Are Relatives Using Your Identity?
In 2003, 9% of 4,057 people surveyed who reported identity theft to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) said a family member was responsible, according to the FTC's Identity Theft Survey Report. And experts say many more cases of identity theft within the family go unreported, or are reported directly to credit providers instead of the FTC.
A 25-year-old woman in Chicago, for example, was shocked to discover that her father had opened four credit cards in her name and racked up $50,000 in debt.
Financial experts say parents who destroy their own finances increasingly are tempted to "borrow" their children's good credit. As co-signers, all they need is a birth date and Social Security number, information they either know or have easy access to.
Experts recommend that consumers order credit reports annually. And if identity theft has occurred, they should request that the three main credit reporting agencies Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian place a red flag on their file and notify them when new accounts are opened in their name.
Parents aren't the only ones stealing from their family members. There are plenty of stories of identities being stolen by children, siblings, cousins, aunts, and uncles.
For victims of familial credit abuse, the only options are paying off the debt in large chunks or filing a complaint that could send your relative to jail.
For more information about identity theft and how to protect yourself, read the Home & Family Finance Resource Center articles "It's Your Identity, Who Should Protect It?" and "Recovering From Identity Theft."
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