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Identity Theft Among Family Members and Friends Can Happen To You

Last Updated: April 19, 2017

Having your identity stolen is a very disheartening and often terrifying experience - knowing that some complete stranger is posing as you and opening credit card and/or bank accounts in your name. But what if the thief was someone you knew and trusted? A Javelin Strategy & Research report in 2014 noted there were 550,000 reports of ID theft perpetrated by someone the victim knew. Familiar fraud cases can be traced back to family members, friends, coworkers, and in-home employees.

Think this can't happen to you? Here are some tips to identify and protect yourself against family or familiar fraud and identity theft.

What is Familiar Identity Theft?

When identity fraud victims know their imposters, it can tear through both relationships and financial well-being. "Familiar fraud" or "Family Fraud" occurs when a friend, extended family member or even a parent uses a close relationship for their own financial gain. The thief takes advantage of bonds of trust, making the crime emotionally devastating. The perpetrator already knows the victim's personal information or has very easy acces to it.

Many cases of familiar fraud go undetected for years. For example, when parents use the financial identities of their children, the fraud often goes undiscovered until the children attempt to build their own credit.

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What to do if You are a Victim of Familiar Fraud

Remember, bank fraud is a federal offense. Unfortunately, if you have had a family member or friend use your Social Security Number to fraudulently obtain credit, you have two options:

  1. Turn them in to the creditor. The credit card company will absolutely press charges against them.
  2. Pay off the debt yourself, if they can't. If you can't afford the debt your relative has racked up, your credit will take a hit.

Most of the people who wrote to us about relatives whose identity had been stolen were absolutely distraught because they couldn't pay the debts opened in their names and refused to turn over a member of their own family to the creditors; they were facing an unsolvable problem.

We've seen every possible kind of family member act as a thief: father, mother, son, daughter, parents, grandparents, grandchildren, in-laws, sisters, brother. Don't let this happen to you. Take the steps necessary to protect your identity and your credit.

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