Identity Theft Facts You Need to Know
- Written by Candice Elliott
You are looking out for financial identity theft but may not even be aware of other kinds. Find out how to protect yourself from identity theft.
We’re all familiar with financial identity theft and take certain precautions when making transactions on-line. But there are other things hackers can steal that we should also be protective of.
It’s Not Just Your Bank Account
In the good old days, hackers were only looking to steal your bank account and credit card information. Financial institutions put various protections in place to help stop this and have made it faster and easier to deal with when it does happen.
And most of us are more protective about these accounts. We don’t use passwords for financial information like “Password123,” we check our bank and credit card statements for fraudulent charges or withdraws.
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But what about other aspects of your identity? You probably aren’t as careful with them and in some cases, don’t even have control over them.
Medical Identity Theft
Ever give much thought to how much of your medical information is available on-line? As more physicians and hospitals move from paper records to electronic, some of your most sensitive information may be unprotected.
Part of the problem is that you aren’t the one in control of your medical records. They’re controlled by your doctor’s office, your hospital, your pharmacy, your insurance company. And these institutions don’t have nearly the safe guards in place that financial institutions have.
Which is too bad because medical information is ten times more valuable on the black market than credit card information. And once someone has this data, they can cause you all kinds of problems, some of which could be life threatening.
Your pilfered information can be used to obtain prescription drugs and medical equipment, to file false insurance claims in order to get reimbursement. And if your medical information is incorrect, it could endanger your life. What if your listed blood type and medicinal allergies actually belonged to someone else?
This type of theft is growing and it can be expensive for the victim. There were more than two million victims in 2014 and two thirds of them paid more than $13,000 to resolve the crime.
How To Protect Yourself
Check your explanation of benefits. Just as you would check your bank or credit card statements to make sure they don’t contain purchases you didn’t make, you should do the same when you get an EOB from your insurance company. Check for any office visits you never made or medical equipment you didn’t buy.
Get a copy of your paper and electronic record. That way you have a “clean” copy should your files ever be stolen and altered with information not yours.
Treat your insurance card the way you treat your Social Security card. You should carry it with you in case you need medical care unexpectedly but be as wary as giving out the ID number as you would giving out your social.
Driver’s License/Criminal Identity Theft
This is the least sophisticated but maybe the scariest. Someone steals your wallet and sells your license to someone who looks passably similar to you. Well, if you’re lucky the new owner of your license is just some under age college kid who wants to buy beer. If you are unlucky, your license may now be in possession of a hardened criminal.
If that person get busted for any crime and hands over your ID, you are now the owner of a criminal record. Which would be a nasty surprise if you get pulled over for something small like a busted tail light, the cop runs your name and it comes back with an arrest warrant attached.
And even if it is a cop’s first minute on the job, they are unlikely to believe, “That’s not me. Someone stole my wallet.”
How To Protect Yourself
Beware of pickpockets and leaving your purse with your wallet in it unattended. I see women all the time leave their purse in the seat of their shopping trolley in the grocery store and then wander two aisles over for the forgotten arugula or whatever. If I didn’t have scruples, it would take two seconds to grab the wallet out of the purse and thirty more seconds to leave the shop with it.
No, not illegal immigrants “stealing our jobs.” Well, sort of. You’ll still have your job but someone wanting to work in the US but without a Social Security number, may steal one to fill out on employment forms.
And among all those direct deposit, 401K, health insurance and whatever other forms HR made you fill out, will be tax forms. The employer will report the income to the IRS. When you fail to report it, because it wasn’t earned by you, the IRS can come after you for unreported income.
It seems to me that it would be pretty simple for the IRS to sort this out. Show up at the place of employment you claim is not yours with your photo and ask, “Is this the person who works here?” But government agencies don’t like to make things simple or easy or logical.
So if this happens to you, you will have to involve at least three government agencies to sort it out, the Social Security Administration, the Federal Trade Commission, and the IRS. Good luck, you’ll be needing it.
How To Protect Yourself
Don’t carry your Social Security card in your wallet. There is no need as you don’t need the actual card in your day to day life and most of us have the number memorized should you need that.
Be very careful about filling this information out on forms. If you don’t think whomever is asking for it has a legitimate need for it, ask why they claim to need it. There is a space for it on a lot of medical intake forms but if you have private insurance, the office doesn’t need it to file insurance claims on your behalf.
The fact that a lot of our information is floating around out there for a clever hacker or just a skilled or bold pick pocket to scoop up isn’t going away. As more and more of life’s transactions are done on-line, the odds of being hacked are ever increasing.
Just use common sense, protect what you can the best you can and be vigilant about checking your personal records.
Featured Image Photo Credit: “Burglar Bill at large” by John Fisher ARPS on Flickr