4 Types of Identity Theft and Tips for Preventing Them

Identity theft can turn people’s lives upside down. Imagine applying for a loan and learning you don’t qualify because you have a $30,000 personal loan that’s delinquent — a loan you didn’t apply for.

Or imagine trying to make an ATM withdrawal and finding your account has a zero balance, when just a few days ago there was $2,500 in the account, and you haven’t spent funds from your account in the meantime.

If you encounter situations like these, there’s always a chance they could be the mistake of your financial institution. But there’s also a strong correlation between events such as these and identity theft, which can occur in more than one context and for different reasons.  

Common Forms of Identity Theft

The scenarios above are just two that can befall people who have their identity stolen, and don’t realize the theft until the thief has gone on a big-time shopping spree. To help you avoid the theft of your identity, let’s look at four of the most common forms of consumer identity theft.

  1. Driver’s License ID Theft

By lifting information from your driver’s license (e.g. name, address, and date of birth, and state driver's identity number), thieves have most everything they need to apply for loans and credit cards, and then buy whatever they please. The high incidence of driver’s license ID theft is why many states don’t include your social security number (SSN) on your license.

  1. Medical ID Theft

Why would someone want to steal your ID for medical purposes? The answers might surprise you. Medical ID thieves routinely use the identification of others to have necessary medical procedures performed, file phony disability and medical liability claims, and even have cosmetic surgery performed that significantly alters their appearance, making them harder to catch.

  1. Social Security ID Theft

Social security ID theft opens a world of possibilities for the thief. He or she can use your social security number to receive welfare benefits, qualify for HUD benefits, receive housing vouchers, get medical and dental care, and even acquire fake passports.

According to the Social Security Administration (SSA), social security ID theft frequently happens under the following circumstances: a thief poses as someone who needs your SSN, personal mail is stolen, a wallet or purse is stolen, personal information from an unsecure website is stolen, and personal documents are stolen from trash receptacles.      

  1. Financial ID Theft

The types of theft above overlap with financial ID theft because they involve fraudulent financial transactions, but financial ID theft proper occurs when someone poses as you to specifically steal your financial assets.

PCs N Dreams — an informational website dedicated to helping people have a better computer experience — lists activities of financial ID thieves. They “empty your bank account(s); financial holdings; remove any valuables you may have in storage in bank vaults; steal off-shore assets and/or international financial assets or bank accounts; and buy and sell expensive properties such as homes, cars, land, or businesses; and apply for loans and credit cards or credit accounts.”

According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), “A stolen ID is used an average of 30 times before the victim finds out about it.” This reinforces the fact that, when it comes to consumer identity theft, prevention is the best policy. 

 Tips for Preventing Identity Theft

Identity thieves are clandestine and clever, leaving many unaware their identity is stolen until fraudulent activity is well underway. There are, however, some simple but effective measures you can take to avoid being a victim of identity theft and the stress it creates.      

  1. Sign Up for eStatements

Using eStatements, such as electronic financial account statements, instead of paper statements interrupts the paper trail thieves can follow to piece together someone’s identity. eStatements should be protected by a username and password whenever possible. Logging into a website to access statements adds another layer of security.  

  1. Use Different Passwords

Some use the same password for multiple online accounts — social media, financial, email, etc. — to help ensure they always remember their login credentials. It simplifies account login, but it also gives identity thieves unfettered access to account information if they crack the password. Develop a unique password for each of your online accounts.    

  1. Control Sensitive Information

Find simple ways to control sensitive information someone could use to steal your identity. For example, memorize your SSN instead of carrying an SSN card in your wallet, shred mail before tossing it, don’t excitedly post a pic of your new driver’s license on Facebook, etc. Before leaving personal information accessible to others, ask if it could be used to impersonate you.  

  1. Use a Secure Credit Card

Unlike checks or cash, credit cards such as our Platinum VISA Cards have built-in security features, including EMV Chips that offer more secure processing than magnetic stripes. The visible chip embedded in the card creates a unique one-time code for each transaction when used at an EMV enabled terminal, making the card virtually impossible to counterfeit in the event of a data breach.

Contact Us Today

ID theft can happen in several ways, but most lead to the same end: financial fraud that puts people on the hook for purchases they didn’t make. As an experienced credit union, we understand the realities of identity theft and implement measures to prevent it, from maintaining a secure website to offering VISA cards with the latest security features.  


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