Also known as identity fraud, identity theft occurs when a perpetrator steals and uses your personal information for their own use or for criminal activities. The stolen information varies and can even be in the form of what seems to be harmless personal details such as date of birth, your address, email addresses or your place of birth. Other important information used to steal your identity includes PIN numbers, bank details, driver’s license numbers, insurance details, Social Security information, and passwords. The imposter uses these details to:
∙ commit different types of financial frauds, such as tax refund fraud or credit card fraud
∙ to smuggle substances
∙ traffic drugs
∙ launder money
∙ enter or exit a country illegally and
∙ provide false identification in the form of your details to the police (in case of being caught) – this can lead to your arrest with you having no knowledge of all this.
According to a criminal defense law firm, charges even as minor as OWI (Operated While Intoxicated) can impact your life negatively for years. Identity theft, on the other hand, allows the imposter to commit any crime possible without facing the consequences for it.
We divide identity fraud into two categories; the first is true name identity theft, in which the person who has stolen your identity uses your personal details to open up a new account with a bank or a cellular service provider. This type of identity theft most commonly leads to telecommunication and financial frauds. The second category is account takeover, in which the fraudster uses your identity to access your existing bank or cellular service accounts. Thanks to the internet, it is easy for imposters to gain access to your accounts before locking you out of them by changing phone numbers or email addresses associated with the account. This allows the imposter to use your money or paid-for services as they see fit.
Some other examples of identity fraud are:
∙ Medical-related identity theft, which allows the imposter to use your health insurance for their own health treatments.
∙ Age-related identity theft such as a child or senior identity theft, which allows the impersonator to receive or sign up for government benefits.
∙ Identity theft for tax refunds, which the deceiver can file using your social security number.
Techniques used for identity fraud:
It is not unlikely for identity thieves to hack into databases to obtain personal details of the general, unsuspecting public. It is much more common for imposters to use other inconspicuous methods such as dumpster diving to obtain personal information, which people have accidentally or intentionally thrown into the trash without realizing the danger. Shoulder surfing is another common method of obtaining someone else’s personal details; it consists of the thief simply observing the person writing down their details or enter them into a computer. Imposters can also steal your personal information online through phishing, spam emails, and malware.
Here are a few warning signs that you might be the victim of identity fraud are:
∙ Suspicious bank activity such as withdrawals or new charges that are unexplained
∙ Being billed for services or merchandise you have not purchased
∙ Being billed for medical treatments you did not receive
∙ Being refused by your health insurance for a medical claim because your limit for benefits has been reached
∙ Receiving notifications from the IRS for multiple tax returns filed under your name
Consequences for Victims:
Since the imposter has stolen your identity to commit various crimes, you can face a number of serious consequences depending on the severity of the crime. You will be interrogated by the criminal investigation department. Other consequences include a large amount of debt and bad credit history.
Tips to Avoid Identity Theft:
You can protect your personal information by taking the following steps:
- Protect data on social media by using your privacy settings to hide information from people you do not know
- Do not respond to spam emails
- Be wary of phishing links
- Take care to destroy all documents containing information that could be used for identity theft. Use a shredder for this purpose, or destroy the documents using scissors.
What to Do if Accused of Identity Theft
In case the situation reverses and you find yourself being investigated for identity theft, you should immediately contact a criminal defense law firm to help you make your case and prove your innocence in court.