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Myths and Realities of Identity Theft: It Rarely Involves Credit. How to Protect Yourself.

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Identity theft rarely involves credit and people with poor credit are often victims of identity theft

“I could never be a victim of identity theft. My credit’s too poor.”

“Anyone is welcome to my identity. Maybe they could improve my credit.”

These are things I hear on a daily basis regarding identity theft. You probably have thought or heard the same thing yourself. After all, everyone who has heard the singing guys in the pirate hats know that identity theft and credit theft are the same thing.

We should be so lucky.

The FTC has shown that only 23% of identity theft cases involve credit card fraud and the majority of cases never involve credit at all. Most thieves are not looking at affecting your credit as that is one of the easier things to catch and prosecute.

The most common types of identity theft involve theft for tax purposes, immigration purposes and medical. What’s even more important, if an identity thief gets in trouble while using your identity, you could be the one sitting in jail for his crime. It’s already happened to others in this country and continues to make the news.

Consumer Reports has stated 1 in 6 people have already been victims of identity theft, which is more than the number of people who have had their cars stolen. Even if you monitor your credit and have “identity theft protection” from a financial institution, usually it only covers credit-related issues or issues related directly to that institution. A bank will probably do little if anything if you are arrested for another’s crime or are having your wages garnished by the IRS after an identity thief got in trouble while using your information. Unfortunately, even if you are excellent at personally protecting your identity, you still have no control over how others treat your sensitive information. Though you may be able to protect your credit, there is little actual protection you have for the more damaging forms if identity theft - the cases which can leave you without health insurance, have you arrested or in trouble with the IRS. In these cases, the best thing you can do is to monitor your entire identity to see if there are things attached to you which should not be yours.

1. Run a background report on yourself. Do you see yourself listed at addresses or with phone numbers which were never yours? Do you show other people as living at your house who never have, or find that total strangers are listed as family members?  It could be an innocent error or it could mean that another person has already started using your identity. An identity thief is not going to alert you that your identity has been stolen by having his mail or messages sent to your address or your phone number.  You can run a background check either with a professional investigator or through many on-line sources, such as Beenverified.com. 

2. Run a criminal background check on yourself. It’s not uncommon for someone with a name which is the same or similar to yours to have some trouble with the law. The more common your name, the more likely it is to appear somewhere on a criminal report. However, most criminal reports, including some of the ones which are free, will also have the age and/or birthday of the criminal on that report. If that information matches your information, you may want to file a police report and get the help of a lawyer. The FTC also has some useful information regarding identity theft.  Again, some on-line sites (such as Beenverified.com) may also give criminal background information.  Do your homework to find which service is best for you.  Be certain to talk to the police and an attorney if incorrect criminal information is listed about you.

3. Continue to monitor your credit. Even if your credit is God-awful, there are things which a criminal can do which will still negatively impact it and may prevent you from getting utilities or other necessities in your name. Many utility companies do not run an initial credit report when you apply for service. However, if a bill goes un-paid, it will end up on your credit. If this is with a company which also serves your area, that un-paid bill can keep you from using them for your service. Also, in terms of identity theft for medical purposes, that un-paid bill could be from someone who has hampered your ability to keep or get health insurance. Those who steal your identity in order to receive hospital treatment or to apply for health insurance tend to do so because they have some serious illness which hampers their ability to get coverage. This particular form if ID thievery is especially damaging because another’s health information will become part of your record. This means your blood type can be changed, you can be treated for an illness you don’t have while your own medical information gets ignored. If someone has an especially serious illness, your health insurance could get canceled and you might not be able to get other insurance. Not to mention, due to the nature of privacy laws, it can be extremely difficult to remove another’s wrong information from your records.

4. Have some legal plan. As I stated in an earlier article, when worst comes to worst (or if you are afraid worse things might happen), it helps to have an attorney you can reach 24/7. Many people who are victims of identity theft spend several thousand dollars to tens of thousands of dollars and more trying to rectify the situation. That doesn’t even include the time spent away from work or family. For a low monthly fee, someone else will do the work for you and may keep you out of prison or trouble with the IRS.

Many of us spend money on something which may keep our cars from being stolen or our houses from being broken into. Yet, a crime which is infinitely more serious and costs more to fix, which can leave the victim in jail, without health insurance or in trouble with the IRS is often not considered. If you protect your belongings, why not protect yourself?

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2 comments

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Posted on Jul 1, 2009
Rachel K.
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Posted on Jul 1, 2009

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Rachel K.

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