Most people know they shouldn’t trust emails from supposed Nigerian princes looking to share their fortune, but it’s understandable to give sensitive information to family without a second thought.
Identity thieves can emerge from all corners of life: friends, family, salespeople, government workers — anyone who may take advantage of their access to your information. There are plenty examples of these thieves, but here are five real stories of identity thieves from unexpected places.
1. Your Mom
Identity theft among families is extremely common. Sometimes relatives take advantage of an elderly family member experiencing cognitive decline, and other times parents use their children’s Social Security numbers to take out loans. Children are often targets for such crimes because they have no credit history.
A few months ago, a woman posted her story to Reddit about how her mom took out a credit card in her name to help pay for the daughter’s college expenses. The mom had trashed her own credit, and over the course of a few years, she had taken out several more accounts in her daughter’s name. Like many whose identities are stolen by family members, this woman was hesitant to contact the police to turn her mother in.
2. Police Officers
We recently posted two stories about cops who abused their positions to defraud people. A Miami police officer went to trial last month for allegedly using his work laptop to search a driver’s license database for victims, most of whom were women with common last names.
A police officer in Detroit allegedly worked with a woman to fabricate identity theft police reports as a way to help paying customers improve their credit scores. The idea was to claim that identity theft was responsible for legitimate negative accounts on these people’s credit reports.
3. Court Workers
A former court clerk in Florida had access to a database of driver’s license data while she worked for a traffic and misdemeanor division in the Broward County courthouse. She used that position to collect people’s personal information and sell it to an unidentified person, who then filed fraudulent tax returns with the stolen identities.
This was another identity theft story from a Reddit user: A friend, whom the writer had not seen in about a year, came over to the man’s house for a beer, and while the man was out of the room, the friend stole some blank checks and wrote down the man’s driver’s license number. The so-called friend drained the man’s bank account, and the man spent a year repairing the damage. The thief is in jail, the man got his money back and the two are no longer friends.
5. Potential Employers
In one of the more creative schemes out there, a woman allegedly posed as a local bank’s new CEO and handed out job applications. Hopefuls filled out the forms and returned them to the “executive,” handing over their personal information. The woman was charged when a new hire showed up to the bank for work, and the employees called the police, unaware that the business had been used as a cover. While she was charged with identity theft, it didn’t appear that she had a chance to use the stolen information.
While consumers need to be careful of whom they trust, extensive paranoia won’t prevent identity theft. There’s only so much one can do to secure personal information, and after that, it’s up to the individual to monitor their accounts for potential abuses.
Regularly checking bank accounts is a good habit to develop, and consumers who routinely check their credit reports and credit scores will notice when something looks wrong or if there’s a sudden drop in scores. In addition to using the free credit reports available to everyone, consumers can use the free Credit Report Card to keep on top of changes in their credit scores.
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