ID theft is a criminal act in which a wrongdoer takes the personal information of another individual. The person who commits the identity theft often uses the social security number, name and birthdate of the victim. In some cases, the identity thief will also use other information, such as the victim’s health insurance information. The goal in every case is for the identity thief to secure products or services, or otherwise to enrich himself, at the expense of the victim.
How Does ID Theft Happen?
Theft of identity occurs when a thief is able to get access to personal identifying details. There are a huge variety of different ways this can occur. In some simple identity theft cases, the criminal will just jot down the credit card information of a victim who comes into a store or restaurant where the criminal works. In other cases, complicated identity theft rings are set up that use computer hacking or email phishing to try to obtain personal data. Criminals can also install special devices on ATMs or card readers to steal information, or can go through garbage and recycling to try to find private details.
What Are the Consequences of ID Theft?
ID theft has very serious consequences. When a victim’s identity is stolen, the victim could have his or her credit damaged. The thief will use the victim’s information to open a credit card and not pay, resulting in the creditor reporting negative information to the credit bureaus or even pursuing a court judgment against the victim. If the thief has misused the victim’s information to secure health insurance services, then the identity theft could also result in the victim’s health suffering due to inaccurate information in his medical records.
Victims of ID theft can undo some of this damage by contacting creditors, credit reporting agencies and law enforcement to report the ID theft and to get incorrect and inaccurate information removed. However, it can be very time consuming to undo the damage an identity thief has done. This is why it is important to take steps to protect your identity.
How to Protect Your Identity
You can protect your identity by taking common sense precautions such as being careful about who you give personal information to, ensuring you only use secure sites on the Internet, and shredding mail with personal data before you throw it away.
You can also use a credit monitoring service such as IDENTITY GUARD® in order to help you to reduce the risk of identity theft. Knowing what theft of identity is, it is easy to see why such a service makes sense. Identity theft services can monitor your credit report and alert you to certain triggering events that suggest your information may be being misused. You can then take action faster to stop the criminal in his tracks.