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Family identity theft is a crime that involves a family member using your personal information for their financial gain. When the culprit is a romantic partner, adult child, or a close relative, identity theft becomes even more difficult to handle because if you’re living with the identity thief, they might distract you or discourage you from spotting the warning signs. Delaying the discovery of the scam or its extent makes it more difficult to get your jeopardized accounts or credit rating back on track. For an "insider," the access to your offline and online mail, sensitive data, and electronic devices is much easier, allowing them to impersonate you without arising much suspicion.
Surveys conducted by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) show that 50% of the 9 to 10 million Americans who are victims of identity theft every year say that the thief was someone they knew, for instance, a friend, a neighbor, a family member, or an in-home employee. A prevalent category within this criminal segment is child identity theft which in 2017 alone costed families $540 million. These huge out-of-pocket expenses were caused by crooks stealing the identities of over 1 million children living in the US.
Many child identity thefts take place right within families. Since minors cannot apply for credit cards or obtain loans, other relatives often use their sensitive data to open bank accounts. Children learn about their ruined credit score only when old enough to apply for a loan.
Romantic partners have all the means to use a spouse’s name and income without their consent to get new credit cards or open new accounts and rack up debt without your knowledge. Often, the victim only finds out when there’s already too much unpaid debt under their name.
It’s not uncommon for people to take advantage of a sibling and steal their identity to try to avoid debt, or arrest. They could use their Social Security numbers (SSN) or cash in forged checks. The FTC estimates that nine percent of stolen identity crimes are perpetrated by family members.
Elderly people with reduced abilities are at risk particularly when they’re being cared for by an adult family member. Deceitful adult children have easy access to a parent or grandparent’s mail and could use their personally identifiable information to commit identity theft.
By enrolling in an identity monitoring program, anyone can receive notifications if/when their or a family member’s personal information is being misused, compromised, as well as when fraudsters carry unusual activities or open new bank accounts under their name.
Whether you choose to do it yourself or subscribe to automatic credit monitoring, it’s important for your credit history to pull a copy of the credit report every few months from the major credit bureaus. Credit trackers alert you via e-mail or text when suspicious changes occur.
To avoid a major security risk, password-protect all devices, use a password manager, and never write passwords down. This makes it harder for anyone (including family members) to access your e-mail address, private data, or key financial accounts from your smartphone or tablet.
To shield elderly family members or children from identity theft, you could freeze their credit reports if they’re unlikely to apply for loans in the near future. This stops con artists or even other relatives from using their personal data without permission and take out loans.
Identity theft is a crime, regardless of whether the culprit is a loved one or not, therefore it's not wrong to report it and to take further cautionary steps, even when someone we love did it. Here’s a checklist:
As disturbing as it can be to file a police report on someone your love, it needs to be done, especially if they’ve damaged your financial prospects. The pressure to "keep it in the family" will be high and not reporting them means they got away with it, which could be interpreted by them as a green light to keep stealing other people’s identity. What you need to do is:
The best way to stop family identity theft from happening is to prevent it by protecting your and your family’s identity. Here are some steps you can take:
Watch out for the following red flags:
A child under the age of 18 can also be a victim of identity theft. The crime is known as "child identity fraud" or "child identity theft." Most of the time the offender is a close relative who uses a minor’s personally identifiable information (PII) for their own gain, usually, to qualify for credit, employment, to obtain a driver’s license, for opening credit card accounts, bank accounts, or even buy cars or homes. The most sought-after personal data stolen from a child is their SSN, followed by their name, date of birth, and physical address.
"Familiar fraud" is a term used for identity theft that instead of being committed by anonymous scammers is conducted by "familiar" people who are close to the victim without being blood relatives, for instance, co-workers, carers, friends, or neighbors. Moreover, a Javelin Strategy & Research’s 2018 research discovered that 60 percent of child identity theft is executed by someone known to the victim, such as the child’s parent, a family friend, a relative, hired caretaker, nanny, or teacher. The intent is not always to harm and thieves could act out of desperation that often includes addictions or psychological issues.
Knowing another person’s name is not enough information to impersonate them, but if fraudsters or even a family member corroborate it with the victim’s social security card, SSN, home address, email address, or phone number, identity fraud becomes much easier to be completed. These basic pieces of information could give thieves deeper access to 401(k) plans, medical records, wills, credit card numbers, savings accounts, tax returns, loans, and bank accounts.
In today’s digital world, as much as we try to protect our own personal information and our family from identity theft, sometimes criminals seem to be one step ahead. That’s why enabling monitoring of sensitive data and personal records is a simple, yet extremely useful decision. Our search engine will search for data breaches, scan the dark web and thousands of other sources to check if your identity has been jeopardized. The IDStrong monitoring options allow users to keep multiple email addresses, SSNs, names under observation while also offering them the opportunity to add another family member's information to be monitored.