Written by Alayna Okerlund | Last Updated February 24th, 2020Alayna Okerlund is a finance-focused Senior Content Strategist at BestCompany.com. Over the past three years, Alayna's finance-related research has helped readers feel more financially confident. She has worked with several reputable experts and has provided content for a variety of well-known publications like Forbes, Reader’s Digest, Lifehacker, and more.
Over the past few years, identity theft has become increasingly more complex as several different types of identity theft have surfaced. The 2017 Identity Fraud Study conducted by Javelin Strategy & Research showed that the number of identity theft victims hit an all-time high of 15.4 million in 2016. Basically, the increase in the different types of identity theft and the advancement of technology has led to a higher number of identity theft victims. Knowing which types of identity theft you should be looking out for and taking precautions can greatly decrease your risk of being affected. Here are the top two types of identity theft that experts say you should be aware of:
Medical Identity Theft
Medical identity theft is one of the more recent types of identity theft. Identity theft and scam expert, author of "The Truth About Avoiding Scams," and founder of Scamicide.com, Steven Weisman, said that "while there are so many variations of identity theft, by far the most dangerous is medical identity theft where your medical insurance information is stolen and then used by the identity thief or people to whom the identity thief sells this information."
Weisman explained that "this type of identity theft is potentially deadly because the medical information of the identity thief can be commingled with the medical information of the identity theft victim's medical reports. This can potentially result in the identity theft victim receiving a blood transfusion of the wrong blood type or other improper treatment."
The Fifth Annual Study on Medical Identity Theft estimated that 2.32 million Americans have been victimized by medical identity theft. Since the study was released, the number of medical identity theft victims has continued to rise.
Concerning protection, Weisman warns "the best thing you can do to protect yourself from this type of identity theft is to closely guard your medical insurance information." He suggests that people "carefully review their Explanation of Benefits (EOB) when they receive it from their health insurer after their medical insurance has been used in order to quickly recognize that there is a problem."
In order to report medical identity theft, Weisman said "the best thing to do is to report this to your insurance company and your medical care provider immediately." He also warned that people should "be particularly wary of offers of 'free' medical services or equipment if you merely provide your insurance number or Medicare number. These can often lead to fraud or identity theft."
Child Identity Theft
Not only can identity theft ruin your life, but it can also ruin your child's life. Information security consultant and Certified Identity Theft Risk Management Specialist, Rob Douglas, said that "other than medical identity theft, one of the most dangerous types of identity theft is child identity theft."
Douglas explained that "the danger lies in the fact that this form of identity theft often goes undetected until the child is approaching adulthood and begins to engage in credit transactions. Those transactions—ranging from opening a cellphone account to applying for student loans—may be delayed or denied because of the damage that has been done to the victim’s credit score by the criminal who stole the child’s sensitive personal information years earlier. This damage can be compounded by the number of previously undetected fraudulent accounts and the length of time that has passed, making repair and restoration of the credit file and score a cumbersome process."
The 2012 Child Identity Fraud Report conducted by Javelin Strategy & Research proved that at least one child within 1 of 40 households has had personal information compromised.
Although many people blame child identity theft on stereotypical identity theft criminals, relatives are often the ones to blame as well. Douglas explained "another tragic reality is that a significant percentage of child identity theft is committed by a parent or other relative of the child who has access to the child’s Social Security number and other sensitive personal information that can be used to assume the child’s identity for criminal purposes."
In regards to protection from child identity theft, Douglas suggested that "parents should place a security freeze on their child’s credit file (if one exists) at each of the four major credit bureaus—Equifax, TransUnion, Experian, and Innovis. The legal right to place a security freeze on a child’s credit file is determined on a state-by-state basis with more states every year passing legislation enabling this important security feature. Additionally, parents should be on the lookout for mail (or other communications) addressed to a child that may indicate that credit accounts have been opened in the child’s name or that the child’s name is appearing on mailing lists."
If you believe your child's identity has been compromised,Douglas recommends you follow these steps.
- Contact the police in order to create an official report
- Go to www.IdentityTheft.gov/steps for instructions and suggestions from the U.S. Federal Trade Commission
- When on the website mentioned above, Douglas suggests that you scroll down to "Special Forms of Identity Theft" and click on "Child Identity Theft"
If you are worried about any type of identity theft, follow the tips provided above and consider hiring a professional identity theft company. The best identity theft companies will monitor your information 24/7, provide immediate notifications if there is any suspicious or fraudulent activity, and will help you develop a recovery plan if your identity is stolen.