Identity thieves are constantly evolving and finding new ways to comprise your information. Protecting yourself against multiple types of identity theft requires knowing the methods used to acquire your personal and financial information and use it to act in your name. Once you understand how identity thieves operate, you will be able to defend yourself more effectively and detect attempts at using your information earlier so that you can mitigate the damage.
Social Security Fraud
Our social security numbers are the most valuable information we have when needing to obtain credit, request government assistance or receive benefits when we’ve reached the age of retirement. Identity thieves can use your social security number to open lines of credit, make unauthorized purchases or to receive welfare payments in your name illegally. They can also use this information as a basis for other types of identity theft such as obtaining a driver’s license in your name.
Driver’s License Fraud
Having a driver’s license issued under your identity to another person can have far-reaching repercussions. Identity thieves using fake driver’s licenses may commit traffic violations that end up on your record. When you fail to pay the fines, you may lose your license or be taken into custody during a routine traffic stop. Most victims of these crimes are never aware that their identities have been stolen until their licenses are suspended or revoked, or they become subject to criminal charges due to the actions taken by the identity thief.
Criminal Identity Theft
One of the most serious and damaging types of identity theft is when criminals use identification with your information to escape criminal charges. When they are cited or arrested, they provide the false identification. Then the court date comes around and you don’t show because you are unaware of the charges. This could result in criminal convictions on your record that can be as minor as simple misdemeanor charges or more serious felonious acts that can jeopardize your ability to obtain or maintain employment.
Financial Identity Theft
Most people associate identity theft with this form of crime. It involves the use of personal information to create or take over financial accounts such as checking accounts, credit cards, car loans and mortgages.
Here’s a scary story of how serious this can be.
Thieves can obtain the information needed to hack into your accounts or steal your information through viruses, data breaches or phishing attacks. It can be frustrating and stressful to have your money stolen by an identity thief. You may need to spend months or years repairing the damage that is done to your credit through the opening of new accounts and accumulation of debt in your name.
Child Identity Theft
Eight-year-olds have no reason to monitor their credit reports, and this has made them targets in recent identity theft crimes. Relatives are usually the culprits and take out loans or obtain credit cards in the name of the child. The victim will learn of the theft when he or she comes of age and tries to obtain a student or car loan. It will then require several years of credit monitoring and clean up to restore the victim’s credit. This damage affects the ability to buy a car or home, as well as the interest rates and terms of the loans offered.
Change of Address Fraud
One of the most frustrating forms of identity theft is the changing of you mailing address. The thief is now able to divert all of your mail to an alternate address. Sifting through your mail allows the thief to obtain additional information of value but is also an invasion of your privacy as it allows them to go through personal correspondence. If you find that your mailing address has been changed, it is a sign that other forms of fraud may follow shortly, and you should freeze all of your accounts and begin to monitor your credit for oddities.
Employment Identity Theft
Criminals, illegal immigrants, and the jobless are now using stolen identification to obtain employment where they would otherwise would not be able to work. They use the stolen identity to avoid having background checks into their real, personal history.
Most people are alerted to this type of id theft when they receive tax documents from an employer they are not associated with, or when they receive their social security statement with incorrect information. This is a serious issue, as any crimes committed at the workplace under your identity may cause you legal troubles.
The IRS has put together some information regarding employment related id theft.
Torrent sites make it easy to share files both legally and outside of copyright protections. Hackers use peer to peer services to deliver Trojan horse attacks to unsuspecting users. Once they gain access to your computer they may be able to obtain your passwords and personal information by monitoring your activities and online purchases. Be sure that you never download pirated material because it is not only illegal but it puts you and your information at risk.
Medical Identity Theft
Identity thieves may use your information when receiving medical care to avoid payment. The financial fraud can be damaging to your credit and result in mysterious bills. A greater concern is that the thief’s medical records are merged with your own. Doctors use your medical history to make informed decisions about treatment and to diagnose illnesses or conditions based on your current and past health conditions. Inaccurate information can result in misdiagnosis or harmful treatment options.
Creation of a New Person
Identity thieves may combine the information they’ve stolen from multiple victims and create an entirely new identity. Even though the thief is not using your name, he or she may be using your social security number, address or phone number to obtain credit cards and loans. This affects all of the people whose information is incorporated into the synthetic identity and a hard form of identity theft to combat because of the complexity of the crime.
Even if you are diligent in your efforts to prevent these types of identity theft, you may still become the victim of a crime if your information is stolen during a hack or data breach. Knowing what identity thieves will do with your information allows you to detect fraud more quickly, however, and to mitigate your losses and the damage that is done to your credit. You should always be wary of who you give your social security number, address and passwords to and check your bank accounts and credit card statements regularly. This will ensure that you are immediately aware of any suspicious activity that can have far reaching effects on your credit and financial health.