Who Commits Identity Theft?

You'll Be Shocked By Who The Most Common Offenders Are

Men walking on golf course
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When you usually think about identity theft, you picture a seedy criminal, a stranger who has stolen your information. However, this image is usually incorrect. Identity thieves are often much more familiar and can be your family, friends and even members of your church. Being on guard and careful with your information is essential to preventing identity theft. 

Family and Friends

One type of offender is the personal identity thief.

This is somebody who knows their victims personally. They are almost always trusted friends or even a family member. These identity thieves often commit medical identity theft, social security identity theft, financial identity theft criminal identity theft and utilities fraud. A personal identity thief can have dozens or even hundreds of victims, including close friends they have had for years. 

In one case in Indiana, a woman in a church choir stole the identities of members of the congregation and even the pastor. No one had any idea or would have ever suspected her to be capable of such an act.

Sometimes personal identity thieves get greedy or careless and steal the identity of multiple friends or family members; this can create a pattern police can use to track them down.

However, if a personal identity thief is a family member, the chances of them getting arrested are very low, because families do not want to press charges.

This makes statistics inaccurate since many are not even reported.

Recognizing Identity Theft

If a friend or family member has stolen your identity you may see problems with turning on utilities or transferring them. You may notice your Social Security statement is wrong, or there may be errors in doctors’ files.

And of course, credit card bills, calls from bill collectors or a summons to court are big signs of identity theft.

Children often learn they are a victim of identity theft when they apply for a driver’s license or learners permit, apply for their first loan, or try to get a job.

Statistics show that someone who commits identity theft will usually give a stolen identity to law enforcement if they are questioned or arrested. This is criminal identity theft. The innocent victim usually sees the inside of a jail cell and spends a lot of money on legal help. If money is involved, some attorneys will bankrupt their client or have them plea to a lesser charge, which doesn’t really fix anything since it often happens again.

Protect Yourself from Personal Identity Theft

Personal identity thieves are very opportunistic. Think babysitters snooping through a desk drawer or a maid rummaging in the basement. Beauticians, waiters, waitresses, your local gas station clerk or anyone else you hand your credit card to are key people to watch as well.

  • Hide important documents, keep them in a personal safe, or better yet in a safe deposit box at the bank.
  • Protect social security numbers, even from family. Schools often ask for a child’s social security number, but they don’t need it. Your insurance company will probably need it, and the government will want it. Although neither of these institutions has a good reputation for protecting your information, there are usually laws involved that require you give this information away.
  • Be paranoid, the least a little. While dad is taking the babysitter home, mom might check to see if the desk has been rummaged after she looks in on the kids.
  • Check your own information if a friend tells you they were a victim of identity theft recently. (It gives you a good excuse, and you know you need to look anyway.)
  • Shred your personal information. Look for it on bills, bank statements, anything more than your name and address can be used by an identity thief.

Shredding this information before you throw it to the curb for the trash man may be the most important thing you can do to protect yourself from identity theft.