Identity Theft: Oh No. Not Them

You’ll never hear the end of it if you decide to press charges. And besides you’re not even sure you really want to do that. They might pay you back the money. Not. The burden is on you to sort this mess out and the worst part is once a relative or friend steals your identity, it’s almost impossible to trust them again.

We hear about the high profile cases of hackers breaking into the databases of Lexis Nexus or DSW Shoe warehouse, yet most instances of identity theft never make the news. Usually it’s something basic like a neighbor stealing a credit card application from your mailbox or a relative going thru your personal belongings

In the Better Business Bureau’s 2005 Fraud Survey report they found relatives, close friends and neighbors make up 50 percent of all identity thieves. They also cost you more time and money trying to fix the problem. Javelin Research calculates that the average cost to identity theft victims is $15,607 when the perpetrator is known.

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But even that figure is misleading. Many children are falling victim to identity theft (a half million last year according to the Federal Trade Commission) which means the full impact of the damage may not be known until years later when as adults they apply for credit.

For some parents, stealing their child’s identity is a stop gap solution. Their own credit is destroyed, so “borrowing” their child’s social security number becomes a necessity. All the while, they assure themselves the money will be paid back. Yet the same pattern that destroyed the parent’s credit, now puts a negative on the child.

It doesn’t matter if the thief is a parent, sibling or best friend, the process of recovering your identity is a tough one and it gets more complicated. Should you report the crime?
“Frequently when we would break up a ring and get a list of victims and find family members were involved in the crime, relatives are very reluctant to co-operate” says Ken Hunter, former Chief Postal Inspector and current president of the Council of Better Business Bureaus.

According to a study done by Gartner, Inc., the chances of an identity thief getting prosecuted are 1 in 700. However, when a relative is the culprit those odds go through the roof. The attitude understandably becomes, “Yes, they did me wrong but I can’t send them to jail.”

Ken Hunter: “If it’s a matter of pilferage at a very low level, nothing much is really going to happen to that person.”
On the other hand, if your identity is used to commit crimes on a higher scale, by all means report it to the authorities. You may feel guilty and make a lot of people angry in the process. Families get torn apart because relatives feel the matter should stay private.

It’s a tough decision, but remember, this is your good name the identity thief destroyed, not your relatives and it’s you who may be wanted for a crime, not them.

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