The 5 Types of Identity Theft
Identity theft may be used to facilitate or fund other crimes including illegal immigration, terrorism, phishing and espionage. There are cases of identity cloning to attack payment systems, including online credit card processing and medical insurance. Sources such as the non-profit Identity Theft Resource Center sub-divide identity theft into five categories.
Criminal identity theft (posing as another person when apprehended for a crime), Financial identity theft (using another’s identity to obtain credit, goods and services), Identity cloning (using another’s information to assume his or her identity in daily life), Medical identity theft (using another’s identity to obtain medical care or drugs) and Child identity theft.
Identity Cloning and Concealment
In this situation, the identity thief impersonates someone else in order to conceal their own true identity. Examples might be illegal immigrants, people hiding from creditors or other individuals, or those who simply want to become “anonymous” for personal reasons. Another example are posers, a label given to people who use somebody else’s photos and information through social networking sites. Mostly, posers create believable stories involving friends of the real person they are imitating. Unlike identity theft used to obtain credit which usually comes to light when the debts mount, concealment may continue indefinitely without being detected, particularly if the identity thief is able to obtain false credentials in order to pass various authentication tests in everyday life.
Criminal Identity Theft
When a criminal fraudulently identifies himself to police as another individual at the point of arrest, it is sometimes referred to as “Criminal Identity Theft.” In some cases criminals have previously obtained state-issued identity documents using credentials stolen from others, or have simply presented fake ID. Provided the subterfuge works, charges may be placed under the victim’s name, letting the criminal off the hook. Victims might only learn of such incidents by chance, for example by receiving court summons, discovering their drivers licenses are suspended when stopped for minor traffic violations, or through background checks performed for employment purposes.
It can be difficult for the victim of a criminal identity theft to clear their record. The steps required to clear the victim’s incorrect criminal record depend on what jurisdiction the crime occurred in and whether the true identity of the criminal can be determined. The victim might need to locate the original arresting officers and prove their own identity by some reliable means such as fingerprinting or DNA fingerprinting, and may need to go to a court hearing to be cleared of the charges. Obtaining an expungement of court records may also be required. Authorities might permanently maintain the victim’s name as an alias for the criminal’s true identity in their criminal records databases. One problem that victims of criminal identity theft may encounter is that various data aggregators might still have the incorrect criminal records in their databases even after court and police records are corrected. Thus it is possible that a future background check will return the incorrect criminal records. This is just one example of the kinds of impact that may continue to affect the victims of identity theft for some months or even years after the crime, aside from the psychological trauma that being ‘cloned’ typically engenders.
Synthetic Identity Theft
A variation of identity theft which has recently become more common is synthetic identity theft, in which identities are completely or partially fabricated. The most common technique involves combining a real social security number with a name and birthdate other than the ones associated with the number. Synthetic identity theft is more difficult to track as it doesn’t show on either person’s credit report directly, but may appear as an entirely new file in the credit bureau or as a subfile on one of the victim’s credit reports. Synthetic identity theft primarily harms the creditors who unwittingly grant the fraudsters credit. Individual victims can be affected if their names become confused with the synthetic identities, or if negative information in their subfiles impacts their credit ratings.
Medical Identity Theft
Medical identity theft occurs when someone uses a person’s name and sometimes other parts of their identity—such as insurance information—without the person’s knowledge or consent to obtain medical services or goods, or uses the person’s identity information to make false claims for medical services or goods. Medical identity theft frequently results in erroneous entries being put into existing medical records, which may in turn lead to inappropriate and potentially life-threatening decisions by medical staff.
Child Identity Theft
Child identity theft occurs when a minor’s Social Security number is used by another person for the imposter’s personal gain. The imposter can be a family member, a friend, or even a stranger who targets children. The Social Security numbers of children are valued because they do not have any information associated with them. Thieves can establish lines of credit, obtain driver’s licenses, or even buy a house using a child’s identity. This fraud can go undetected for years, as most children don’t discover the problem until years later. Child identity theft is fairly common, and studies have shown that the problem is growing. The largest study on child identity theft, as reported by Richard Power of the Carnegie Mellon Cylab with data supplied by AllClear ID, found that of 40,000 children 10.2% were victims of identity theft.