We all have that relative that's just a bit ... off. You are never sure if they're up to something sketchy or even illegal. They just give off an unsettling vibe and, whatever is causing it, you don't quite trust them.
Of course, because they're family you let that feeling slide. You give them the benefit of the doubt.
However, going with your gut might be safer for a very compelling reason. As it turns out, in nearly 30% of identity theft cases, the culprit is a family member or relative.
It makes sense, as the person probably has free access to your home. That gives them opportunities to pick up and walk away with important documents, like mail containing credit card offers and other sensitive information.
Not only that, they probably know details about you that makes it easy for them to impersonate you. They might even be able to guess the answers to security questions that guard your online accounts. That lets them bypass your password and get into places they shouldn't be.
It might not even be your identity they steal. There are countless stories of close family members, or exes, committing identity fraud using the information of children in the family. That kind of fraud won't be discovered for years.
What can you do to head off this huge threat? There are some simple steps you can take.
- Keep sensitive documents like Social Security cards, birth certificates, tax documents and so forth, stored safely away when relatives come to visit. That includes your mail, which might contain pre-approved credit cards and bills.
- Don't let visitors use your main computer account. If they know what they're doing, they can see your browser history or even your online account passwords. Instead, create a guest account to keep people away from that information.
- Change the security questions for your online accounts to something that people who know you can't guess. Learn more about creating strong security questions.
- Sign up with an identity protection service