Fraud in the Family
Identity theft among family members, also known as “familiar fraud,” is unfortunately a common source of how someone’s identity is stolen. In 2014, approximately 550,000 victims of identity theft and fraud said it was done by someone they knew. Sometimes it’s a matter of unauthorized credit card charges by a family member using your card, but it could also be a relative stealing your Social Security number to take out a loan or open up a credit account. Nonetheless, it is identity theft and a crime.
Being a victim of identity theft is already life altering, so it’s even more heartbreaking and stressful when it’s done by someone you thought you could trust.
What is identity theft?
Any time someone uses your sensitive information for financial or personal gain without your consent or knowledge is identity theft. It’s important to know how to recognize the signs of identity theft, so that you can immediately take action if something is suspicious.
Examples of identity theft among family members:
- Identity Theft by a Spouse or Ex-Spouse: If married couples share accounts, one spouse could open up credit card using the other’s name and SSN.
- Identity Theft by a Sibling: If two siblings look alike, a minor could use the older sibling’s driver’s license for illegal purchases.
- Identity Theft by a Parent: A parent uses a child’s credit score to open a cell phone plan or utilities account.
- Identity Theft by a Child: A child memorizes his or her parent’s credit card information and PIN to make unauthorized charges.
While that isn’t an exhaustive list, it gives you an idea of the various forms of identity theft by a family member can take.
How to Protect Yourself from Identity Theft
There are plenty of places where an identity thief could access your personal information. Know how to prevent identity theft and keep yourself safe:
- Keep private documents– like your Social Security card, tax returns, credit card and bank statements– in a safe or locked filing cabinet.
- Hide wallets and purses in hard-to-find places when guests are over.
- Take extra steps while you travel if someone is watching your home.
- Regularly monitor your bank statements and annual credit report. You can request a free copy of your credit report every 12 months. Confirm that there is no suspicious activity reported.
- Shred documents that include your account information before throwing them away. Dumpster diving is an easy way for someone to steal your identity.
- Log out of online profiles and computers that contain your personal information. Use unique usernames and passwords for every account.
- If you are traveling or live with someone whom you don’t trust, you can divert your mail to a P.O. Box until you can receive your mail in person.
What to Do if You Fall Victim of Identity Theft
Other members of your family may encourage you to not contact the police or take action, but remember that this is illegal. It shouldn’t matter if it was a family member or stranger, identity theft is a crime and should be handled as such.
If you find that someone has stolen your identity or used your information without consent, follow these steps:
- Place a fraud alert on your files with the consumer reporting agencies. A fraud alert tells creditors that you may be a victim of identity theft and to use caution when granting credit in your name.
- You can also freeze your credit for free to restrict access to your files and prevents the opening of new accounts.
- If the fraudulent accounts appear on your credit report, you have the right to dispute them and have them removed.
- File a police report with your local department. You can also visit the FTC website IdentityTheft.gov to learn how to report identity theft.
Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) and Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), you have rights that protect you from the devastating effects of identity theft. If you are the victim of family fraud or identity theft, contact a consumer protection attorney to represent you when fixing the damages caused by identity theft. Call us at 1-877-735-8600 today to get free legal help.