Your Identity Thief Could Be Your Sibling or Child
Most people know that identity theft is a serious problem that's growing worse every year, but few suspect that a sizable percentage of victims suffer identity theft at the hands of a family member. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reports that the reasons why people commit family identity theft are varied, but common themes include gambling and drug addiction, divorce, unmanageable debts, and hard feelings among family members.
Especially notable cases of parents committing family identity theft against their own children are always popular topics in the media. However, identity theft by family members such as siblings, cousins, grandchildren, and other relatives receives much less attention. According to FTC estimates, at least nine percent of all stolen identities are incidents of identity theft committed by family members.
Many cases of family identity theft go unreported because the victims are reluctant to file a police report or charges against a family member, even as they struggle with the fact that they've been betrayed by a loved one. For victims of identity theft by family member, the pressure to "keep it in the family" can be intense, and many of them are forced to choose between making the matter public or suffering silently and paying off the debt on their own.
One case of a family identity theft victim reported on 60 Minutes described a woman whose younger sister looked up to her. When the younger sister asked for the victim's Social Security number so she could be named the beneficiary on a life insurance policy, the victim gave it without reservation. Sometime later, when the victim was looking for a house to rent, the compulsory credit check uncovered a warrant issued in the victim's name in another state for an unpaid heating oil bill. Further investigation found many other instances of family identity theft, and the victim filed a lawsuit against her sister. The judge ruled in the victim's favor and ordered the younger sister to pay $50,000 in damages. Needless to say, this case of identity theft by a family member caused damage that's impossible to quantify with a dollar amount.
Family identity theft is a very dark subject, but people do have options that can help prevent identity theft from happening to them. One option is to enroll in an identity monitoring service that provides members many different ways to monitor their personal information 24/7/365.