crime memoir, an award-winning identity theft expert tells the shocking story of the duplicity and betrayal that inspired her career and nearly destroyed her family.
Axton Betz-Hamilton grew up in small-town Indiana in the early ’90s. When she was 11 years old, her parents both had their identities stolen. Their credit ratings were ruined, and they were constantly fighting over money. This was before the age of the Internet, when identity theft became more commonplace, so authorities and banks were clueless and reluctant to help Axton’s parents.
Axton’s family changed all of their personal information and moved to different addresses, but the identity thief followed them wherever they went. Convinced that the thief had to be someone they knew, Axton and her parents completely cut off the outside world, isolating themselves from friends and family. Axton learned not to let anyone into the house without explicit permission, and once went as far as chasing a plumber off their property with a knife.
As a result, Axton spent her formative years crippled by anxiety, quarantined behind the closed curtains in her childhood home. She began starving herself at a young age in an effort to blend in–her appearance could be nothing short of perfect or she would be scolded by her mother, who had become paranoid and consumed by how others perceived the family.
Years later, her parents’ marriage still shaken from the theft, Axton discovered that she, too, had fallen prey to the identity thief, but by the time she realized, she was already thousands of dollars in debt and her credit was ruined.
The Less People Know About Us is Axton’s attempt to untangle an intricate web of lies, and to understand why and how a loved one could have inflicted such pain. Axton will present a candid, shocking, and redemptive story and reveal her courageous effort to grapple with someone close that broke the unwritten rules of love, protection, and family.