Being careful to shred any documents with your personal information on them is only wise in this technological world, full of internet predators and identity thieves. But that may not be enough. Sadly, it may be somebody in the victim’s own family who exploits their personal financial information for purposes of extortion.
Identity thieves often target children
A report by Javelin Strategy & Research last year showed that cases of identity theft grew by 13 percent over the previous year, with many of those victims children. ID Analytics, a leader in consumer risk management, found in 2011 that about 140,000 children were victims of identity theft.
Breaking the family trust
It is unthinkable that some people would victimize children, who have not even started their financial lives yet. But often, another report shows, those children are victimized by those who should be their protectors and loved ones — their parents. The elderly are also often targets of their own children in this low form of abuse.
ID Analytics, in a separate study, unearthed the data of about a half million minors who had their identities stolen by their parents. Another 2 million elderly parents were also targeted for identity theft by their own adult children.
“The realities of familial identity theft are far worse than anything you see in a soap opera. It is the ultimate in family betrayal,” said Dr. Stephen Coggeshall, chief technology officer of ID Analytics. “Most consumers think of this type of manipulation as something inflicted by a stranger or a criminal scamming the system, when in reality a lot of identity manipulation may be a betrayal by a trusted parent, child or another family member.”
The problem is exacerbated by the fact that people will often not report their own parents or children once the criminal has been unearthed, according to the Motley Fool.
Keeping it in the family
Often, however, once detected, the thief will at least help to pay off the ill-gained debt out of some shred of family responsibility. But that is not always the case, according to Cynthia Hampton, a certified credit counselor with ClearPoint Credit Counseling Solutions in Memphis.
“Nine times out of 10, if the family members have a good relationship, the person who committed identity theft will at least help pay for some of the debt,” Hampton said. “But some people will deny to the end what they did, even if it’s obvious.”
Steps you can take
Hampton recommends keeping your social security number private, even from family members. Keep your card locked up, and shred any documents that display it immediately. Tearing them up is not enough. Also, carefully check your credit reports regularly for errors or problems.