Despite all the media hype about hackers, security breaches and lost laptops, research shows that just over half of all identity theft is committed by someone close to the victim – a family member or close friend. Recent research also indicates that 55% of all identity theft is committed based on paper documents. As a company, we have to be worried about the attacks against our systems. As an individual, the statistics say that you should be more worried about Uncle Joe or Grandma picking up the credit card statement from your kitchen table.

Unfortunately, if you discover family-related identity theft, there are few good solutions. Most of the legal protections that you have as an identity theft victim will require that you file a police report. The police report could lead to prosecution and even jail time for the offending family member. Few families are ready for the emotional difficulties of prosecuting the case.

Occasionally, a lender will let the victim off the hook without a police report if the thief admits to the deed and commits to making payments and has the means to do so, according to Linda Foley of the Identity Theft Resource Center. The family typically needs to hire a lawyer to conduct the necessary negotiations and to draw up the paperwork.

If you live in a “credit freeze” state (OH is not one yet), you can at least stop further abuse of your identity by putting a freeze on your account and on the accounts of the rest of your family. Freezing your account may not require a police report. Check your state laws for more.

Prevent identity theft in the first place by buying a shredder, locking up or filing bills and statements with personal information and checking your credit report regularly. You can request your own credit report online for free every 12 months. Don’t forget to check your family members’ credit reports at the same time. Children and dependent elders remain high priority targets for identity thieves. (Note: Requests for the credit report of a minor under age 13 must be submitted in writing on this form and with the identifying documents listed here.)

Credit Report reminder: For those of us on the “trimester plan” for reviewing our credit reports, it’s time to ask from for your free copy of your credit report from the next agency.

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