5 Most Common Types of Identity Theft You Should Know
Identity theft is a form of fraud that occurs when someone steals your personal information, including your name, date of birth, and address history. Once criminals obtain your details, they can easily commit crimes such as identity fraud, allowing them to gain financially from your misfortune.
If you become a victim of identity theft, criminals can max out your credit cards, drain your bank accounts, damage your credit score ratings so that you can’t take out mortgages or loans, and leave you liable for debts you didn’t accumulate.
Some types of identity fraud are more common than others. Knowing the five most common types of identity theft can help you avoid them.
TYPES OF IDENTITY THEFT
Tax Identity Theft
Identity theft involving taxes is a form of fraud that happens when someone steals your personal information, including your Social Security Number. If a criminal gains access to this information, they can file a tax return for a refund. They can also commit tax fraud that can result in stolen or delayed refunds.
While a fraudulent tax return may seem like a worst-case scenario, criminals can also use these details for other personal gains, including obtaining employment. If you discover that an identity thief has used your Social Security Number and additional personal information, all income they receive under your name must be reported immediately. You’ll most likely notice this fraud when you file your taxes and your taxes have already been filed and the income doesn’t match what you’ve earned.
Tax-related identity theft can significantly impact your future finances, so it’s essential you are aware of the signs to reduce the likelihood of it happening. Several strategies you can employ to decrease the risk of tax identity theft are:
Child Identity Theft
Child identity theft is one of the most common types of identity theft and one of the easiest ones to spot. If a thief uses a child’s Social Security number, they can apply for government benefits, open credit cards and bank accounts, rent somewhere to live, and even apply for utility service or a loan.
Parents often discover this type of theft is when credit cards or bills arrive at home addressed to a child, or you receive notices or statements from the IRS suggesting your child hasn’t paid their taxes.
With school forms requiring personal and sensitive information, it’s essential for parents to be aware of how the details are collected, stored, and disposed of. You can also ask your child’s school to ensure their information is safeguarded, as this can minimize the risk of this type of fraud.
Child identity theft most often occurs because children don’t have an established credit history. If you fear your child has become a victim of this type of fraud, you can report the criminal activity to the company where the fraud occurred as well as the police. This ensures that your child isn’t liable for any fraudulent returns and ensures the account is closed.
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Medical Identity Theft
This type of fraud occurs when criminals use someone else's insurance number and name to make doctor’s appointments, get prescription drugs, receive other forms of care, and file claims with insurance providers. If your health information is stolen, your future treatments, payment records, insurance, and credit reports can be compromised.
If you suspect someone has stolen your medical identity, it’s essential to get copies of your medical records. These records will show what medical information was sent, on what dates, and to whom, and allow you to spot any errors or suspicious activity. If you find anything unusual, report them to your healthcare provider and correct them immediately.
Driver’s License Theft
This type of fraud happens when a thief obtains a driving license issued to them under someone else's identity. Thieves often use this type of fraud when committing traffic violations that can compromise your future license. Violations committed under your name have the potential to end up on your record, potentially causing you to lose your license.
Driving license theft can also open you up to other types of fraud. From fraudsters using your driving number to opening up bank accounts, financing a car, and taking out phone contracts. This type of fraud can leave you liable and responsible for debts accrued through fraud.
Change of Address Fraud
One of the lesser-known types of identity theft is change of address fraud. Identity thieves can change your mailing address and divert it to themselves instead. As a scam that gives criminals major access to sensitive data, it begins with someone figuring out your full name and address. The thief can then submit a change of address using a form through the US Postal Service. They can then forward your mail to their personal address and gain access to all your personal details. From banking information to other sensitive documents, change of address fraud is a simple process that can compromise your personal finances.
Thankfully, this type of fraud doesn't work if someone tries to change your address online. This is because the online change of address systems requires digital payments that cross-reference and check your bank accounts.
However, if someone applies for a change of address through the mail, it is easier to become a victim of this type of fraud without raising any major suspicions.
Reduce the Risk of Identity Theft
It seems anyone can be a victim of identity theft, and whether young or old, no age is safe. By being aware of the most common types of identity theft and correcting bad safety habits, you’ll be able to reduce the risk of it happening to you. While identity theft is not 100% preventable, there are still steps you can take to ensure your personal details are as safe as possible.
From regularly changing your passwords and ensuring they are long and complicated to frequently checking your bank accounts, you’ll be able to spot suspicious signs early and act accordingly.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Keith Morris is a 20+ year veteran of the security game, with the knowledge and experience to set you on the right track toward personal safety and security. His firm is committed to giving you the tools and know-how to combat any threat to your safety.
KEITH MORRIS // Security Expert
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