There can be no doubt that identity theft is a serious and growing problem, one from which we can only work to protect ourselves. To do that, it is important to understand the types of identity thefts that can occur. Many people think of financial fraud when they imagine a criminal sneaking off with their personal information. The truth is that identity theft, like the thieves who commit the crime, takes on make forms. Here are a few common types of id theft:
- Financial: This type of identity theft comes in two forms. First, the criminal might steal credit cards or access bank accounts to withdraw money. Or the thief will assume the victim’s identity to take on loans and get new credit cards.
- Driver’s License: A more “sophisticated” crime, because the thief needs to find a productive way to use the license. Many sell them off to people who look passably similar to the ID owner. In such cases, buyers will use stolen IDs to get away with traffic violations and other driving charges. They may even hand over the stolen ID to escape drug-related incidents.
- Criminal: The “new” owner of a driver’s license or state ID can use he stolen ID to give policemen a fake identity. Victims may then be arrested for crimes they did not commit or have a criminal record where the thief’s crimes are now listed under the victim’s name.
- Social Security: Think of Social Security numbers as the Holy Grail of identity theft. They carry so much sensitive information that criminals can use just the SSN to defraud the government in your name, take out loans and credit cards and falsify documents such as passports.
- Synthetic: Synthetic identity theft occurs when a criminal combines bits and pieces of information from several different victims to create a whole new identity. They can then open new accounts, acquire credit cards, cell phones and other goods and services.
Are these the most dangerous forms of identity theft? Not necessarily. There are three types of id theft that can be categorized as particularly dangerous, based on the impact they can have on an individual’s life:
- Child Identity Theft: Thieves often go after children’s identities by stealing data from schools, doctors’ offices, sports teams or one of the many other places the child’s information is requested to register. This type of theft frequently goes undetected because children don’t have established credit files, nor do they have active financial activities such as applying for car or home loans. These victims may not realize they were targeted until adulthood, when they are denied their first loan, credit card or housing due to poor credit history. Using credit monitoring services to check if their children have any credit activity is a helpful way to help combat this form of identity theft.
- Medical Identity Theft: Healthcare companies are increasingly becoming targets of identity thieves. Medical information falling into the wrong hands not only results in a financial burden on victims, who may end up getting bills for care they did not receive, but can also affect their health through changed medical records. It is important to check medical records for any mistakes.
- Tax Identity Theft: Tax fraud through identity theft is an easy way for criminals to make money. On this blog we recently discussed IRS practices that allowed identity thieves opportunities to get away with tax identity theft. It is important to file your income taxes early each tax season and shred any and all documents with your personal information on it to protect yourself from this crime.
Each one of these crimes can have serious repercussions on your life and livelihood. That is why it is important to stay vigilant and do what you can to protect your identity.