Identity theft is a scary thought for most Americans. Criminal identity theft is even worse. It’s when a person identifies themselves as someone else when caught for committing a crime. The impersonation goes deep and usually includes identification like a driver’s license or other forms of ID, such as a social security number and address. Now the person who was identified has a criminal record, and they are innocent victims of criminal identity theft.
Identity theft is not as common as other forms of theft, but about 12% of the victims say they were also subject to criminal identity theft.
How Does Criminal Identity Theft Work?
Criminals can steal your identity and use it when confronted by law enforcement pretty easily these days. There are a few ways they can get their hands on your information.
- If your wallet is stolen or lost, you might lose your credentials that way.
- Security hackers may use malware or phishing scams to trick you into handing over the information. They may also use infected websites to hack into your computer and steal your identity.
- In the wake of data breaches, the dark web is bursting with lists of social security numbers, credit cards, and other personal information just waiting to be purchased by a cybercriminal.
- In some cases, criminals simply lie and pretend to be you. They use your information because they know you or have been cyberstalking you and have enough information to hand over to the police.
The Various Types of Identity Theft
There is not just one type of identity theft; there are actually quite a few types, and depending on which type you are a victim of will dictate what you need to do about it.
Financial Identity Theft
Financial identity theft is where thieves steal your bank or credit card numbers and use them to charge purchases or deplete funds.
Medical Identity Theft
Perpetrators steal medical IDs and then use them to obtain medical services and products under your name and account. This is one of the hardest types to rectify.
Insurance Identity Theft
Criminals steal insurance cards and IDs to commit insurance fraud, which affects both the victims and the insurance companies.
Social Security Identity Theft
If your social security number is stolen and then used to open accounts in your name or forge new IDs, this is social security identity theft.
Criminal Identity Theft
When someone is arrested and uses your information to identify themselves. Now you have a criminal record, and you don’t even know it.
Synthetic Identity Theft
Synthetic identity theft is fairly new, and it means criminals combine pieces of ID information from a few victims to form new sets of identification. All the combined victims suffer from this type of identity theft.
The Consequences of Identity Theft
If you are a victim of criminal identity theft, the consequences can be light if you act fast, and they can easily absolve their name and reputation from the crime. In other cases where the identity theft criminal continued to use your identity for an extended period of time and committed various crimes, it might affect your ability to obtain credit or access government resources. Although you may have a serious mess on your hands and trouble cleaning it up, there are also consequences for the perpetrator if they are caught.
An Identity theft criminal will most likely face a minimum jail sentence of a year or even more in prison if the crime was a felony. They may also have to pay fines or fees and make restitution for their crimes. After their sentence, they may be on probation for a number of months or years.
How to Prevent Criminal Identity Theft
Unfortunately, you cannot completely prevent identity theft from occurring, but there are steps you can take to make you less of a target. Routinely monitoring your credit reports, bank and credit card accounts is a step in the right direction. Even better, sign up for credit monitoring so that a company like IDStrong.com can be the watchdog for you. Some other tips are:
- Keep your computer and devices updated with the latest security patches and antivirus software. Run deep scans often.
- Review your public records to see what comes up. If you notice relatives, addresses, or crimes that do not belong to you, investigate further to make sure you haven’t been a victim of identity theft.
- Consider identity theft protection and possibly a credit freeze to prevent anyone from opening up accounts in your name.
What to do if You are a Victim of Criminal Identity Theft
Criminal identity theft is a tougher nut to crack than regular identity theft because now you have a criminal record that is not yours. Take the steps below to mitigate the problem.
- Contact the police to file a report and prove your identity using your birth certificate and social security number.
- You have to correct the records by providing access to your alibi, your fingerprints, and testimony from witnesses.
- Get the courts and police to sign off and release the arrest warrant or criminal records from your name and information. This is usually done through a “clearance letter.”
- You should also address the identity theft piece by canceling credit cards, notifying your bank and checking your credit to correct any misuse there.