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Posted on August 26, 2015 by in Identity & Privacy, Personal

Concerns over identity theft are understandable. So far this year, 424 breaches have been reported — and there are still over four months left in 2015.

News stories on these breaches often use stock images of an anonymous “hacker,” crouched over a computer with a sweatshirt hood pulled up to obscure his face. But what if they used a family reunion photo instead? Or a snapshot from your list of Facebook friends?

Unfortunately, that could be a more accurate depiction of who’s trying to commit identity theft against you.

Friends and Family Fraud

As difficult as it is to imagine, one of the most common types of identity theft is the result of someone you know stealing your information.

For example, a healthcare worker in Kentucky found out her Social Security card had been stolen and used to open several credit cards in her name. She was surprised to hear from a collections agency, but a subsequent investigation was even more shocking: The thief was her husband.

In another case, a 19-year-old woman ordered a copy of her credit report, expecting very little activity. The report was 10 pages long and packed with credit card fraud. It turned out her mother had stolen her identity eight years earlier.

Situations like these aren’t uncommon. Javelin Strategy & Research noted that in 2014, there were 550,000 fraud and identity theft cases classified as familiar fraud.

Protecting Yourself

There are many strategies for protecting your information from different types of identity theft, but when it’s family fraud, those don’t really apply. For instance, you can’t withhold your birthdate or mother’s maiden name from … well, your own mother.

However, you can put protections like these in place:

  • Create strong passwords: This is advice we give all the time, but it really is one of the best ways to keep your online information safe. Be sure to choose passwords that can’t be guessed by friends and family.
  • Turn off one-click payments: Some online shopping sites make it easy to speed through checkout by storing your credit card information, enabling one-click ordering. But that makes theft easy, too. Turn off the option, and be sure to log out of accounts when you’re done shopping.
  • Know the red flags: Calls from creditors you don’t know, unexplained charges on credit and bank accounts, and bills from financial institutions you don’t frequent are all signs that you may be facing identity theft. For family fraud, watch for any odd behavior when you bring up these issues with someone close to you, especially if you mention filing a police report.

Even with preventative measures in place, friends and family fraud can still occur. So be sure to stay aware, put your documents in a secure location and check your accounts often for any suspicious activity.

Image courtesy of Flickr user jseliger1.