Introduction to Identity Theft
Identity thieves are everywhere and they are coming after you, me, and everyone else. We struggle to keep up with technology and cyber thieves are changing to continue their crime spree. More data is being breached by companies, non-profits, and our government. You must protect yourself both online and offline and it had better be sooner than later.
There is not a product or service which will completely protect you from identity theft. So the goal must be to cut your odds of becoming a statistic. The goal is to help you better understand and protect yourself from identity theft because with the knowledge we have power.
People who become victims of identity theft include:
• Victims can be rich, poor or any income level between.
• Even if you have never been on a social media site.
• Your credit rating could be bad, good, or excellent.
• Victims can be of any age, race, or academic level.
• Even if you only utilize secure websites.
• You could be a victim of financial, criminal, medical, or especially tax identity theft.
• Most law enforcement officials cannot help much because they don’t have the skills or resources.
• Even after identity theft, the victim cannot walk away from the internet, smartphone, or using their credit and debit cards. All of these things are part of our daily lives.
We use our Smartphone constantly and almost as often we are using our debit cards for coffee, drinks, products, and food. All of these things make us a target for scams and identity theft.
Sometimes the identity thief is someone we know well and likely may be part of your family. If you have your identity stolen it may take years to restore it.
The Europay, MasterCard, and Visa (EMV) or microchip credit cards are making credit cards more difficult to counterfeit. Many of the cyber criminals are creating fraudulent new accounts.
Identity Theft Defined
Identity theft is the gathering of information about you on public sites, social media, or purchased from the dark web. The criminal gathers the information to assemble your Personal Identifiable Information (PII). The criminals gather the data and impersonate you gaining access to your medical, financial, and government recourses. The victim must take action to keep the damage minimized and always have a backup plan.
Our society has changed from a paper to digital society creating opportunities for criminals. We used to make sure our papers were shredded which contained personal information which was enough to keep us safe. Now, the job of keeping yourself safe has intensified with the web presence. Mind you, criminals do not care who they rob or if the money is for baby diapers. Most people don’t discover they are a victim until their credit is destroyed and their financial accounts depleted.
Types of Identity Theft
There are several different types of identity theft.
Financial Identity Theft includes the following two types:
• Account takeover fraud happens when a thief makes a counterfeit card of your credit or debit card and starts making purchases.
• New Account fraud occurs when the thief opens a new account using your personal information. The victim may not know because correspondence will go to the fraudster. In this case, checking your credit report is very valuable to the victim.
Tax Identity Theft occurs when a thief gathers your PII and files a tax return in your name prior to you being able to file with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Stolen Social Security numbers are so abundant that the fraudster can rake in loads of cash using tax identity theft.
If the criminal has your SSN they may use it to get a job and the IRS will think you are not reporting all of your income and your problems start to spin out of control. Immediately, contact the IRS to start working on the problem.
Medical Identity Theft occurs when the criminal takes your personal data and seeks medical care. Usually, the victim is first alerted to the problem by a debt collector. Digitization allows medical professionals easy access to your medical records. Unfortunately, it also makes the records including your PII and financial information available to criminals.
Medical theft is serious because your medical records get commingled with the criminal’s medical conditions. The criminal might exhaust your medical benefits. The commingling of medical history could result in an error which might even kill you. Verify your Explanation of Benefits sent from your insurance which show treatments that you have received. If they weren’t received, contact your service provider and get it corrected immediately. The files must be encrypted for the records to be secure which should be done immediately.
Child Identity Theft strikes when your child is under 18 or just a baby. The identity theft may not become clear until the child becomes an adult. Many times the thief is part of the family who has credit problems.
If your child begins receiving credit card offers, bills, or other odd mail then it may be a sign of child identity theft. You must start working the issue assuming your child is a victim of child identity theft. You can check to see if your child has a credit report at the credit bureaus online. The bureaus will send your child’s credit report and then you can follow their directions to have them remove the fraudulent data.
You can contact the credit bureaus and ask for a credit freeze if it available in your state. It may be possible to freeze your child’s information depending on your state. With a credit freeze, it would be extremely difficult for a fraudster to use. Contact the different credit agencies to find out the next steps.
Criminal Identity Theft happens when a criminal uses your identity in the commission of a crime. You can end up with a criminal record, go to jail, or end up on the no-fly list.