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Did you know that there are more ways someone can steal your identity than there are colors in the new Urban Decay Naked palette?
The first step in protecting yourself is to be informed; learn the different types of identity theft and why criminals want your information. After knowing what they do and why they do it, you know what to look for and how to stop a thief in their tracks. Protecting your identity can be difficult on your own, that’s why there are companies out there designed to help you.
Before I get ahead of myself, let’s go over the various types of identity theft and learn why you’re vulnerable so you can look out for yourself.
Financial Identity Theft
Financial identity theft is one of the most common forms of identity fraud. This the type most people think of when they even hear the words “identity theft.” Someone that commits financial identity theft uses existing accounts to purchase things. Sometimes, thieves can use stolen account numbers to wipe out your bank account.
The first sign you’re a victim of financial identity theft is often when you notice fraudulent charges on your account. Unfortunately, depending on when you catch the problem, this amount could be hundreds of dollars — some of which you may never see again.
Many people choose to subscribe to an identity protection company like LifeLock, Identity Guard, and IdentityForce because these companies provide identity insurance which helps cover your losses in the event that identity thieves steal your money. Without a plan like this in place, you may not get the money returned to you.
Medical Identity Theft
Medical identity theft happens when a thief uses your insurance to get fraudulent prescriptions or visits the doctor using your information. Medical identity theft is becoming an increasingly worse problem year after year. In 2014, there were 2.3 million cases, which was up 22% from 2013. Your health insurance information can be used to purchase expensive medical services and prescription drugs.
Consumer Reports tells the story of a woman who was arrested after her purse was stolen because she supposedly acquired more than 1,700 prescription opioid painkillers. The only thing that saved her from being arrested and booked was the police report she had filed two years earlier after her purse was snatched.
Identity theft companies often also help protect you from medical identity theft. Personally, you can monitor your medical bills to see what is being paid. If you see equipment you don’t use or a prescription that isn’t yours, you could be a victim of medical identity theft.
Child Identity Theft
Child identity theft is one of the most dangerous types of identity theft because it can often go unnoticed for several years. Children have little to no financial history, and it isn’t common for a parent to check their child’s financial history. Criminals use the Social Security number and create fake IDs to apply for loans and even commit crimes.
By the time the child is old enough to be financially independent, the damage could already be done. From then on, it can be nearly impossible to fix their credit. Many companies focus on keeping an eye on child’s credit reports, but you can also do this by getting a free credit report for your child, niece, or nephew starting at a young age.
Social Security Identity Theft
Most of us know that we need to keep our Social Security number safe. When our parents gave us our card to keep, we were told not to carry it in our wallets. Some of us still do so, which makes it incredibly easy for a criminal to steal. Sometimes, the number can also be on tax documents that were just thrown away.
Even if you’re careful with your Social Security number and financial records, they can be some of the easiest things to steal during data breaches. Some of the biggest targets are store credit cards such as Target, JCPenny, T.J. Maxx, and Marshalls. With your card number, criminals can get passports, open accounts, and even get loans in your name. The worst part is that criminals can have information sent to a different address, meaning you may never know you’re at risk.
Monitoring your Social Security number can be tough. Getting a credit report regularly is one of the best ways you can catch a criminal when they have your Social Security number, but this may only be free once a year. Even then, you may never know if a thief is committing crimes in your name or traveling using a passport with your identity.
Driver’s License Identity Theft
If you’ve ever thought about signing up for an identity theft service, you may have noticed that the company also helps protect your driver’s license. What is that about? What can a thief do with your license?
There are a lot of ways a criminal can use your driver’s license. They may alter the picture or sell it to someone that fits the description on the license. If the imposter is caught for a traffic violation, such as drunk driving or driving while under the influence, it goes onto your record. This can lead to serious trouble with the law as well as an increase in your insurance rates.
Criminals can also use your driver’s license to cash checks, pass domestic airport security, get insurance, and provide identification for many activities. There’s no way to know a criminal has your ID, although it’s always possible if you’ve lost your identification.