Fraud Between Family Members

Often, you hear on the news, read on the internet, or in a magazine about one family member stealing the identity of another family member; parents securing credit cards, purchasing a vehicle, stealing tax refunds and insurance checks, or securing a mortgage in the name of their children. You rarely hear about the reverse where a child steals the identity of an adult.

The crime of Identity theft refers to the type of crime in which someone wrongfully uses another person’s data fraudulently or deceptively. Identity fraud is typically used for economic gain by the fraudster. To commit the crime, they must rely on using personal details – social security numbers, dates of birth, financial information, passwords, and so on to get past the security measures of most organizations. Identity theft or impersonation fraud (also known as ID theft or ID fraud) occurs when a criminal uses vital details about a real person without their permission to impersonate them to open new accounts – phone, electricity, and gas, take over a credit card or bank account, steal a tax refund, or worse pretend to be them if they are arrested. (FTC Consumer Information).[1]

There’s little difference in the terms identity theft and identity fraud. No matter what you call it, the crime is serious, punishable under one federal statute by up to 15 years’ imprisonment, a fine, and forfeiture of any personal property used to commit the crime.

Protect your personal information. Keep your financial records, Social Security (SSN) and Medicare cards, and any other documents with personal information in a safe place. When you decide to get rid of those documents, shred them before throwing them away (See the for recommendations). If you don’t have a shredder, check with the library, or use a marker to block out account numbers. When asked for your SSN, question why it is needed before giving it out.

When sharing a computer, do not share passwords, have strong passwords, consider multi-factor authentication. Do not give personal information to people who call over the phone. Scammers will impersonate IRS, Social Security, the State Courts, and many other organizations, so resist giving out your personal information. If they are genuinely a Federal or State organization, they already have this information.

The FTC recommends other preventative measures.

Beware of family members in your home. Do not allow anyone to have access to your SSN, birth certificate, driver’s license, passport, bank account records, or other personal information.

Especially beware of family members with similar names, with a different middle initial.

Case Study:

During the summer months, a client (Victim) worked while in college and was very frugal with her money. Her employer (Fortune 50) had a 401 (k) plan, and she allowed the principal to accumulate over three summers, and she left the funds with the employer to be invested for 30-years. She worked in her nursing profession and did not look to the 401 (k) account to determine the contents or the values. Her stepbrother named his daughter after her except for the middle name. The daughter was 20 years younger than the Victim. As a teenager, the daughter left home and learned from “the streets.” The daughter decided to move in with her step-grandmother, with whom the Victim was living. The daughter did not work for a period and was in the residence alone.   The daughter rummaged through the home and found a cache of vital information, SSN, birth certificate, evidence of the 401 (k) reports, etc.

The daughter intercepted a 401 (k) report from the mail that disclosed the extent of the investments contained in the Victims account. With the information cache and her “street smarts,” the daughter contacted the 401 (k) administrator and converted it to her name, and began withdrawing from the account.   The account was estimated to be in the seven figures range. The apparent wealth of the daughter became noticeable, and by a fluke accident, the Victim discovered the conversion. The Victim contacted the administrator, but they refused to converse with the Victim, fully knowing that they paid the wrong person.

If you have this happen to you or your family or friends, consider contacting a Private Investigator and a competent attorney with the skill to handle such a matter.

If your law firm requires a private investigator or forensic accountant regarding an identity theft or identity fraud matter, contact Chief Investigator Edmond Martin of Sage Investigations, LLC at 512-659-3179 or email him at We offer a free 20-minute consult. Visit our website at www.Sageinvestigations.ComClick to read about our team and their CVs.