Identity theft gets all kinds of buzz in the news. It’s not hard to see why—in 2012, over 16.6 million Americans were victims of identity theft. What most people don’t know is that identity theft is much more than just stealing your credit card number. In other posts, I discussed how thieves use your identity to get free healthcare or your child’s identity to apply for credit. Today, I want to introduce you to another kind of identity theft—criminal identity theft—where the criminal uses your identity to make you look like the criminal.
Criminal identity theft involves impersonation and it’s the worst kind of identity theft and the hardest to clean up. You don’t want to end up like Jason Bateman’s character Sandy Patterson, in the movie Identity Thief, where his identity was stolen and used by another individual and he finds out because he owes a bunch of money and has a warrant out for his arrest.
Basically, a thief takes over your identity and assumes it as his or her own. But instead of using your identity to access your bank account or apply for a credit card, the thief uses your identity to commit crimes and get off scot-free.. How? They can give your personal information (like your name, identification number, or date of birth) to law enforcement officials during an investigation or an arrest. They could also use your information to create fake identification for themselves.
Criminal identity theft can lead to a very nasty headache for you. A thief could get caught for a traffic violation or a misdemeanor and sign the citation with your name. Then you get stuck paying those annoying fees and fines. If a thief uses your name when getting arrested for a crime, you could end up with a criminal record, which could affect your ability to get a job or buy property. Another case is when the thief commits a crime using your identity, and then a warrant is issued for your arrest. But instead of looking for the criminal, they are looking for you—you could have a warrant out for your arrest and not even know it!
Criminal identity theft can have some pretty drastic consequences. Here’s some ways to protect yourself from this dastardly form of identity theft:
- Shred all sensitive documents. This can prevent thieves from getting their hands on your personal information.
- Report missing identification cards. Most criminal identity thieves get your information from stealing your driver’s license or other personally identifiable information (PII) like Social Security numbers or Identification cards. If you report a missing driver license, your state might flag your license number and in the event that another driver is pulled over by law enforcement and presents your license as their own they could be questioned for further information
- Get a background check on yourself. If you feel like someone may be impersonating you, get a background check done. This can be done via online services or by a private investigator.
- Check State and National criminal databases. Search your name in criminal databases like the FBI’s National Crime Information Center (NCIC) database to see if you have a criminal record.