Types of Identity Theft and How to Avoid Them
What is Identity Theft?
Identity theft is a crime in which someone obtains access to another individual’s personally identifiable information in order to impersonate them. There are many ways in which someone can commit identity theft and a number of motivations. People who have been victimized by identity theft typically face difficulty recovering stolen or misused funds and unraveling the fraudulent use of their personal information.
Types of Identity Theft
There are many types of identity theft, each with their own consequences, both for the victim and the suspected identity thief. Here are some of the most common types of identity theft.
Taking over an Existing Account
This is the most common form of identity theft, in which criminals gain access to existing accounts and use them for financial gain. This can include things like credit cards or bank accounts and insurance policies. Fortunately, this type of identity theft is relatively easy to spot by regularly checking accounts and account statements. It is a good idea to review accounts at least weekly to check for unrecognizable charges. It is important to be thorough because many identity thieves use smaller charges to avoid detection.
Setting up New Accounts
This form of identity theft involves using another person’s information to apply for credit cards and other accounts in their name. Thieves can use this information to run up enormous sums in another person’s name. It can ruin the victim’s credit. This is harder to detect since the victim doesn’t know about the fraudulent accounts. Subscribing to a credit tracking service can help detect fraud.
Gaining Employment or Tax Benefits
These forms of identity theft involve using the victim’s social security number to get a job or tax benefits in that person’s name. When it comes time for income taxes, the victim will be the one responsible for paying them. Likewise, thieves can use a person’s social security number to file fraudulent tax returns in order to claim a refund.
Victimizing Children and Seniors
Children and seniors are common targets for identity theft. Children’s information can be used to set up fraudulent accounts, and the victim may not discover the crime until attempting to use or establish credit when they are young adults. Meanwhile, seniors tend to be more trusting and check their accounts less, making fraudulent activity less likely to be spotted. To avoid these types of identity theft, it is important for these individuals to have someone else helping them monitor accounts, like a child’s parents or a senior’s children.
Using Someone Else’s Medical Information
Medical identity theft can cost money and can also potentially be dangerous. The victim could be on the hook for medical expenses incurred by the thief that used their information. Additionally, the victim’s medical history could include the information added during fraudulent activity, which could lead to incorrect medical treatment for the victim.
Avoiding These Types of Identity Theft
As the above information shows, identity theft can involve a lot of creativity. Avoiding and detecting identity theft include taking common-sense steps to protect against becoming a victim.
- Shredding papers and documents with sensitive information is a must. Shred any document with:
- Credit card numbers, particularly credit card bills,
- Social security numbers,
- Any other information that can be used to commit theft.
- It is also important to use strong passwords for online accounts.
- Always avoid giving personal information to unknown entities, or clicking on suspicious links.
- Again, regularly check all accounts and look thoroughly for fraudulent charges.
Consequences of Identity Theft
Identity theft is a serious situation. For the victim, it can mean significant financial loss, years of restoring credit, and serious frustration. For the perpetrator, it can mean up to a year in jail for misdemeanors and several years in prison plus fines for felonies. An identity theft defense attorney might be needed for victims of theft, or those accused. Contact Bradley Corbett for more information and to get the help you need.
Bradley Corbett is a criminal defense attorney in San Diego. He graduated from Brigham Young University in Provo Utah in 2004. Later he enrolled at Thomas Jefferson School of Law in San Diego where he participated in a prestigious internship program with the Los Angeles County Public Defender. Since then he has handled over 2,000 cases.