Last month we exposed some identity theft myths. This month, we’ll examine “why” and “how” someone would steal your identity. Stealing has been around since ancient times. Commandment 8 is “Thou shalt not steal.” Over time, theft has changed from sin to something looked down on, depending on the situation. As a society, we have become very good at taking a clear-cut issue and muddling up the reason and logic. There’s petty theft, minor theft, misdemeanor theft, and felony theft. Some kids today make a game out of robbery to see if they’ll get caught. Thievery is an attempt to get something unearned.
So why steal your identity?
Identity theft is just a new means of stealing. Until 1998 “identity theft” wasn’t even considered a “crime” in the justice system. Since then, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has collected statistics, and it’s become the fastest-growing “white collar” crime in America.
- It’s easier than other theft. Why rob a bank when robbing a bank’s computer is quicker, more comfortable, and provides access to the same or more money?
- There’s less chance of being caught. Identity thieves are much less likely to be noticed. According to the FTC, only 1 in 700 thieves are ever caught.
- The consequences are less than other forms of theft. The penalties are not as severe for identity theft as other forms of stealing (well, at least not on earth). Depending on the criminal, the thief may even use another person’s identity to evade the law.
Through this lens, let’s look at each different type of identity theft.
Financial Identity Theft
The form most of us have heard about, financial identity theft, is confused with financial fraud. Fraud is when someone steals your checkbook or bank card and uses your account. Financial identity theft is when someone opens various new accounts based on your personal information. If your checking account changes dramatically, you’ll notice. If new accounts are set up that you are unaware of, this creates another problem. Namely, how can you deny the debt within the 60 days required by the 2004 FACTA law? One couple in Iowa found that the wife’s social security number had been used in two southern states to purchase three extravagant homes, two of which had been foreclosed. They only discovered the foreclosure when they applied for a new equity loan, and now they are stuck with bad debts.
Criminal/Character Identity Theft
The second most common form of identity theft is criminal identity theft, also known as character identity theft. Criminal, or character, identity theft is when a criminal uses your information when they get caught. A 4th-grade teacher from California, Allison Curry, had her personal information stolen in 2002 by a teenager she had mentored. Later, she got a letter indicating a warrant was out for her arrest for prostitution. It was just the beginning of the criminal charges she would discover on her record over the next few years. Her record is not yet completely cleared.
So, when caught, why not use someone else’s identity? For example, person A has a driver’s license suspended. They get a license in person B’s name, so the next time person A gets pulled over, they provide the “fake” license tied to person B. Even most of the 9-11 hijackers had illegitimate driver’s licenses.
Social Security Identity Theft
Why steal a person’s social security information? Your social security is on nearly all of our essential documents and, therefore, can be used to “create” a new identity. It may include disability benefits and employment (only the tax liability will now be the victim’s). Also, your education and military history is available via your social security identity. “Meth” drug dealers commonly accept names and social security numbers instead of cash.
Medical Identity Theft
A thief may want your medical identity to get your insurance benefits or receive treatment for a disease they don’t want on their record, like AIDS or an STD test. It could lead to insurance problems, even medical issues stemming from incorrect blood type or diabetic status in your files.
Stealing isn’t going away; the criminals are just becoming more sophisticated. Nothing can protect you from this crime. Just as it rains on the just and the unjust, if you have been a victim, you didn’t “do something wrong.” But why wait to be a victim since the FTC says your chances range between 1 in 5 and 1 in 3? In today’s world, we need new solutions to new variations of an age-old problem, theft.
Can business owners afford to take the time to restore their stolen identity?
Also, can business owners afford to have their employees absent to fix their stolen identity? These two questions are why business owners and managers must protect themselves and their employees from identity theft. As no one can prevent identity theft, once you are a victim, thieves use your information and then sell it repeatedly.
For more information on a comprehensive suite of affordable services and products to mitigate this crime in your life, contact BAA-Solutions.