Could your family members be stealing from you?

CLEVELAND - If you think it’s safe to trust members of your own family with your personal information, this story may change your mind. Investigators told us family and friends are high on the list of likely identity thieves.

“It was greed. I really think she has a problem,” said fraud victim Jessica Plowden. “She does not care. Anytime you can do things like this to your elderly parents, your own son, your dead sister."  

Plowden and the rest were all victims of identity theft and you might find it hard to believe who did it.  “Someone got a hold of my personal information and this someone just so happened to be my aunt,” explained Plowden.

Plowden’s aunt Dawn Johnson was arrested. “She got my social security number from a piece of personal mail that was sent to my grandmother’s house,” said Plowden.

Postal inspectors said Johnson took out a car loan, credit cards and committed tax fraud.  “By submitting fraudulent tax returns in other individuals names and by adding on dependents who weren’t actual dependents of those victims, in order to increase the fraudulent return money,” explained U.S. Postal Inspector Frank Schissler.

She also applied for unemployment benefits in her nieces’s name – which is how Plowden found out there was a problem.  “She tried to frame me for an unemployment fraud that she had done… so it’s just been a whole list of things,” Plowden told us.

Investigators said this isn’t surprising.  “Statistics have shown that victims of id theft are two and a half times more likely to be victimized by a friend or family member than they are by having their id stolen through the mail,” said Schissler.

“I think it was easier for her to prey on family considering the fact that you know – family is trust,” said Plowden. “If you trust your family with your personal information you would never think they would do things like that to you,” she added.

What has Plowden learned from this? “Trust no one. Clearly, I couldn’t even trust my own family. Make sure you keep up to date with credit reports.”

Schissler had this On Your Side Advice: “Review that report for any accounts that are in your name that you didn’t open,” he suggested.

Johnson confessed to her crimes and was sentenced to 1 year in prison.  She was also ordered to pay more than $42,000 in restitution.

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