Dealing With Identity Theft by A Friend or Relative

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Identity theft isn’t always perpetrated by a mystery person or an unnamed hacker. Many times, when your identity is stolen, it is stolen by a friend or a relative. In fact, in 2014, approximately 550,000 identity theft and fraud victims reported it was done by someone they knew.

Getting your identity stolen is hard enough. You may feel violated, betrayed, and your trust may be broken. You may find it difficult to trust anyone again. These are valid feelings. 

But when that person is your family, it gets more complicated. You may have a hard time turning that person in or filing a police report, because of the ramifications it may have on that person or your other family members. You may also have pressure put on you by your parents or siblings to let the matter go. It can be even trickier when your spouse steals your identity.

Here’s what to do if you have your identity stolen by a friend or relative.

What Is Identity Theft?

Identity theft is when someone uses your identity for their own financial gain. It can be to qualify for a loan, make a purchase, be approved for a credit card, among others.

Additionally, some parents may not even think that using their child’s information for financial gain is wrong. Here are some examples of identity theft.

  • A family member uses your name and Social Security number to qualify for a credit card or loan
  • A parent uses a child's name and Social Security number to sign up for utilities or cable
  • A cousin uses a family member's name and Social Security number to qualify and sign for a lease
  • A spouse uses your name and income without your permission to open an account without your knowledge

Often, you won't know this is happening until they've gone delinquent on the account or if you have too much outstanding debt under your name, even if they have kept up with your payments. Regardless of whether it's gone into collections, identity theft is wrong and needs to be corrected.

What Can I Do If My Identity Has Been Stolen?

You will need to contact the creditor and business and explain that you are not responsible for the debt. You should also file a police report. This is the only way that you will be able to fix your credit report. You should also report it to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

Although it may be difficult to file a police report on someone you know, it’s a must in this situation, especially if they have jeopardized your financial future.

What If Other People Do Not Want Me to File a Police Report?

If you are receiving pressure from other friends or family members to not file a police report, you need to remember to act in your own self-interest.

Your credit history is the one at stake, and you will be the one responsible for repaying that money unless you take the necessary steps to begin disputing the charges. You need to continue to check your credit report regularly to catch and prevent additional problems.

What Else Do I Need to Do to Protect Myself?

You may need to change your checking account number, as well as close all of the accounts that you have open. Take the time to set up alerts on your credit reports. This will help to protect you from identity theft in the future.

If your credit cards are stolen, you are at a greater risk of having your identity stolen, so you should carefully monitor these, as well. You should monitor your credit report by pulling a copy every few months. You can do this for free by rotating through each of the three major credit bureaus every four months.

How Do I Deal With My Family After This Happens?

Keep in mind that identity theft is not your fault, and you didn’t do anything wrong. You may also be dealing with residual feelings of betrayal regarding this person, as well. You may decide to write them a letter, or even cut them off entirely, or you could consider getting counseling if you want to maintain a relationship with that family member.

However, in the meantime, you need to be more cautious about how you share information with family members and ways to keep your personal information private.

Updated by Rachel Morgan Cautero.