If you polled a random group of strangers about who they picture when they think of an identity thief, chances are, you’d hear similar descriptions. Most would probably be along the lines of “a random guy alone in his mom’s basement with a few computers and a lot of time on his hands to hack into company systems.”
However, there would be a select few strangers that knew better—that knew identity thieves can come in all shapes, sizes, and motives. And that sometimes, an identity thief may not simply look like someone you know and love, but actually be a flesh-and-blood family member.
Familiar fraud—when someone you know steals your information—is far more common than most people realize. In 2014, the most recent year for which data is available, Javelin Strategy & Research found that 550,000 fraud and identity theft victims had their information compromised by someone they knew.
The reasons for familiar fraud can greatly vary, but it usually stems from the fact that family members are easy targets. The thieves already know the names, addresses, and dates of birth of family—maybe even Social Security numbers, depending on the relationship. And anything they don’t know? It’s not hard to find.
Victim of Familiar Fraud? Here’s What to Do
Have you discovered that your identity has been stolen, and you think a loved one may be to blame? Every situation is unique, but here are five tips for how you may want to handle this invasion of privacy and breach of trust.
- Do detective work before confronting them – Do you just have a hunch that a family member stole your identity? Did someone tell you they think a family member is stealing your identity? Identity theft is a big accusation, especially when it comes to family, so try to find some evidence before you confront the person. Check your credit report for discrepancies, look for bills in your name that don’t belong to you, and keep your eyes open for any buying behavior that seems out of the ordinary.
- Have an honest conversation and explain your concerns – If you have a relationship with this family member that you’d like to try and save, you may want to speak with them one-on-one before deciding what to do next. Try to understand why they did what they did (and if they will even admit to it) and explain how they’ve hurt you.
- Consider how what you do next may impact your family (and your credit) – When you’re a victim of familiar fraud, you’re put in a very uncomfortable situation. Do you contact the authorities and get the fraudulent charges removed from your credit report—but rat your family member out in the process? Or do you try to work out a re-payment plan with the individual who stole your identity and keep the law out of things? If the amount of money stolen is small, and there hasn’t been much damage done yet, you may opt to even forgive the incident just to avoid family drama. Whatever you choose, just understand what the repercussions may be and what you’re comfortable dealing with.
- Think about a credit freeze and fraud alert – Until you’ve decided how you want to handle the situation with your family member, you can still do a couple of things to protect yourself. First, you can put a freeze on your credit, which restricts access to your credit report and makes it harder for thieves to open accounts in your name. The freeze lasts as long as you want it to. You can also place a 90-day fraud alert on your credit report that will let you know about unverified access. However, if you want the fraud alert to exist beyond 90 days, you’ll need to prove you’ve been the victim of identity theft—and that usually involves providing the credit company with a copy of a police report.
- Rethink who you trust with your personal information – Once you’ve been the victim of familiar fraud, you realize how hard it is to trust anyone with your personal information. Even family members that know and love you may be driven to take on your identity due to debt worries, gambling addictions, or issues with drugs. Be incredibly selective who you share sensitive information with, don’t leave personal paperwork laying around your house, and if someone doesn’t need to know something, don’t tell them.
One of the best ways to protect your identity from every kind of threat is to enroll in identity theft protection services with IdentityForce. Instead of guessing or worrying that someone is fraudulently accessing your personal information, you’ll be alerted immediately—because we’ll be monitoring your accounts 24/7. And if someone does compromise your identity, our team will take over and handle every detail to ensure your identity is restored.