There are basically eight types of identity theft to be concerned about. Of course, just because you are a victim of one type of identity theft doesn’t mean you don’t have to be concerned about the others. This is the cause one form of identity theft can often lead to another. So your Guide freely admits that this assignment of various categories is purely arbitrary –in other words I just made it up to make it easier to talk about the major impact a specific type of identity theft may have on you.
We are all pretty familiar with financial identity theft. I still remember the Citibank commercials that came out in the early part of 2000. You remember the ones I’m talking about. The one with the two little old ladies talking about going out mudding on their four wheelers in voices that sounded like two little boys from Alabama was my personal favorite. Those commercials did something really great by raising public awareness about the potential for identity theft. But they also gave everybody the impression that identity theft was something related to your credit card or bank account. This is true to an extent, but that’s not all there is to this story. But the worst thing that happened as a result of these commercials is that everybody started laughing. This was probably by design. If we’re laughing, we are not worried as much; it’s funny, it’s lighthearted, it’s not a big deal. If you’ve been a victim of financial identity theft, you know it’s no joke.
But medical identity theft is by far the worst type of identity theft that can happen to you. A young woman in Utah found this out firsthand when Health and Family Services came knocking on her door one morning. Someone had used her insurance information to have a baby on the other side of the state. The identity thief was a drug addict, and knew that her baby would test positive for drugs, so she left the hospital (and her baby) to disappear before the authorities were called. Of course, when the authorities got to the hospital to arrest her and found her missing a checked the medical records. As a reader, you are probably not surprised that they found the identity theft victim instead. Although she was able to keep her family together and eventually prove that she was the victim, there was a lot of heartache involved, and having to prove that she was a victim to a system that didn’t want to believe it in the first place was really more like being made a victim a second time. And because of the way medical information is passed between doctors and medical providers, getting that false information out of her medical record may be a lifelong pursuit.
Social Security identity theft may not be quite as scary as medical identity theft, but it can be just as hard to recover from. Although the Federal government claims that there is no national identification system, our Social Security numbers are exactly that; a way to track our education, employment, medical history, and criminal past. One of my readers commented that scrapping the Social Security System has been a right-wing agenda item for decades, and even accused your Guide of being a political mouthpiece. But there is one big reason that I believe Social Security will continue to be a part of our lives long after the actual system inevitably collapses. The new Healthcare System we call ObamaCare requires that the Federal government be able to track our work history as well as our medical history in order to provide the socialized healthcare the program calls for. Without a Social Security number or some form of national identification, this will be impossible.
The reason a Social Security number is such a big problem for the American consumer is illegal immigration. In order to get a job, undocumented workers need to fill out an I-9 form which requires them to provide proof that they can legally work in America. Most often this is a driver’s license and Social Security card. There were an estimated 12 million illegal immigrants in the United States in 2009, which is roughly 3% of our population. This would lead you to believe that the chances of being a victim of Social Security fraud because of immigration issues would be pretty low, but that’s not the end of the story. There are verification programs in place that employers have to use to verify whether or not a Social Security number matches the person that is working for them. Right now the program will only verify the approximate age, gender and race of the person the number belongs to. The process can take several months, which means the illegal immigrant can work under that number for a little while. When their employer finds out the number does not belong to them, they simply get a new number and start the process all over again. This means the chances of being a victim of Social Security identity theft are far higher than the 3% that would seem to be the obvious risk factor.