Types of Identity Theft
MEDICAL IDENTITY THEFT
Medical identity theft is one form of fraud that is quickly on the rise. The internet has contributed to the fallout, while privacy laws make this problem very difficult to resolve. Once they are equipped with an unknowing patient’s information, thieves have the power to inflict considerable damage. After claiming the identity, they will be able to receive benefits in the victim’s name, such as medical visits, treatment, and discount prescription drugs. A thief may even file fraudulent claims, which could leave a victim with numerous unpaid bills, annoying calls from collection agencies, a wrecked credit score, and worst of all, inaccurate medical records. Another means is for you to receive a bill from a medical provider saying your insurance did not cover the full cost of the procedure. They need an additional amount to cover the cost of the treatment. Usually this cost is relatively small ($100 or less) that in most cases is not too hard for you to pay. They offer you the options of paying with your credit card or by personal check . They even provide you an enclosed envelope for your convenience to send your payment. Only problem is the envelope is not the address of your provider, but another address. They count on you not checking the address on the return envelope to notice it is not the address of your provider. If you pay with your credit card, they now have your credit card information; or if you paid by personal check, they now have all your banking account information.
Most victims of medical identity theft will have no clue of the crime until they receive a hefty bill from a medical provider. The very laws put in place to protect a consumer also make it very difficult to actually prove medical identity theft. Under the federal privacy laws, such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, healthcare providers receive penalties upon releasing personal information to an individual without following protocol; and in the case of medical identity theft, it is often the victim who is denied access to their own information.
Unlike major credit bureaus, there is no central repository designated for medical records. There is no service with a super database that collects and maintains information regarding one’s health insurance plan or medical history. This leaves the patient with the time consuming task of contacting every medical provider they have ever visited to obtain the information.
There is currently no standard process victims of medical identity theft can rely on to dispute false claims or fix potentially hazardous or dangerous mistakes within their records. This is not only a financial nightmare, but a serious health risk as well. If a healthcare provided has documented records for fraudulent services in your name, the next visit could cause an inaccurate diagnosis or drug prescription.
How To Protect Yourself From Medical Identity Theft:
- Prepare: It is very wise to begin gathering your records before an attempt is made. Be sure to contact every medical provider you have visited, and request a copy of your medical records. This should be done at least once a year, but we recommend you do twice a year.
- Communicate: It is also very important to stay on top your medical insurance claims. Contact your medical insurance claim representative and request documentation for each and every claim that has been filed and paid on your behalf.
- Read the fine print: It is a must that you thoroughly overlook every invoice received from a medical provider. The same holds true for the details of your insurance benefits. Make sure you are familiar with every item of service on the bill or claim on the insurance report. If there is something you do not understand, never hesitate to contact the insurance company or healthcare provider.
COMPUTER IDENTITY THEFT:
Identity thieves use many different methods to carry out their crimes. One of their most effective tools just happens to be a computer. The introduction and evolution of the internet has made it that much easier for identity theft to be committed by way of computer. Several online predators seek out the innocent on fraudulent web sites or via email. They often claim to be IRS agents or members of a banking institution, trying to persuade recipients out of residential addresses, Social Security numbers and bank account information. Those individuals who choose to meet these requests are swindled instantly as the scammer immediately assumes their identity by charging up credit cards and possibly cleaning out their bank accounts.
What is alarming is the fact that so many people unknowingly put themselves at risk of identity theft with no involvement from the Internet. So how does this happen? It occurs when you give away or donate your computer, toss it in the trash or sell it a trade show. Your discarded computer has your hard drive still intact, which is full of personal information. This makes it very easy for a criminal to retrieve this information, and possibly assume your identity. Even if you think it has been removed, they may still have access to retrieving your E-mail messages, and any personal info you have stored on your computer.
How to protect yourself against Computer Identity Theft:
- Always remove the hard drive on a computer you are selling or giving away.
- Keep your hard drive in a safe place, or better yet destroy it if you no longer need information off of it.
- Inquire from a reliable computer supplier about how to safely overwrite the files.
- Use a quality hard disk cleaning program.
- Use a magnet to destroy the hard drive.
- Here are the files that must be deleted before selling or giving your computer away:
- All E-mail contacts.
- All E-mail messages.
- All important Word documents.
- All files in the recycle bin or trash folder of the operating system.
- All temporary Internet files.
- Your Internet search history.
- The cache of web browser.
- Any non-transferable software that may be installed on the hard drive.
DRIVER’S LICENSE IDENTITY THEFT:
Driver’s license fraud can be categorized in several ways, one being a person submitting documents to obtain a license in someone else’s name or the bold act of identity theft. Driver’s license identity theft is a serious crime that can lead to a number of violations according to state and federal laws. Here are just a few of the many charges a thief may face:
- 1st Degree Forgery
- 2nd Degree Forgery
- Identity Theft; Possession of multiple Identification cards
- Making false statements on the application for a driver’s license
- Fraudulent use of a driver’s license.
There are situations where you might be asked to leave your driver’s license with someone as a security deposit while apartment shopping. Explain to them you are not willing to do so because a friend of yours became a victim of identity theft complying. How they respond will tell you their true intentions; but don’t leave your driver’s license.
If you have the ability to renew your driver’s license by mail, make sure you contact the DMV if you have not received it via the mail in the normal delivery time period.
Reporting Driver’s License Identity Theft:
You need to contact the DMV and provide them with your personal and contact information. You must also file a report with law enforcement so you do not receive any unwarranted tickets and fines.
CREDIT CARD IDENTITY THEFT:
In the past two years, nearly 15 million people were victims of credit card identity theft. So how do you protect yourself from becoming a victim? Follow these rules:
- Instead of signing your name on the back of your card, put Photo ID Required;
- When you are buying something online, when you see the dialog box that asks, “Do you want the computer to save your username and password?” Do not click this option. This will prevent your information being stored into a folder on your hard drive.
- When selecting a security question to be answered, only use something that only you would know the answer. Don’t use maiden name, schools attended, name of a sports team, social security number, etc., i.e. anything that could be discovered from public records about you.
- Make sure you have a good Firewall program installed on your computer. Thieves have computer software that enables them to access and capture all your personal data. So does Malware, Spyware, etc. A good Firewall program helps keep the hackers out.
- Before mailing back that credit card approval form, or clicking the “submit” button on the web page, make sure you understand how much information they are asking for, and you are giving away. Make sure you are on a secure site before entering this data.
INTERNET IDENTITY THEFT:
Identity theft on the web has become rather common, a huge problem that seems to claim more and more victims each year. Internet identity theft is far more dangerous than regular identity theft because most victims are completely unaware of the crime. By the time they find out their sensitive information has been stolen, it is too late.
So How Does Internet Identity Theft Happen?
A computer collects and stores all kinds of personal and general information on its hard drive. This could be stored in your browser cache, search history, or temporary Internet files. While the purpose is to make for an easier experience on the web, these files also contain information such as your usernames, passwords, addresses, credit card numbers, and PIN numbers.
This information can be stolen several ways. They can gain access by intercepting the data as it is being transmitted over an unsecured client, or they can install a spyware of malware program on your computer that collects information and delivers it back to them.
So the question is: Can I prevent it? The answer is yes. First find a reputable software company that has excellent firewall protection, as well as virus protection. By installing their software, you can stop spyware and malware from being placed on your computer.
When you are not using the Internet, there is no reason to remain being connected. Without an Internet connection, a hacker cannot access your computer, or gain remote control.
FINANCIAL IDENTITY THEFT:
Financial identity theft occurs when an imposter uses someone else’s identifying details to commit fraud that is detrimental to a victim’s finances. This can include such information such as Social Security Number, Bank Account Number, and Driver’s License Number. These are used to obtain credit cards in someone else’s name, run up the charges to the maximum on the card, do not pay the bill, and leaving you with destroyed credit. In more severe cases, they actually take over your identity. This allows them to open bank accounts, credit cards, purchase a vehicle, obtain a home mortgage, obtain employment, and open brokerage accounts all in your name and identity.
So how do they obtain my information so they can make me a victim of financial identity theft? Before the ease of use of computers, many would do what is called dumpster dive. They go through your trash looking for credit card statements, bank statements, financial services statements that you have thrown away thinking they were no longer needed. Once they have this information, they contact your financial institution pretending to be you to obtain your most current information (bank balances, credit card balances, brokerage account balances, etc.) so they know how much they can begin to charge to you. Now they use computers or other high-tech equipment to obtain your credit card info when you swipe it at a bank ATM, gas station pumps; thus allowing them to duplicate your card. Others use their cell phones to take pictures of you when you are preparing to swipe your card (gives them the number on your card), and then recording the pin number you use to access your account. Thus they can easily create a new card, and withdraw cash from your ATM before you are aware your identity has been compromised and stolen.
What are the dangers of financial identity theft? The most damaging is the ruining of your credit. You have the time and expense of trying to correct the theft of your identity. This can take months or years to correct. By the time you become aware of the theft, you could have thousands of dollars of debt in your name you did not incur. Until it is cleared, you could be denied obtaining a mortgage, buy a car, refused employment, and not being able to have a credit card or gas card.
Social Security Identity Theft:
A dishonest individual who has access to your Social Security Number can use it with malicious intent to learn more of your personal information. These people can also use the number to apply for credit in your name. After being issued dozens of credit cards, they will quickly charge them up, leaving you with the bills and a horrible grade of credit. The most troubling part of it all – you probably will not be aware that someone is using your Social Security number until being denied for credit or receiving numerous calls from unknown creditors and agencies requesting payment for purchases you never made.
Here is a list of the various ways a thief can steal your Social Security Number, as well as other important information:
- Stealing a wallet or purse.
- Stealing information you entered on an unsecured website.
- Dumpster diving through your trash in pursuit of personal information.
- Pretending to be a legitimate service over the phone or E-mail to obtain information from you.
- Buying your information on the black market provided by inside sources.
Should you suspect someone is using your Social Security Number, you need to contact the Social Security Administration immediately and report it. Should someone steal your Social Security Number, and has created major credit problems, the Social Security Administration will not be able to help you resolve the matter. You will need to contact the Federal Trade Commission for help, and report the information to your local law enforcement agency.
If you are required to get a new Social Security Number, you will be required to supply evidence of being negatively effected by your current number. Having a new number issued creates many new issues. The IRS and credit reporting bureaus will still reference the other number. You also will be without a credit history under the new number, making it difficult to re-establish new credit. This could prevent you from buying a house, a car, or other major purchases. While the Social Security Administration is responsible for keeping your information safe, you also must keep your information safe.
Banking Identity Theft:
Due to the increasing number of instances of “Phishing E-mails” banking institutions are working diligently to strengthen their online security. Many banks have implemented multi-layered, proactive strategies that rely on in-house expertise and proven security solutions.
So, how do “Phishing E-mails” work? You will receive an E-mail reportedly from your banking institution stating they noticed unusual or repeated attempts to access your bank account that are suspicious in nature; or they will advise you the bank is upgrading its security measures, and they need you to access your account to activate the new measures. They will provide you a link for either of these scenarios for you to resolve the problem. This link is a phony portal masquerading as your bank’s website. When you click on this bogus link, you will be giving them your bank account number and your personal pin you use to access your real account.
Many times you will realize they are phony because you receive them from a bank that you do not do business with, and thus would not have encountered this problem. Other times you will find spelling and grammatical errors alerting you this is a bogus request. However, when you do click on the link, you will be surprised to see how much these sites look like your real bank’s sign-in page. Never click on one of these links. Instead log into your bank account, and see if you have received a message from your bank requesting you contact them. Or you can call your bank asking if they sent a message to you about your account. But I repeat: NEVER CLICK ON ONE OF THESE E-MAIL LINKS.
You can protect yourself against becoming a victim of Banking Identity Theft by doing these things:
- Obtain an ATM/DEBIT card with your picture on it, and sign it immediately.
- If you have an ATM/DEBIT card without your picture, do not sign it but instead say Photo ID Required. This prevents someone from stealing your card and trying to use it.
- Keep track of all receipts from debit purchases and withdrawals from an ATM. These receipts should never be disposed of in a public trash container. Take them home and destroy them.
- Do not let someone keep your debit card after swiping your card, and don’t let it out of your sight.
- Never keep ATM Pin numbers or passwords in your wallet, purse or personal organizer. Memorize your number if at all possible, but make sure it is in a different place than where you keep all your other personal information. You can keep them in your car’s glove box or console, but be sure to use a code so anyone finding it would not know what the numbers were for.
- Immediately report any lost or stolen ATM/DEBIT cards. Make sure any boxes of checks you receive through the mail has not been tampered with in shipment.
- Frequently monitor your accounts for any unauthorized use. We recommend you check your bank account balances and transfers online at least once a week.
- Always pay close attention to the cycle of your bank account statements. If any statement is not received on time, immediately contact your bank’s customer service department and report it.
- Guard your personal information. It goes without saying do not put your Social Security Number on your checks. We also recommend you use your first initial and last name on your check instead of your full name. Your bank knows how you sign your check, but a thief does not.
- If your bank account information has been compromised in any way, immediately contact your local law enforcement agency, and your banking institution so a record is on file.
Cloning Identity Theft:
What is cloning identity theft you ask? Well, it is someone else being you. They use your name, your birth date, usually your social security number, and they know all about you so they can be you; but just in a different location. Many times you do not know they exist until they run into credit problems, and then you will know they exist because all of a sudden your credit rating has gone south too.
Unfortunately, victims of identity cloning have a very difficult time resuming a normal life. Identity cloning causes a much greater loss opposed to most types of identity theft when considering the time and financial expenses required to get things back in order. To completely avoid the malicious crime of identity cloning, you should remain cautious when on the web, remain aware of your transactions and activities, and always protect your personal information.
Synthetic Identity Theft:
Synthetic identity theft happens when pieces of data from different people are mixed together to create new fraudulent identities. These synthetic identities are very hard to detect. If a fraudster steals your identity and starts impersonating you, the resulting damage to your good name can be repaired with enough time and monitoring of your credit. However, what if the criminal just taken pieces of your identity and mixes it with other people’s information. For example, what if the fraudster uses your name but a different address and date of birth and then goes out and applies for a Social Security number? What you have is a completely new person with parts of your identity. This is much harder to detect and prove, making correcting the problem very difficult. There are cases out there where victims have had to repair their good name over decades.