Identity Theft, It's Not Just Your Credit Cards STAFF PICK

Annette L Goudy

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Family Law Attorney

Contributor Level 15

Posted over 5 years ago. 3 helpful votes

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1

Financial/Credit Identity Theft

Most people think that Financial/Credit identity theft is stealing one's credit cards or getting access to one's bank account thru a debit, ATM or credit card. This is not Identity Theft, this is simply larceny, and there are already laws on the books that protect you. Financial/Credit identity theft occurs when someone steals your information and uses it to set up new lines of credit, buy high ticket items or services in your name. You don't know about them because the thief changes the address so that they get the bills and you don't. They max out the lines of credit, the unpaid bills end up going to collection, and eventually wind up in lawsuits against you, accompanying ruined credit. When you go to buy a home or a car, of apply for a job, or insurance, bad credit and those judgments follow you.

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Criminal/Character Identity Theft

Criminal/Character Identity Theft occurs when someone impersonates you and commits a crime in your name. Sometimes there are warrants issued, and you could get arrested and will spend time in jail while you try to prove that you are not you. It's your name, date of birth and address, but it is not you who committed the crime. An example is if someone steals your wallet and commits one or more crimes, and uses your name. Your identity is then entered into criminal data bases, and will come up on background checks. The thief might also writes checks in your name for more than you have in your account, which leads to your arrest for passing bad checks. You can be arrested and prosecuted for crimes you did not commit or checks you did not write.

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Social Security Number Theft

One example of Social Security Number Theft is when someone steals your Social Security Number and obtains employment under your Social Security Number. The thief's employer reports wages earned to the IRS and the Franchise Tax Board under your Social Security Number, leaving you to pay income taxes on these earnings. The best example was recently in the news, where a woman applied for a job at Target. She was told they could not hire her because, "you already work here." It turned out that Target already employed someone who was using her Social Security Number. A little research uncovered 38 people throughout the country were using her Social Security Number, and her Social Security Number had accumulated over $1 million in unpaid taxes. Further, an identity thief's use of your Social Security Number can cause you to lose life sustaining benefits, such as medi-cal or other state or federal aid, or cause them to be withdrawn.

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Driver's License Identity Theft

Driver's license identity theft is where someone commits traffic related offenses in your name. When the identity thief fails to appear in court, warrants are issued in your name. An example would be your wallet or purse is stolen, with your driver's license in it. The thief then uses your license in another state and commits vehicular crimes, gets arrested, and jumps bail. Your license that was used by the thief is revoked, and warrants are issued for his arrest in the other state. You get pulled over here, and get arrested under the warrants. You could also lose your auto insurance.

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Medical Identity Theft

There are two consequences of Medical Identity Theft. The first is when the thief gets medical treatment in your name and you get the bills. Since most medical policies provide a multi million dollar limit, you could sustain significant financial losses. You could also be denied further benefits if the thief exceeds the lifetime policy total. The second consequence of Medical Identity Theft could be deadly. When a thief gets treated in your name, his ailments, diagnoses, procedures and prescriptions are intertwined with yours. Now your records are confused and in an emergency, your health care practitioners can give you the wrong medications or the wrong blood type. Because of existing HIPPA laws, medical records are almost impossible to correct.

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The Impact of Identity Theft

So, you can see that once an identity thief has your identity, he or she can do just about anything, from ruining your credit to getting you arrested. Don't think you are immune. According to the Identity Theft Resource Center, recent data breaches could potentially expose 53 million individuals to identity theft. This number is steadily increasing. Further, according to the FTC, over 27,000 people per day have their identities stolen in America. It has been predicted that in the next couple of years, 1 in 4 will be a victim of identity theft. Of course no one really knows the number, because many people don't find out they are a victim of Identity Theft for a year or two. Clearly, this can impact your ability to buy a home or a car, it can impact your ability to obtain employment, can cause you to pay more in interest and even higher insurance rates. The experts say that when an identity theft occurs it can take an average of 600 hours to restore your identity.

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Credit Monitoring

When it comes to protecting your identity, being proactive is the only practical way to go to avoid the frustration, time, and the expense of restoring your identity and name. However, there truly isn't much you can do to prevent identity theft. Children and infants have had their identities stolen, and they don't have a credit history. All they have is a Social Security Number. So what are the solutions to protect yourself? Right now we see a lot of credit monitoring services being advertised. Credit monitoring is an easy and often inexpensive way of keeping an eye on your credit, but you are on your own to try to fix an identity theft.. but what happens when they notify you that your financial/credit has been stolen, then what? You have to do the work, 600 hours is the average. That's fifteen full-time work weeks. Who has that kind of time?

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Resolution or True Restoration?

Resolution services tell you they will help you fix the problem. In reality, all they do is give you information and access to an 800 number where you can ask questions and get help from a "credit expert". These are usually little more than low paid customer service reps who read from the manual put out by the FTC. True restoration comes when you have the resources of the number one risk management investigation company at your disposal, and you can turn everything over to them and instead of you spending the 600+ hours putting your identity back to where it was before the theft, they have experts who will do it for you. You will likely need the services of an attorney, also, to help out with the legal aspect of restoration. It is out there, and can restore any type of the 5 Identity Thefts described above.

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What should you do?

You definitely should be as careful as possible with the information you control. Shredding is important, but don't let trying to be proactive fool you into thinking it cannot happen to you. It can happen, and in ways you may not have thought about before. So shred private information, and look for a company that provides true restoration services and access to attorneys so that you don't have to spend your valuable time fixing what the identity theft stole from you. Check out the company, make sure it's solid and reliable and has withstood the test of time.

Additional Resources

FTC

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