When Identity Theft Hits Home

Many identity theft victims are surprised to find that the individual responsible for stealing their personal information is someone they know.

In fact, nearly one-third of all victims discover a relative was responsible for stealing their identity, according to the Federal Trade Commission. 

Last month, Indiana radio personality Kelli Jack-Kelly was accused of using four family members' identities to open credit accounts, the Indianapolis Star reports. Jack-Kelly's father, aunt, father-in-law and mother-in-law are the alleged victims and say they were unaware of the fraud at first, because police say Jack-Kelly had the bills sent to her home.

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Unfortunately this situation is all too common.

Tammy Brewer, also in Indiana, stole the identities of her ex-husband and their four daughters, according to the Post-Tribune. She received an 8-year sentence in April. Her ex-husband said in court that she used his Social Security number and then a daughter’s to get a job and opened credit cards and student loans using the children's identities. Brewer also forged checks from a man in a nursing home, but he was not related to her.

Seniors and children are sadly the most frequent targets.

Axton Betz-Hamilton told KTVN in Nevada that she was 19 when she learned her mother had stolen her identity when she was 11— after first stealing her father and grandfather's identities. Betz-Hamilton's mother had already been dead several years before the fraud was discovered.

"My credit report was 10-pages long full of fraudulent credit card entries and associated collection agency entries," she told KTVN.

Those victimized by family members often pay the debts and choose not to involve the authorities, because they don't want to be responsible for a loved one going to jail or feel pressured by them.

"When someone you don’t know steals your identity, it’s very impersonal," Mari J. Frank, a lawyer who works with people whose identities have been stolen, said in a New York Times interview. "They just want money. But when it’s a family member, it’s far more emotionally destructive."

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