Identity Theft May Be Prelude to More Serious Crime
Identity theft may be the financial world's equivalent of a staph infection.
Just when you thought you had a handle on protecting your identity from criminals, the crime has morphed into something new and far more toxic.
It has become relatively easy to find and combat traditional identity theft, which involves a stranger snatching your
You simply request free copies of your credit report every three months and review them for accuracy. If there's something on the report that's not yours, you can put a fraud alert on your file and file a police report.
But identity criminals are now using your information as they commit felonies, including child abuse and terrorism. Others are using your records to file fraudulent medical claims, experts say. These new forms of identity theft are nearly invisible until they cause serious problems.
"We had one case where the (identity thief) was wanted for rape and child abuse," said
This victim lost his business and eventually changed his name and disappeared, Foley said.
Statistics indicating just how frequently something like this happens are hard to come by, but experts say it's a growing concern.
"I don't have numbers, but it's very pervasive," said
One recent case gives a glimpse of just how disturbing today's identity criminals can be. Authorities in
-- A man who was on supervised release from a 70-month federal prison sentence for drug trafficking and firearm offenses.
-- A convicted felon whose driver's license had been suspended for multiple drunk driving convictions.
-- A convicted sex offender who had been returned to prison for failing to register as a sex offender. On release, he visited these identity thieves for a new driver's license, presumably so he could again avoid registration.
-- Another convicted felon, who got his fake ID while still in prison.
Police were able to crack the ring by sending an investigator to pose as someone on the government's "no-fly" list for potential terrorist connections. He told the suspects, two of whom worked for the
Victims might discover the fraud when they're denied health insurance or when the thief fails to pay a deductible or co-insurance amount, which then could appear as a delinquent account on the victim's credit report.
"It was well over a year after most victims found out about it," she said.
How might you recognize the signs of criminal or medical identity theft and what should you do about it?
If you are the victim of criminal identity theft, you may hear about it when you attempt to register your car or renew your driver's license, Foley said. In other cases, you might get an inkling of trouble if you are passed up for a promotion as the result of a background check.
It can be tougher to spot medical identity theft if your thief pays the deductibles and you're not in the process of buying insurance in the open market. But since crooks usually don't discriminate about whom they defraud, you may see signs of trouble by closely watching your credit report, Leuer said.
If you find you've been a victim, your first step is to file a police report, Foley said. If you're lucky, the criminal impersonating you will have been booked for a crime, have a mug shot on file and a police record of fingerprints.
That can help you prove that they are not you. You, however, may have to pay for a LifeScan. This allows you to put your fingerprints on file and send them off to whatever law enforcement agency is dealing with your impersonator.
Make sure that you get an acknowledgment that your name has been cleared, Foley said. Victims in
There is no such national database, Foley said. Victims in other states may have a tougher time explaining their innocence to a highway patrol officer who stops them for speeding but wants to book them for an impersonator's crimes.
With medical identity theft, you take your police report to your insurer and try to get your records cleared of fraudulent claims. That should help you remain insurable if you ever have to buy health coverage in the open market.
In the meantime, Leuer warns people to stop printing their
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Personal Finance - Identity Theft May Be Prelude to More Serious Crime
(c) 2010 Kathy Kristof