Identity theft often involves total strangers. Someone responds to a phishing email or patronizes the wrong business where a credit card skimmer captures their personal financial information and an individual whom the victim does not know ends up with access to their personal information. The stranger then uses those account details to make purchases or even uses someone’s Social Security number to apply for lines of credit.
Although you may know that you have never engaged in behaviors that would constitute identity theft against strangers, you may not realize that some of your actions involving your family members could cross the line into identity theft.
You need explicit permission to use people’s accounts or information
You can’t just borrow your girlfriend’s debit card and go shopping without her permission. You also can’t use your oldest child’s Social Security number to open a credit card that you then use to buy groceries for the whole family.
While the intention may not be the same, familiar fraud or identity fraud involving people who know one another can still have a major negative impact on the person whose information or account gets misused by someone else.
For example, while you may have intended to pay your girlfriend or cousin back for purchases made on their account, you might forget to even tell them. Later, they overdraft their account, incurring multiple fees and putting themselves in a several-hundred-dollar financial hole.
In the other example provided, while you may have intended to use a credit card in your child’s name for temporary support for the family, you may soon max it out and feel like you can’t even afford the payments on it, leaving your newly adult child with damaged credit or subject to collection activity.
The state will prosecute familiar fraud
Just because the person affected by your actions as someone you know does not inherently protect you from prosecution. Sometimes, your actions may violate the trust the other person has in you, making them want to punish you. Other times, the situation may be out of their hands, such as when they initiate a fraud investigation with their bank or report the misuse of one of their accounts to the police.
The restrictive definition of identity fraud involving strangers and an intention to steal leaves some people at risk of criminal allegations. Understanding how your financial conduct toward family members could lead to identity theft charges can help you avoid potentially criminal mistakes.