Consumer Alert: Victims' identity stolen by relative
Dawn Johnson stole the identities of several of her relatives.
Identity theft is bad enough when it's a stranger committing the crime, but it gets even worse when the person who stole your identity is a relative. It's called "friendly fraud" and it often goes unreported, but it can take a huge financial and emotional toll on the entire family.
"It was greed," says Jessica Plowden, a fraud victim. "I really think she has a problem. She does not care, anytime you can do things like this to your elderly parents, your own son, your dead sister."
Plowden was also one of the 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," says Plowden.
Her name is Dawn Johnson. Johnson, stole personal information from Plowden and other relatives.
"She got my social security number from a piece of personal mail that was sent to my grandmother's house," says Plowden.
Postal inspectors say Johnson took out a car loan, credit cards, and committed tax fraud.
"By submitting fraudulent tax returns in other individual's names and by adding on dependents who weren't actual dependents of those victims in order to increase the fraudulent return money," says Frank Schissler, a U.S. Postal Inspector.
She also applied for unemployment benefits in her nieces' name, which is how Plowden found out there was a problem.
"She tried to frame me for unemployment fraud that she had done, so it's just been a whole list of things," says Plowden.
Investigators say 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," says Schissler.
"I think it was easier for her to prey on family considering the fact that, you know, family is trust. If you trust your family with your personal information, you would never think they would do things like that to you," says Plowden.
Plowden learned a valuable lesson.
"Trust no one. Clearly, I couldn't even trust my own family. Make sure you keep up to date with credit reports," says Plowden.
"Review that report for any accounts that are in your name that you didn't open," says Schissler.
Dawn Johnson confessed to her crimes and was sentenced to one year in prison. She was also ordered to pay more than $42,000 in restitution.