The dangers of identity theft are well known now to most Wisconsinites and many have taken steps to protect their personal information from strangers. However, a real threat still exists that could come from within your own family.
Of the nearly 50,000 reported cases of identity theft or financial abuse in the state last year, Nino Amato with the Coalition of Wisconsin Aging Groups says almost 60-percent were carried out by family members. The cases range from parents using a child’s social security number to obtain credit cards to people using the bank account information of an elderly family member.
Despite the high number of cases that are discovered each year, Elder Law Center director John Hendrick says many more go unreported because people want to avoid causing legal trouble for a family member. Hendrick says community advocates are becoming an important part of catching these abuses, because they are often the first to notice something is wrong and are usually in a position to intervene.
The role of social services and law enforcement in identifying cases of family identity theft has resulted in a statewide coalition aimed at better educating advocates on the signs of financial abuse. The Wisconsin Identity Theft Coalition is made up of several advocacy groups, banks, and law enforcement agencies across the state. Hendrick says the goal is to improve the response those agencies can provide to victims of identity theft, especially in cases where the perpetrator is a family member.
The coalition will begin holding training sessions across the state early next year.
AUDIO: Andrew Beckett reports (1:06)