Family member responsible for stolen identity

By Jodi Mohrmann - Managing Editor of special projects
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If you think it's safe to trust members of your own family with your personal information, this story may change your mind. Family and friends are high on the list of likely identity thieves.

"It was greed. 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," said Jessica Plowden.

Plowden and all the people she talks about were victims of identity theft.  And the person responsible was someone she never expected.

"Someone got a hold of my personal information and this someone just so happened to be my aunt," she added.

Her aunt's name is Dawn Johnson. 

"She got my social security number from a piece of personal mail that was sent to my grandmother's house," explained Plowden.

Postal inspectors say 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.

Johnson also applied for unemployment benefits in her niece'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," said Plowden.

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

While victims were shocked that they were targeted by their own family member, investigators says 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. If you trust your family with your personal information you would never think they would do things like that to you," Plowden added.

She says she 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," said Plowden.

"Review that report for any accounts that are in your name that you didn't open," Schissler added.

Everyone is entitled to  one free check every year with each of the three credit reporting agencies. The Better Business Bureau of Northeast Florida  recommends the website  It has step-by-step instructions and links to all three credit bureaus.

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