I once had a conversation with a young lady that was buying her first home. At least she thought she was. But as the process continued, her lender called her to explain that she was going to have to sell her house in another state before she could qualify for the new loan. She wasn’t aware she owned a home any where, but a little digging found that the home had been purchased in her name when she was only 6 months old. The real buyer had even kept up the payments until recently.
I asked if she was going to pursue legal action as many of us would assume. She explained that she wasn’t. It was done and over now and the perpetrator was a family member.
Wow. We usually think of someone off in Russia, Africa, or anywhere else other than here doing all of the identity theft via hacks and phone scams.
Unfortunately, family members are among the most common perpetrators of identity theft. Think about it. We generally trust them to the point that we are willing to leave our personal information with them. Even if we don’t intentionally do it, we let them visit our homes and don’t even think to secure our information.
Unfortunately, this is also why a large portion of identity theft goes unaddressed. In order to have it cleaned from your credit history, you have to file a police report. When it is a family member, many people refuse to press charges or even report that the theft happened. They have a sense of loyalty to their family member, even though it is obviously unreciprocated.
So you haven’t used your credit card at one of the stores that have been hacked. You have been so careful about giving out any personal information whatsoever and certainly not over the phone.
It doesn’t mean you can’t be a victim.
Fortunately, I haven’t been in that situation. No one has stolen my identity, let alone family. I can’t pretend to know what is right at that moment. Only you can make that choice when it actually happens.
But before you have your mind set, consider what that negative credit history can impact:
- Access to loans
- Opening a checking account
- Getting a job
- Getting an apartment, cell phone, or utilities
- Getting a professional license or certificate
- Your insurance rates
Pulling your credit report is free through AnnualCreditReport.com. Even if you choose not to press charges against your family or anyone else that steals your identity and financial well-being, at least know what is on your report. You can plan accordingly rather than being surprised when you are already moving in a direction that is no longer available to you.
If you find your identity has been stolen and aren’t sure where to even start, at least talk to a not-for-profit credit counseling agency. There are many of them across the country. I could tell you so many more stories just of the people we have seen at the Center for Financial Resources. It is sad. It is maddening. It can be tragic.
But by knowing it’s there, you can also begin the process of rebuilding from identity theft. You can have someone to walk through that process with you by scheduling an appointment with a counselor at the Center for Financial Resources either online or by calling us at 605-330-2700. The decisions, uneasy as they may be, are yours to make. We’ll just lay your options out for you and walk with you.
written by Breck Miller
images courtesy freedigitalphotos.net