Identity Thieves in the FamilyPosted: Updated:
KENNEWICK, Wash. - Nearly 9 million Americans are victims of identity theft each year. Only a quarter of the victims ever learn who the criminals are. Of those who do, half said it's a member of their own family.
Identity thieves have the potential to ruin your name, kill your credit, and leave you with thousands of dollars in debt. Experts at the Federal Trade Commission said the person most likely to clean you out may be living under your own roof.
For some, credit card applications come in the mail every week. Thieves take them to steal your identity and drain your bank account, but the person likely to do the most damage isn't some stranger on the street. It's the people you see on the holidays.
"When it's a family member with the riches of information they have available they're going to go ahead and get as much value out of it as they can," said Joanna Crane, Federal Trade Commission.
Crane said relatives have easier access to credit cards, drivers licenses and your social security. That doesn't worry some people like Greg Haste although he admits it wouldn't be hard to steal his information.
"(It) doesn't take (much, they just) take from the mailbox if they know what they're looking for," said Haste.
To keep your information safe, Kennewick Police offer a few tips.
First, trust your instincts. If you don't feel comfortable with someone in the family, there's a reason.
Second, secure your documents. Keep your sensitive information hidden in a safe place, and shred every important document you throw away.
Third, pick up your mail regularly and mail your bills directly. It will reduce opportunities for thieves.
And one important tip police said to remember - Don't shrug off reporting your relatives.
"First of all that gives the person a free pass. The second thing it does is put the person who is the potential victim on the hook for the loss," said Mike Blatman, Kennewick Police Department.
Police said sometimes that's the best way family thieves get the help they need.