The Dirty Half-Dozen of Identity Theft
There are many things that can put your identity at risk from data breaches to lost or stolen personal items. When your personally identifiable information (i.e. Social Security Number, birth information, name and addresses) is exposed, it can be used by to steal one’s identity. There are many types of identity fraud, but we have outlined the most common for you to be aware of:
Financial Identity Theft is the most common form of identity theft, as it encompasses any type of fraud that impacts your wealth and financial accounts. It includes fraudulent use of your credit card (either an existing account or a new account,) new loan activity, investment theft or ATM theft.
Tax Identity Theft occurs when someone applies for tax refunds using your Social Security Number or other personally identifiable information. It can result in you paying taxes on someone else’s income or the IRS denying your tax refund because they’ve already paid a false refund to an impostor.
Child Identity Theft is the theft of a child’s personally identifiable information. It is especially destructive because it is rarely monitored and often not detected for years. This can completely destroy a child’s financial identity before they even establish credit.
Criminal Identity Theft is when someone commits a crime and escapes responsibility by utilizing your personally identifiable information, whether it’s a driver’s license, birth certificate, passport or any type of identification.
Medical Identity Theft is the fraudulent use of your personally identifiable information to receive medical services, prescriptions or equipment. It is far more costly than credit card theft, takes more time to resolve, and has potentially life altering consequences (e.g., blood-type mismatching and altered medical records.)
Synthetic Identity Theft is when a thief uses a piece of your personally identifiable information, such as your Social Security Number, and either combines it with a second person’s stolen personally identifiable information, such as address, or creates an entirely new identity. Thieves using this highly-sophisticated type of theft will build credit and make large purchases, leaving you with debt in your name since the synthetic identity is attached to your social. Synthetic identity theft takes the longest amount of time out of all of the identity theft types to detect and track.
Below are steps you can take to protect yourself:
- Monitor your credit reports for free on www.AnnualCreditReport.com. We recommend pulling your free report from one agency every three months so you can proactively monitor your credit year-round without breaking the bank.
- Freeze your credit (for free!) with each of the credit agencies (Experian, Transunion and Equifax) to keep criminals from taking advantage of your buying power. When setting this up, you will receive a unique pin code for each bureau that you can use to “thaw” your credit when you need to make a large purchase that requires a credit run.
- Call your financial institutions have them put a “phone-password” on your account. In doing so, someone with personally identifiable information, such as your social security number, cannot gain access to your account.
- Turn on Two-Factor Authentication on your financial accounts. An example of this is when you log into your bank account, you first enter a password (step one,) then you are prompted to enter a code you will opt to immediately receive either by text or email to the mobile number or email address you have on file (step two.)
- Monitor your financial account statements and health insurance explanation of benefits on a regular basis. If you notice any suspicious or unusual activity, contact your financial institutions and/or insurance provider immediately.
- File your taxes as early as possible. The longer you wait to file, the higher your risk of tax fraud.