Many Americans do not know what is identity theft or at least the wide range of identity thefts that criminals engage in. They may be surprised to know how easily their personal information can be accessed by hackers thousands of miles away or that over 8 million American households in 2010 were affected, with the numbers continuing to rise as fraudsters engage in more sophisticated practices.
But how can you protect yourself from falling victim to this serious crime? First, you’ll need to know the common types of identity theft occurring in the United States. This will help you prevent excessive losses, particularly as it pertains to two main types of ID fraud: financial or medical identity theft.
Second, purchase identify protection products or services from the most reputable service provides. Be sure to ascertain which types of identity theft they cover.
The Most Common Types of Identity Theft
The types of identity theft present in our society today are as numerous as they are dangerous. This crime is possible wherever there are opportunities for criminals to access and use your personal information for their own benefit. In other words, anyone can become a victim. Below are some of the most common types according to identity theft statistics.
- Social Security Identity Theft
This one of the most common types of identity theft. This is because the social security number (SSN) is the most valuable government-based identity asset an American can possess.
Once your social security number is stolen, perpetrator can either sell it to undocumented workers or use it to steal property and money, or access opportunities and services available only to social security holders.
If your SSN is stolen, there is also the possibility that the identity thief will use your personal information to forge fraudulent documents like passports or open credit card accounts. For this reason it is important that you secure this information and keep your SSN safe from criminals whose sole intent is to use it for their own personal gain. Learn more >>
- Financial Identity Theft
As the term suggests, financial identity theft occurs when a person’s credit card and bank account information is stolen and used to purchase goods and services. Oftentimes, the perpetrator of the crime will max out credit cards or even use account information to access new credit cards or financial services.
This can result in not only a significant loss of money but also prove hazardous to an individual’s future purchasing power or financial security. Financial identity theft can result in a low credit score or can lead to serious debts, the inability to access home ownership, etc.
To prevent such a situation, individuals can seek help from top identity theft protection services. This will enable you to regularly track credit card purchases and receive notification if suspicious purchases are made. In addition to monitoring you financial accounts, you will also access safeguards which increased personal information security depending on the type of service you purchase.
Note that the best identity theft services also provide managed identity theft restoration which enables users to access professionals who document, revert and recover losses incurred by victims of this crime. Learn more >>
- Driver’s License Identity Theft
It doesn’t take an expert criminal mind to commit this crime. All the perpetrator needs is access to your driver’s license which can easily occur if you lose it and it falls into the wrong hands.
This identification card can be sold off to another – if for instance the person looks similar to the picture on your driver’s license. But in most instances, criminals use your driver’s license to hide or protect their own identity if they are caught in compromising or dangerous situations on the road such as DUI or reckless driving. When they identify themselves based on the information on your ID they may successfully be able to avoid going to court or receiving charges as you will be the one the police will attempt to locate, at least in the initial stages.
If the perpetrator is successful, your driving record will be compromised and making life more difficult for you in the future. To prevent this from occurring, secure your driver’s license. You may also report to the police if you have lost your license to prevent it from being used indiscriminately. Learn more >>
- Criminal Identity Theft
As one of the most common types of identity thefts in America, criminal identity theft affects numerous individuals. This type occurs when an individual commits a crime under another person’s name. During the process of the criminal act or upon being arrested by law enforcement agents, the criminal will even use a fraudulent ID with your name and other details.
To protect yourself from criminal identity theft, do your best to secure your personal information. This includes safe Internet practices and habits as well as purchasing identity monitoring services from reputable identity protection agencies.
Also look out for “shoulder surfers”, individuals who may stay close behind you in an attempt to steal information as you use ATMs or type passcodes into computers or mobile devices.
- Medical Identity Theft
Medical identity theft occurs when criminals use an individual’s personal information such as medical identification numbers to access medical products and services. This is one of the most prevalent forms of identity theft with an estimated 2.3 million adults in America affected in 2014 alone***. It can lead to financial losses as well as future issues arising from incorrect information present on a victim’s medical history.
Say for instance your personal information was used to enable a medical procedure or access to specific prescription drugs. In the future this information may be used by medical professionals as they make decisions related to your health. In a case where you are unable to inform them of the error on your record, it could lead to decisions that affect your health and wellness adversely.
To prevent these adverse effects, secure your personal information as best as possible. Also report the loss of your medical ID card or any other information you may suspect has been stolen. Learn more >>
- Insurance Identity Theft
This type of identity fraud is closely related to the previously mentioned medical identity theft and is sometimes viewed as being the same. It occurs when perpetrators steal medical identity information to access your insurance in order to receive medical treatment. This may have serious impact on victims as it can lead to higher insurance premiums and huge medical bills.
Protect yourself from this kind of fraud by implementing the same procedures you would use for the most common types of identity thefts. Once you’ve secured your personal information, you’ll feel much more self-assured as well.
- Synthetic Identity Theft
Synthetic identity theft is one of the most sophisticated kinds of identity fraud. It occurs when criminals use your Social Security Number in combination with fake information. They may use a combination of fake credentials including addresses, names, birth dates and other details resulting in the creating of new identities.
This enables the fraudsters to open new credit card accounts or access other financial services. They may also use their new identities to build credit or apply for jobs. Important to note is the fact that the main identifying source of information is the stolen Social Security Number. Everything else is a tangled up mess of lies aimed to deceive you, lenders and law enforcement agents.
Since this is one of the most difficult types of identity theft to prevent it is important for individuals to access the best identity theft protection services available to them.
- Tax Identity Theft
Tax identity theft manifests itself through fraudulent tax refund claims. Criminals send these claims to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) using stolen personal details such as your SSN and name. This can delay your ability to access legitimate tax refunds, causing frustration and loss of funds.
Prevent the possibility of becoming victim to tax identity theft by employing safe Internet practices as phishing emails are one of the ways in which criminals can easily steal your personal information. Also be cautious in instances where information such as your Social Security Number is solicited. Ensure the request is from a legitimate individual or entity before giving out this information.
- Child Identity Theft
This occurs when a child is the victim of the crime. Identity thieves sometimes use a child’s SSN or other personal details to defraud government or access loans or other services. They may also use these details to commit crime.
Prevent your child’s personal details from being used by applying the same preventative measures you would use to protect your own personal information. Teach your child to be cautious about revealing personal information, especially to strangers. This will help young children develop habits that will protect them from the terrors of fraud throughout their lives.