With the increase in technology, identity theft is a prevalent crime that targets many people. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, approximately 16.6 million people have fallen victim to identity theft. The Daily Finance reports that 66 percent of these people suffered a direct loss as a result of the identity theft. To protect yourself from identity theft, it is helpful to identify the types of theft, as well as how to get your life back after falling victim to this cowardly crime.
Five Types of Identity Theft
- Financial Identity Theft: This type of theft can happen via credit and debit cards, as well as bank accounts. Thieves can secure your information by diving in dumpsters for discarded trash, stealing bills out of your mailbox, or securing information while you use your smartphone. Many people use smartphones to manage their financial information on unsecured networks, and hackers can retrieve information when you check an account balance or make a purchase. Stolen and lost phones are vulnerable especially if you store password information on your device. Sometimes financial identity occurs with people who are familiar with your personal information. Yahoo Finance reports on one victim’s story about his ex-girlfriend who charged much money for spa treatments and a Caribbean cruise on his credit card. She intercepted his old statements and he realized that she charged these items when he received the bills at his new address. It has taken him numerous police reports, 300 hours with creditors via phone, and a letter to the Attorney General to get those erroneous charges cleared.
- Child Identity Theft: How often are you checking your child’s credit report? Most parents do not consider children falling prey to identity theft, however, thieves find it more lucrative to steal a child’s identity because they have a clean credit report. Furthermore, most children do not have a need to check their credit report until they are applying for a student loan or applying for a credit card; therefore, thieves can rack up a lifetime of debt without anyone realizing the fraud until it is too late.
- Social Security Identity Theft: A Social Security number is a powerful gateway into an individual’s personal information. You can open credit cards, bank accounts, and rent an apartment with this information, as well as access existing financial information. In addition, by using someone else’s Social Security number, you can avoid paying taxes to the IRS.
- Driver’s License Identity Theft: A criminal can use a stolen driver’s license to sell to someone who looks similar to the picture. Then, the person receiving the license can use that license for traffic violations, to commit crimes, and for an application for insurance. When a court date is issued, the person whose license is stolen will be targeted instead of the actual person who committed the crime.
- Medical Identity Theft: The New York Times reported a story that highlighted Brandon Sharp, a 38-year-old from Houston. He received bills amounting to several thousand dollars from the hospital and medical facilities even though he had never had any health issues and never entered these places. A criminal had stolen Mr. Sharp’s Social Security number and used his name for medical services. Since hospitals are required to treat with or without insurance, this information sufficed for treatment. Mr. Sharp is now faced with continually monitoring his credit report to determine what bills have been sent to collections because of this breach.
Five Tips on How to Recover From Identity Theft
If you fall prey to identity theft, what should you do to obtain peace of mind? Here are five tips to help recover from identity theft:
- Place a fraud alert with credit reporting agencies Experian, Transunion and Equifax. You can contact one of these agencies and they will report it to the other two.
- Create an identity theft report with the Federal Trade Commission. You can do this online or talk to financial counselor over the phone.
- Request your credit report from all three agencies. If you know the theft occurred on an identifiable account, call to alert them of the breach.
- File a police report. Alert the police of this activity so that there is a record of the crime that occurred.
- Review your credit card and medical statements for any strange charges.
Identity theft is a common crime, and it is up to consumers to remain vigilant about their accounts and credit cards. Monitor your accounts regularly and act quickly if you detect a breach.
Author: Rudri Patel is a former lawyer turned writer and editor, wife, mother and observer. She has written for Brain, Child; Huffington Post; First Day Press; and Mamalode. Seeking grace in the ordinary.