Understanding identity theft
I.D. Theft Guy
What is identity theft?
I have been working professionally with identity theft for over 10 years now. I believed, like most people do today, that identity theft means that a thief is using a victim’s credit for illicit activity. I learned that credit was only about 17% of all identity theft.So I decided to write this series of articles to educate the public on this very important topic.
Consider this: we insure our cars, our homes, our health, our lives and even our income. So it just makes sense to insure our identity which is really an umbrella over all of these areas of life. It is our reputation on paper, or in electronic databases that determines whether we get auto, life, health insurance, credit, employment and so on.
Identity theft occurs when someone illegally obtains or uses your Personal Identifying Information also known as P.I.I. and pretends to be you. This information is being used by creative thieves in unlimited ways.
So what is your Personal Identifying Information? Anything that identifies you as a person such as Name, Address, Social Security Number, Date of Birth, Drivers License, Passport, Email address, Phone number, Medical Insurance Policy number and much more. These identifiers are stored in many different databases and can be used by a thief for anything you can imagine.
While shredding documents is a must, the notion that your information is safe is simply false! Many identifiers are public information which means anyone has access to this information.
Here are a few examples of “public” information and how it can be used:
Birth Certificate - available at the courthouse - will usually contain the name of the newborn, the father and mother. Records of births, marriages and deaths are also available through commercial web sites such as Ancestry.com, Genealogy.com and more. A fresh new identity can be used for years before it is discovered. Children are 52 times more likely to have their identity stolen than an adult because thieves know that most parents are not monitoring their children’s identity.
Marriage Certificate - also available at the courthouse. A lady recently applied for a marriage license in New York and was denied because county records showed that she was already married to an immigrant who claimed she was his wife. A marriage license is required to file a social security claim for survivor benefits in the event of a spouses death, and more.
Death Certificate - also available at the courthouse. This document can be used by anyone claiming to be a creditor to file a claim against an estate, to open accounts, or to claim government benefits. There was a recent case of a family friend who went on a shopping spree using the identity of a deceased person within hours of their passing, leaving the estate to deal with the mess.
Deeds to property - also available at the courthouse and online. There are many reported cases of property owners learning that the equity in their home have been depleted by a thief. There was a recent case where a young woman let her “friend” move in with her. Her mother, the victim- had to be hospitalized. During her absence thief took over her identity and used the equity of the victims home to secure a bail bond for her boyfriends release from jail.
Social Media / Online Presence - the information you make public about yourself. According to the FBI, only two pieces of information are needed to take over your identity. Your Social Security number and your Date of Birth. It is nice to get all those birthday greetings and well wishes on line, but is it really worth it?
Protecting our identity starts with awareness. Over the next few weeks this series of articles will describe’s many forms and what we can do about it. Thieves are experts at what they do. So, cleaning up the mess is a job best left to licensed experts who have the know how and the authority to expunge records and to restore our entire identity back to pre-theft status.
Matthew Rice is a local identity theft expert, dealing with identity theft since 2005. He is available to speak to your church, service club, organization, or business. For further information contact him at (661) 822-1127 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org