I once had a conversation with a young lady that was in one of my classes. She had applied for a car loan, and the lender asked her about a credit card she hadn’t noted on her application. She wasn’t aware she had a credit card, but a little digging found that the card had been opened in her name when she was only 6 months old. They were even making the payments on time.
When I asked if she was going to pursue legal action as many of us would assume, she explained that she didn’t think so. The perpetrator was a family member. Her grandmother.
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 not reciprocated.
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 make up your mind, 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 and even your insurance rates. Yes, insurance companies charge those with bad credit higher rates. One of the steps you can take to prevent identity theft is to lock down your credit file. This means no accounts can be opened unless a PIN is provided.
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 non-profit credit counseling agency. We can help you to address the situation, and talk about steps to begin the process of rebuilding. 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 at www.lsssd.org or by calling us at 1-888-258-2227 . The decisions, uneasy as they may be, are yours to make. We’ll just lay your options out and walk with you.
Written by Sylvia Selgestad, Financial Counselor and Educator
Photo credit: blogspot.com
LSS Center for Financial Resources
Consumer Credit Counseling Service | Housing Resources | Sharpen Your Financial Focus | Financial Fitness Education
705 East 41st Street, Suite 100 | Sioux Falls SD 57105-6047
605-330-2700 or 888-258-2227
Strengthening Individuals, Families & Communities