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Identity Theft, It's Just Not Your Bank Accounts

I am an attorney who recently had a client suffer from an identity theft. I began researching the very real problem of Identity Theft. I was surprised to learn that there are more ways to steal a person’s identity than what we’ve all come to know as financial identity theft. As an attorney, I wanted my clients to be aware of the depth of the problem, as well as ways to try to protect themselves from Identity Theft, as well as share with them the solution I found to protect each of us from this threat.

There are 5 types of Identity Theft. The most well known is what we normally think about, financial identity theft, which is a huge misconception. There is much more to ID theft than financial, which is the most known. Your info is everywhere, so not about whether you have or use credit cards. If you have a SS#, you are at risk.

Financial/Credit identity theft. Someone uses your information to obtain loans, goods, or services and does not pay the bills. The accumulating unpaid bills end up going to collection, which can affect your credit.

Clearly, this can impact your ability to obtain credit, buy a home or a car, and will take years and over 600 hours to restore. Not to mention the costs involved after you realize that you will likely need to hire an attorney to assist you in your working to restore your own credit.

The second type is Character identity theft. Someone impersonates you and commits a crime in your name resulting in warrants issued in your name, arrests made, and time spent in jail.

An example would be that someone steals your wallet. Unbeknownst to you, the thief then commits several crimes in your name. That information is then entered into criminal data bases that will come up on background checks. Or, they write bad checks in your name, and law enforcement of course will not believe that you didn’t write those checks. You can be arrested and/or prosecuted.

The third type of identity theft is theft of your Social Security Number. That’s when someone steals your SSN and obtains employment in your name. The thief's employer reports wages earned to the IRS under your SSN leaving you to pay income taxes on these earnings. Further, an identity thief's use of your SSN can cause you to lose life sustaining benefits, such as medical or other state or federal aid.

The best example was recently in the news, where one woman’s SSN was used by several different illegal immigrants. The IRS expected her to pay the taxes on the several incomes she “received” under her SSN. Or, you may be getting state of federal aid that is financially based. Income earned by an identity thief can cause those benefits to be withdrawn, since you are making more money than the maximum.

The fourth type of identity theft is Medical identity theft. Someone steals your identity and either obtains medical insurance in your name or uses your current medical insurance policy to obtain treatment or prescriptions. You can be denied health coverage or lose your current health coverage because of false information placed in your medical record. Not only could you be liable for the uncovered portion of the claims, but your medical identity and that of the thief can be intertwined. You may be allergic to medications the thief isn’t, and be given them by accident. Worse, if you prove to the hospital or your doctor that your medical identity has been mixed up with that of the thief, you won’t be able to see what’s in your medical history due to HIPPA laws.

Finally, there is Driver's license identity theft. 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. The license 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.

So, you can see that once an identity thief has your identity, he/she can do just about anything including ruining your life. Don't think you are immune. According to the Identity Theft Resource Center, there have been at least 111 disclosed incidents of data breaches since January 2005 that 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.

Your information is not safe. As long as others (employers, credit card companies, medical facilities, etc.) have your private information, you are always at risk for identity theft. All it takes is for an employer to lose your information or give it away or one person/employee to steal the information. A cellular phone company experienced just that when employees used customer data to create fraudulent accounts. The bogus accounts were used by the thieves and their friends to ring up thousands of dollars in calls.

When it comes to protecting your identity, being proactive is the only practical way to go to avoid the frustration, time, and expense of restoring your identity and name. Some things you can do to prevent identity theft include not giving out your personal information, shredding unwanted mail, and not carrying your SSN card with you. Also, continuous credit monitoring is an easy, effective and often inexpensive way of keeping an eye on your credit at all times to help prevent credit related identity theft.

However, monitoring is not enough. Often, once you see a new account on your credit report, the damage may already be done. All the companies that offer monitoring do just that. The few that provide a “guarantee” will provide you, should your identity be stolen, with an 800 number that connects you to India, or a booklet with the names and numbers of the credit bureaus and directions on how to write letters yourself and make a police report, so that YOU can restore your own credit.

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 they spend the 600+ hours putting your credit back to where it was before the theft. You will likely need the services of an attorney, also, to help out with the legal aspect of restoration. Trying to restore your credit on your own could also cost you thousands of dollars.

Now you know that there is more than one kind of identity theft, and how susceptible we all are to becoming a victim of this ever growing crime. You also know what steps you can take to help protect yourself, as well as the solution to the problem. If you would like more information about the solution to this frightening problem, talk to me and I will be happy to give you more information.

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About the Author

Annette Goudy, PrePaid Legal Services, Inc.
2021 E 4th Street, Suite 200
Santa Ana, CA 92705

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