I write plenty here about Identity Theft, but I feel I should delve into this term a little bit deeper. What is Identity Theft? Really, What is it?
A Legal Definition of Identity Theft per Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act of 2003, Identity Theft Means:
“… a fraud committed using the identifying information of another person.” 16 CFR §603.2
In recent years, Identity Theft term became sort of an “umbrella” term for many different crimes: credit card fraud, phone/utilities fraud, insurance fraud, basically Identity Theft and Identity Fraud.
From a legal stand point, Identity Theft crime happens when your information has been stolen for the purpose of committing a fraud in your name.
However, Financial Institutions define Identity Theft and Identity Fraud complete differently.
- Identity Fraud, in their view, or “Credit Card Fraud” happens when an existing credit card account was used without the cardholder’s consent. Per the Fair Credit Billing Act, the cardholder’s liability is $50.00 that is provided the fraudulent charges were reported within 60 days from the date of the statement. In most cases, the Financial Institutions will write them off without complete investigation. It is more cost effective for them to write it off and collect on the insurance than to conduct a full investigation.
- When someone opens a new account in the victim’s name, Financial Institutions call this crimes “New account fraud” or “True name fraud”, which, in their view, is considered to be Identity Theft. Even then, they may not conduct an investigation.
A true Identity Theft happens when someone takes over someone else’s persona. A great example is when a Social Security Number is used for employment purposes by an illegal immigrant. A true Identity Theft is not as common as Identity Fraud.
Once the personal identifying information has been stolen, it is more likely a financially related fraud will be committed. It has been reported by the victims of identity theft that more than one type of a fraud has been committed against them.
Which ones are the most common?
1. Credit Cards-61%
2. Banking Accounts-33%
3. Telephone Service-11%
4. Internet Payment Accounts-5%
5. E-mail and other Internet Accounts-4%
6. Medical Insurance-3%
7. Other Accounts-1%
Source: Federal Trade Commission
To further classify the Identity Theft, It is important to understand that the financial related fraud is not the only outcome of the stolen identity. It includes but not limited to the following:
- Social Security Number Misuse: This 9 digit number basically holds a key to our identity. Once someone has your SSN, they can get a hold of a lot of sensitive information. With SSN, the thieves can open new credit card accounts, get a hold of existing accounts, get loans, new cars, etc. In non-financial related cases, the victims SSN can be used for employment purposes, for tax purposes or tax avoidance, getting benefits, unemployment insurance, etc. These types of cases are very difficult to discover.
- Medical Identity Theft: A lot of thieves have discovered that they can get medical services pretending to be someone else. They provide a medical provider with someone else’s insurance information or any other personal information belonging to the victim. The thieves get the service and the victim gets billed for the services. Or the victim’s insurance gets billed. If the thief had a serious medical condition, it is going to stay on the victim’s record.
- Driver’s License Theft: Anything that the thief has done while using your information, either it is DUI or a speeding ticket, it will be reflected on your record. If those tickets are not paid and warrants get issued and you get pulled over, you can get arrested. In those cases, it is best to be represented by an attorney, because it is more than just filing a report with FTC.
- Criminal Identity Theft: Just like it is described above, if the thief committed a crime and got caught and gave your identifying information, the record will be entered in your name. These types of cases are very difficult to clear up and would require a legal representation. It takes years to clear your name and record; sometimes, however, it is not fully resolved for life.
Although everyone is at risk of becoming an identity theft victim, the more steps you take to prevent it from occurring, the less likely you will become one.