How To Prevent Genealogical Fraud And Identity Theft

We live in a world where information is key to achieving almost anything in life. This curiosity has led man to search for knowledge in many ways, sometimes illegal. Genealogy, which is the study of family trees and the descent of how different members of the same family are related to each other, is a very popular topic on the internet. As a matter of fact, only pornography has a higher number of searches online.

There are also many TV shows on the subject of family trees such as “genealogy roadshow” and “finding your roots”. Internet and television shows plus the success depicted in these shows have made the genealogy industry a multi-billion dollar one. What most people don’t know about these shows is that a lot of effort and research is put into it to make sure it finishes with a happy ending. The important thing to note is that it is very hard, if not impossible to get every information on your family history by subscribing to these programs.

This unusual curiosity about finding out about genealogy has led to serious genealogy frauds around the globe. One of these problems is identity theft. Here are some common instances you should be aware of.

Identity Fraud

Table of Contents

Few years ago in the US, news broke of a woman who was extracting information on She was obtaining information from the social security database and selling to curious users in order to make money. That probably sounds too good to be true but that’s where we’ve found ourselves. This breach led to releasing data of just the deceased not earlier than ten years.

It should be noted that government and law enforcement agencies might not find out about genealogical fraud (and other types of fraud too) and as such, you must be very careful about the information you post on the internet.

If you have decided to post information about your family tree online on websites such as, make sure you keep the records of living persons private, most importantly dates of birth.

Coats of Arms and Family Crests

This is another way people are being tricked and extorted when it comes to genealogical frauds. Some websites claims that surnames are in a way connected to these important symbols. This is completely untrue!

This is further exemplified in a statement made public by the College of Arms in London. This report indicated that some people with the same surname are not awarded a coat of arms (except in some very rare cases). They stated specifically that some people with the same surname may have different coats of arms.

In addition, the College of Arms pointed out that coats of arms are granted to people or inherited directly by the male line of the persons who are granted. Confirmation is important to establish the legitimacy of the coats of arms. Since the coats of arms is directly connected to the British crown or some other royalty, it is necessary to verify their authenticity by anyone who claims to possess it.

It should be noted that family crests is not the same as the coats of arms. Although both are meant to indicate identity of people, the crest is simply a specific part of a full achievement of arms, that is, the three-dimensional object placed at the top of the helm. Therefore, any person or companies who claim to sell your family crest may not be legitimate. Take note!

How you can Protect your Data

With the rate at which fraudsters are taking advantage of people it is important for you to put in place stringent security measures to protect your personal data especially when performing banking operations. Of course, no one wants a fraudster stealing their identity and receiving their benefits. So, you have to be smart and armed with information.

Security Questions

Anytime you try to open an account online, some questions are posed to you to answer in case you forget some important details about the account. These security questions will help you to get the necessary information on your account. However, you have to be very careful with these questions so as to prevent fraudulent activities from being carried out on your account.

For example if you see a question like: What is your best friend’s name? What is your mother’s maiden name?. For the purpose of safety, it is better to answer the questions wrongly. By wrongly, we mean you should lie!

You need to be very careful and write these questions and answers down and keep them somewhere safe. Remember that these details are tied down to your account security which means that they must not be taken with levity.


Normally, websites advice you to have a lengthy password containing several characters such as upper case and lower case letters, as well as alphabets and numeric characters. Due to the complexity of these passwords, it may be hard to memorize. This, it is important to write them down and keep them in a safe place.

However, the use of names and other personal data should be avoided when creating passwords. Hackers can now use password cracking software to generate your password. Don’t make it easier for them by using your names and other details likely to be found on genealogy websites).

Also, you should avoid using the same passwords for different websites. If an account has been compromised, the first thing fraudsters will do is to source for other locations.

Another thing you should avoid doing is storing your passwords in “safes” with some online vendors. It is very easy for hackers to access your accounts this way.

Having your identity stolen could be very painful and with a huge number of people at risk, it would be wise to carefully select your passwords and store them properly.

Finally, you need to be very careful of how much information you release online. Even some genealogy websites don’t have enough security measures to stop crooks to tracking and falsifying identities of people.

Be careful, always!

Steven Millstein

Talk to an expert – Call us on 855-386-1528 or