Identity fraud is both a very personal crime and yet often an impersonal one. Scammers and professional fraudsters may steal or trade personal information on the internet. They may install credit card skimmers at gas stations or buy customer details from mortgage brokers.
Often, the person affected by identity fraud feels like the offense is personal because it derailed every part of their life. Their credit score will drop, and some of their assets or even their job may be at risk. However, the crime is all so impersonal because they are one of hundreds affected by the same unscrupulous individual.
While many forms of identity theft are random and involve strangers, identity theft can occur in close relationships as well. Professionals refer to identity theft involving people who know one another as familiar fraud.
Actions that don’t initially seem criminal may constitute familiar fraud. Maybe your brother never paid you back for some football tickets. You know he owes you $300, but he always has an excuse about why he won’t pay. You might borrow his credit card when he visits one Saturday and use it to buy some items online. Familiar fraud could also involve the use of personal identifying information for your spouse or your parent to open a new line of credit or start a business.
Familiar fraud doesn’t necessarily have the same intent as identity fraud between strangers, but the impact is often the same. Familiar fraud can result in the loss of financial resources and negative impact on someone’s credit score.
There are numerous possible defenses to familiar fraud allegations. For example, perhaps your aging father with early signs of Alzheimer’s disease really did give you permission to open a new account in his name. Maybe your sibling allowed you to use their credit card, but then they lied because their spouse was upset.
Miscommunication, confusion and forgetfulness can all impact how family members perceive the situation. Those facing allegations of identity fraud involving someone they know will need to look at the evidence against them carefully to plan a defense strategy.
Presenting an alternate explanation or challenging the validity of certain evidence can help those accused of white-collar criminal offenses defend themselves.