First Comes Love, Then Comes Marriage, Then Comes. . .Identity Theft?

Family and Identity Theft

Guest Article by Alayna Pehrson – Content Management Specialist at Best Company

Family members can be your best friends — the people you feel closest to and the ones you trust the most. And someone who loves you, would never do anything to hurt you, right? What many families fail to realize is that one or more of their family members may be an identity thief.

What is family identity theft?

Family identity theft, also known as “familiar fraud”, occurs when a family member steals your identity and uses it for irresponsible/illegal means. It’s often easier for thieves to steal their family members’ identities because of the level of trust and information sharing that takes place in the family unit. For example, parents could easily steal and use their child’s identity because they are responsible for the safekeeping of their child’s important documents (birth certificate, social security number, medical records, etc.). Family identity theft could occur between a parent and child, siblings, cousins, and even spouses. Family members, especially spouses, tend to share a significant amount of sensitive information with one another which makes it relatively easy for identity theft to occur. For instance, most spouses share bank account information, credit card numbers, social security numbers, and much more.

How to handle family identity theft

First, check your credit reports from the three major credit bureaus: Experian, Transunion, and Equifax. If you do notice fraudulent activity, it may be smart to put a freeze on your credit and place fraud alerts on your credit as temporary security measures to avoid further credit damage. Long-term resolutions may prove difficult since family identity theft situations involve large betrayals of trust, and can be awkward to deal with. There are two main ways you can handle a family-based identity theft crime:

  1. Keep it in the family. Keeping it in the family will mean that you and your family member will work things out between yourselves without involving law enforcement. For instance, if the identity theft involved an opening and maxing out of several credit card accounts in your name, then you would have to work with your family member to get rid of the accumulated debt and financial damage. Since this option does not include legal action, you have to determine what type of relationship you want to have with the family member who stole your identity.
  2. Involve the law. Another way you could handle the situation is by reporting the identity theft crime to the police and pressing charges. This resolution option may result in arrest, separation/divorce, a permanent criminal record, and other long-term negative consequences for the family member who committed the crime. It’s important that you prepare yourself for what might happen to your family member. Since you are choosing to involve the law with this type of resolution, you will not be able to weigh in much when it comes to the consequences for your family member.

Family identity theft recovery and prevention

Recovery from this type of identity theft can be a challenge depending on which family member committed the crime and how you decided to handle it. Regardless of which path you choose, it’s important that you strive to make a full recovery. Your identity is incredibly important which makes recovery and future prevention also important. You may have to look into professional identity recovery services as well as credit repair depending on the damage. To keep your identity secure in the future, here are some things you can do:

  • Create strong passwords and regularly change passwords
  • Install antivirus software
  • Keep your documents in a safe place
  • Regularly check your credit reports
  • Get professional identity protection services
  • Shred old documents and mail
  • Inspect your bank statements each month
  • Memorize your social security number instead of writing it down

Although these things can help prevent identity theft, it is impossible to completely avoid the risk of identity theft as it can happen to anyone and take place at any time. In regards to family identity theft, make sure you are prepared and know the steps to take if your family member betrays your trust and steals your identity.

If your credit has been damaged by identity theft, learn more about our credit repair services.


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