Friends and Family ID Theft
March 1st, 2012
The identity thief’s Friends and Family Plan.
Identity theft can happen from those you least expect it from—friends and family. In fact, it’s more common than you might think. In a study by the Department of Justice, only 8% of all identity theft victims thought the theft had been perpetrated by a friend or family member. But of those who had actual knowledge of the thief’s identity, 39% believed a friend or family member was responsible for stealing their identity.1
“Friendly” fraud means higher fraud amounts.
The more personal information an identity thief obtains, the more options they have to commit fraud using the victim’s data. Since friends and family are closest to the target, they often have the most access to personal information such as birthdates, street and email addresses, credit and bank account numbers, Social Security numbers, PIN’s and security codes. With all this information, it’s easy to understand why the mean fraud amount for friendly fraud victims is more than two times higher than fraud from strangers.2
There is no easy course of action.
Because the identity thief is a friend or family member, how it’s reported and how it’s resolved can become a highly charged family issue. Filing police reports, often required as an initial step in clearing credit reports, health records or unauthorized charges, takes on a completely different level of complexity when the victim knows the criminal.
Someone has to pay.
Regardless of the relationship between the victim and thief, someone will eventually be responsible for the debt accrued. If the victims refuse to report the crime, they’ll be liable for paying the costs of any fraudulent accounts, medical care or even prescription drugs. If the victims report the theft to police, credit card issuers or other agencies, the perpetrators could face prosecution and be required to pay the debt. You can imagine why this would be a very uncomfortable family situation.
1 US Department of Justice, Victims of Identity Theft, 2008, December, 2010.
2 Javelin Strategy & Research, 2012 Identity Fraud Survey Report, 2/12.