A while ago I wrote a series of articles about theft in the modern age that provided an in-depth account on how malicious people were stealing using technology in the modern age.
I recently came across a very interesting article by Jacqui Cheng on Ars Technica called “Learn how to protect yourself from identity theft” and thought that this article was important to mention because it tackles two very important targets that weren’t covered in my articles; Children’s Identity Theft and Medical Identity Theft.
Children’s Identity Theft
Children are a very good target for an identity thief as he is far less likely to get caught using a child’s identity than he would using a grown up’s identity. People generally check their credit report regularly but they don’t check their child’s since in most cases he shouldn’t have any. This ensures that in most cases the child’s identity can be misused until he is old enough to apply for a loan or anything that might finally reveal his identity’s misuse.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reports that 18,787 complaints where received in 2006 from people aged 19 or under; 19,810 in 2007 and this figure rose to 20,597 in 2008. This is about 8% of the total complains received. Of course it’s important to note that the actual number of thefts is far greater – these are simply the number of people who discovered the theft and reported it. The total number of complaints received by the FTC in 2008 was 258,427; however, the FTC also estimates the number of identity thefts to be closer to 8 million. So all things being equal it’s more likely that the actual number of child identity theft cases stands closer to 600,000 a year rather then in the range of 19,000 – 20,000. However note that this is only an estimate that makes a number of assumptions such as that the estimated amount of identity theft cases provided by the FTC is close to the true value and even then that the ratio between the estimated and the reported categories is the same. However that being said it is also important to note that y child’s Identity theft cases are more difficult to discover and as such it is likely that the ratio of reported cases involving children’s identity is in fact smaller than it should be.
To protect your child’s identity the same rules that apply for the protection of your own identity, apply for him.
- Make it a point to check his credit report periodically.
- Check his earning records as well.
- Protect his social security number as best as you can and if you receive suspicious mail such as request to file taxes or credit card offers and such, don’t dismiss them, follow them up and ensure it’s not due to someone else using your child’s identity.
Medical Identity Theft
Medical Identity theft is an especially insidious type of theft. Medical Identity theft is such defined when a third person uses your identity for prescription drugs and/or health related goods and services. This can include making fraudulent insurance claims or actually seek treatment under your name.
The FTC estimates that 3% of identity theft is used for medical purposes which translate to about 266,000 cases.
Why is medical identity theft so insidious? The obvious reason is because it costs money. Medical care can be expensive and as such the victim might be presented with expensive bills for treatments that they never had or even get into legal trouble for anything the perpetrator might be guilty of, such as drug abuse and possibly even child mistreatment if these are discovered during a hospital visit and later reported to the police.
However it doesn’t end there. There is also a physical danger to medical identity theft. If the identity thief goes in for treatment / surgery using your identity, as far as the medical institution personnel are concerned it is you receiving that treatment. This ultimately means that whatever the identity thief does will go on your history which can have life threatening consequences. Imagine a situation where an identity thief has an appendectomy and then you go to a hospital with such pains. There is a real risk that if a doctor reads your history before talking to you he might exclude such cause which could have some very dire consequences.
Protecting your medical identity involves more or less the same procedure as protecting your general identity.
- Never share your social security number unless really necessary.
- Monitor your summer of benefits from your insurance company for anything you might not have done yourself.
- Check your healthcare records on a regular bases
- Protect your insurance cards and health/insurance reports like you would any other confidential information.
- Shred any papers you’re going to throw away that have personal identification information on them