These days, everyone has heard about identity theft. Our office even hosts an annual shredding event to offer added protection about the damaging crime. While the publicity surrounding how to prevent identity theft has increased over the past few years, the amount of identity theft hasn't decreased. Rather, there are new ways that identity thieves are working to "borrow" people's identities. MetLife Auto and Home did some research and came up with a few new ways identity theft is happening...and not all of them are all that obvious.
- Medical Identity Theft: Thieves take the identity of a person to obtain medical services and treatments. They might also try to forge insurance claims or falsify medical information for monetary gain. The scary part with this type of crime is that the medical information that the thief provides under you name may end up in your permanent file - meaning that in an acute medical emergency you may be treated based on fraudulent information!
- Identity of a Newborn or Underage Child: Because young children don't often need their social security numbers, or credit scores, this area of crime is especially attractive since it may take years until the child or parents realize anything is amiss.
- Reporting for Duty: Despite the fact that our armed forces provide vital protections and services for our county, the fact that they are abroad makes them an easier target for identity thieves. Having several countries between themselves and the thieves creates a delay in noticing that anything is wrong.
- Moving to a New Home: When you move from apartment to home, or to a new home, there are often mountains of mail that appear at either end. The sensitive mail that ends up in the mix can create opportunities for confusion, and increases the risk that personal information can fall into the wrong hands.
- Let's Get Together...Or Not. For engaged couples, newlyweds and those that have entered into a civil union, name and address changes are common. With that comes the consolidation of credit and other accounts. The reverse often happens during a divorce or separation. With all of the paperwork flying around, sensitive information is in the mix and the identity thieves can sneak in and get the information they need to defraud you.
- The Loss of a Loved One: As unfeeling as it sounds, unscrupulous individuals may attempt to take over the identity of a recently deceased person for financial gain. That may mean that the surviving relatives are forced to deal with a financial catastrophe while they are trying to mourn a loved one.
- Traveling Overseas: Discovering the world and encountering different cultures can be exciting but there are possible financial problems that could arise. Losing your passport, driver's license or credit cards in a foreign country can open the door to identity theft that is trickier to discover since you are far away from home.
Consider this a friendly reminder to keep an eye on those documents with your sensitive personal information. Identity theft is a difficult crime to recover from, and while some insurance companies offer recovery services, the emotional and financial damage can take a toll on individuals. For more information, visit your state's attorney general's website - they usually have plentiful resources for identity theft prevention.