Your Identity Could Be Stolen… By a Family Member
Most of us have heard about the long list of breaches at big companies like Target, and even the Internal Revenue Service in recent months, but you might not be aware there's a growing problem of identity theft being committed by people you know and trust.
According to Javelin Strategy & Research data reviewed by CNBC.com, there were at least 550 thousand identity theft victims last year who reported their information was swiped by either a friend, neighbor or relative.
According to identity theft expert Adam Levin, the co-founder and chairman of IDT 911, a significant number of identity thefts occur in the familial group.
"People that are as close to you as friends and family have unique access to not only your information, but also they know things about what you do, where you've lived, they're in a pretty strong position to commit identity theft, based on their intimate knowledge," Levin said.
He said it is not uncommon now to see cases of identity theft of children - by their own parents.
"In some cases where parents are struggling financially, they will open credit card accounts in their children's name, using their child's social security number, with the intention of paying the money back, but unfortunately in situations like that often-times the parents financial issues don't go away, and they're unable to pay the bill," Levin said.
The result, he said, is the negative information goes with the social security number, and a child's credit rating may be ruined.
"The parents don't mean harm, but they just kept going and the hole gets deeper and deeper and deeper," he said.
Levin said this problem is usually never identified for years because "kids don't check their own credit reports obviously, because they don't think they have one, and they're not even thinking about credit."
Another identify theft problem, Levin said, is when spouses get divorced.
"There's nobody that knows more about you than your spouse, and most spouses have an intimate knowledge of your personal identifying information, and most spouses know the social security number of their spouse," he said. "This has led to some very ugly situations."
Levin recommends minimizing your risk of exposure by not carrying your social security card, limiting the number of debit and credit cards you carry, and you should not leave documents lying around.
"Make sure you secure your computer and your smart phone and you are vigilant when it comes to your data, and it's very important to monitor your credit ratings, check your bank and credit card accounts on a daily basis," he said.
He also said it's critically important to manage the damage when necessary.
"A lot of people don't realize there are programs available through their insurance companies and banks and HR departments where they work that will help you through a problem like this," Levin said. "And in many cases it's free."