People often fear becoming the victims of crimes committed by strangers. We worry about being randomly assaulted on the street, or having our homes burglarized while we are away. But, as law enforcement officials are quick to remind us, a significant number of crimes are committed by people who are known to the victims.
This is true for instances of identity theft.
We regularly hear news reports of massive data breaches at businesses that threaten to compromise the personal information of thousands of customers. Last year, the Identity Theft Resource Center reported that there were 783 data breaches in the U.S. affecting 12.7 million people — a record high. This year, so far, there have been 424 breaches. On this blog, we have warned readers about the risks they face while filing their taxes, receiving medical care or even making major life changes like getting married or buying a house. In most cases, these situations open people up to the possibility of identity theft committed by a stranger.
But, as pointed out by a recent article on CNBC, “familiar fraud” is not as unheard of as people think. Last year, a Javelin Strategy & Research study found that 550,000 fraud and identity theft victims reported having their personal data compromised by someone they knew.
“Most of the time when we think of identity theft, we think of a bad person behind a computer in a foreign country,” said Robert P. Chappell Jr., author of “Child Identity Theft: What Every Parent Needs to Know,” told CNBC. “That’s not always the case.”
The news source cited one specific instance in which a health care worker in Kentucky discovered that someone had used her Social Security Number to open up several new credit cards under her name, spending more than $1,500 and surpassing the credit limit on one card. Though initially believing this to be the work of a hacker, she later discovered that her husband was responsible.
Sometimes, the people closest to us are simply in the best position to steal our information. This is one of the reasons why the elderly are at such a high risk for identity theft. While they are regularly targeted for scams, they are also more likely to have a regular caregiver. Whether this person is a member of the family or hired help, they are easily capable of stealing information belonging to the person in their care and using it for financial gain. This is why many experts recommend conducting a background check before hiring a caregiver for an elderly relative.
It’s crucial for everyone to keep a close eye on their financial activity. You never know when someone might try to steal your identity and do significant damage to your credit. But by being proactive, it is possible for victims to catch theft before it is allowed to go on for too long. To protect yourself, consider signing up for a credit monitoring services that can alert you to certain activity on your credit file that may be indicative of fraud.