Types of Identity Theft

This month, we talked about the consequences of credit card fraud and how identity theft can be one way credit card fraud is committed.  As a percentage of all ID theft complaints, did you know that credit card fraud has been decreasing over the last decade?  Since overall identity theft continues to increase, that means scammers are finding other ways to take your identity.  In our last blog, we talked about those ways thieves steal your personal information.  Today, we’ll tell you how thieves use stolen information to assume a new identity—possibly the identity of you or someone you love:

Identity Cloning – A thief assumes someone else’s identity to conceal who they really are.  This is typical among illegal immigrants and people hiding from creditors or the law.  Unlike credit card fraud, where paper trail and financial consequences usually leads to discovery, this type of concealment can go on indefinitely.

Medical Identity Theft – A thief uses another person’s name and identifying data, such as medical insurance information, to obtain medical goods and services, or to file false claims for medical goods and services.  This is more dangerous for the victim than it sounds.  The thief’s actions may lead to erroneous entries to the victim’s medical record, which could cause medical staff to make inappropriate or harmful decisions regarding the victim’s medical care.

Criminal Identity Theft – A thief has been arrested and identifies himself under another person’s name.  The thief may have stolen legitimate credentials from a victim or may have a fake ID in the victim’s name.  The criminal charges will be assigned to the victim’s real name and not to the thief.

This type of identity theft is difficult to detect and difficult to reverse.  In many cases, victims only find out about criminal identity theft when they receive a court summons, discover their license is suspended, or undergo a background investigation for employment.  Once victims become aware of the crime, it can be even harder to clear their name.  They might need to identify themselves through fingerprints or DNA, might need to attend a court hearing to clear the charges, and might need to obtain a records expungement.  Even still, not all records databases “talk” to each other, so the erroneous information may remain on file in certain circles.

Child Identity Theft – A thief uses a child’s social security number to set up their own information, such as credit accounts, a driver’s license—even a new home purchase.  Children’s social security numbers are especially valuable because they are clean slates not yet linked to employment records or credit history.  Because most people don’t use their social security numbers until they are older, in high school or beyond, child identity theft can go undetected for many years.  This type of identity theft is commonly committed by someone who knows the victimized child, such as a family member or family friend.

How to avoid becoming a victim and spending years undoing the damage?  A general rule to avoid all types of ID theft is to keep careful watch over your personal documents.  Don’t give out identifying information, such as your social security number, to just anyone, even if the operation looks legitimate.  Before you throw away documents containing your name and identifying information, shred them.  Whenever appropriate, order regular statements to check your account activity, such as from your medical insurance company.  Taking precautions may help you avoid becoming a victim, but even the most cautious people can fall prey to identity thieves.

If you’ve been a victim of identity theft or credit card fraud, call the law offices of Hornberger & Brewer.  We’ll treat you with compassion as we guide you along the path to winning back your good name.

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