Identity theft takes many forms and can affect your life in many ways. Possibly the most common and familiar form is financial identity theft.
Each of us has an interest in protecting our identity, but when we protect our personal information, we are not just protecting our credit.
Whether we realize it or not, we are also protecting our criminal records, medical records, business assets and our entire unique identities.
In order to truly understand how crucial it is to protect your identity, it is important to understand the extent of the crime and the ways it can affect your life.
Identity theft can be broken down into five major categories: financial identity theft, criminal identity theft, medical identity theft, ID cloning and commercial identity theft.
Each of the five categories is explained below.
Financial identity theft occurs when a criminal uses a personís information such as their name, birth date, address or social security number, to commit financial fraud against them.
With the right information, a thieve can obtain credit cards and loans, open accounts, write bad checks, take out ATM withdrawals, establish phone service or utilities accounts, or make purchases as large as buying a car or home.
When it comes to credit theft, thieves might use an existing credit card account (in which case they may change the billing address so that the unauthorized charges go unnoticed for some time), or they may open a new card in the victimís name.
When this second form of credit fraud occurs, the victims often are unaware of the unauthorized account until they review their credit report many months later.
The costs of this type of identity theft can be long lasting and difficult to overcome. Even when the financial losses are small, the affected party may have to wait years to recover a good credit score, and meanwhile, may have difficulty getting approved for loans and mortgages.
Criminal identity theft occurs when a thieve uses an individualís name to commit or hide from crimes, obtain employment, file tax returns, and so on.
This may occur during an arrest, whereby the criminal may provide an innocent personís name to the police department. The criminal will often obtain identification with their victimís name and present it to law enforcement.
If they have a court date and do not show, the warrant for arrest will be in the victimís name. This can also affect their employment opportunities, when a potential employer runs and background check and finds criminal activity that the victim was not even aware of.
Medical identity theft occurs when someone uses a personís information to obtain medical goods or services without their consent. Not only can this affect a victim financially, but this often results in erroneous information being inputted into a personís medical files/history.
As a result of medical identity fraud, a victim may suddenly find themselves being denied health coverage or experience a sudden increase in premiums. Even more frightening is that the erroneous medical information can result in misdiagnosis and inappropriate treatment.
This type of identity theft is the most difficult to repair due to the limited rights and resources available to victims of this crime.
ID cloning occurs when an imposter actually lives out their entire life using another personís name, social security number, and probably every piece of identifying information they can obtain access to.
In some cases, the imposter will even tell the personís life story as if it were thereís. Sometimes the ďclonedĒ individual is deceased. One way to detect this type of identity theft is if you notice multiple addresses under your name on your credit report.
This may be the most frightening and damaging type of identity theft because if the imposter is successful, it can affect you in every aspect of your life, affecting your financial, criminal and medical records, and even your reputation.
Commercial identity theft occurs in a variety of ways. A criminal may open up a business in someone elseís name, or they may use private business information to open accounts, take out loans, or make other unauthorized transactions.
The criminal may target a business, a businessís employees or a businessís clients. If the damage is serious enough, it may result in anything from a damaged reputation to bankruptcy.
If you believe you may be the victim of any of the above types of identity fraud, you should take immediate action.
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