Most ID theft is not financial

Imagine applying for a passport and you’re told “you have already done so.” Or when your child turns 16 and goes for a first-ever part-time job, the teen is rejected because of a “negative employment background check.”

Unfortunately these are real-life examples that show that ID-theft criminals are looking for your personal information to get jobs, Social Security benefits, passports, driver’s licenses, utilities and other “non-financial” assets than your credit or bank accounts. It’s a surprise to most consumers, but not to 76 percent of ID-theft victims.

According to the Federal Trade Commission’s 2014 annual report, identity theft once again was No. 1 on the list of complaints for the 14th consecutive year. The report provides surprising and critical knowledge you need to protect yourself — including that most ID theft is non-financial.

Topping the list of Arizona consumer complaints at 24 percent is using a stolen ID to gain tax refunds, Medicare coverage or theft of Social Security benefits. While you may not lose money, you will very likely spend many hours unwinding the problem and your needed benefits or refunds may be delayed, which can create more headaches.

Next is employment-related fraud, which in Arizona is nearly three times the national average at 15 percent of Arizona victims’ complaints. This form of ID theft is when criminals fraudulently use your name and Social Security number to gain employment. If no income taxes are paid by the employment ID-theft criminal, at some point the IRS may contact you to collect.

Rounding out the top five ID-theft consumer complaints in Arizona from the FTC report and topics I will focus on in upcoming columns are credit-card fraud (14 percent), phone/utilities fraud (11 percent) and bank fraud (8 percent).

The FTC’s report should be a giant wake-up call for consumers and businesses to protect themselves from non-financial ID theft. Knowledge is power, if you use it.

Consider these prevention tactics to lessen the potential problems of non-financial ID theft:

• Pay more attention to your non-financial statements like health care and retirement, just as you do with your bank-account statements.

• Avoid providing your SSN except when applying for a job, completing a credit application and/or for tax reasons. Unless you are financing your medical or dental care, you should not have to give your Social Security number. Make it your policy to first say “no” to providing your SSN.

• File your state and federal income tax returns as early as possible to reduce the window of opportunity for ID-theft criminals to file under your SSN before you do.

Mark’s most important

If you’re just looking at credit and bank accounts as your ID-theft weak spots, your vision is about 76 percent off the mark.

Mark Pribish is vice president and ID-theft practice leader at Merchants Information Solutions Inc., a national ID-theft and background-screening provider based in Phoenix. Contact him at markpribish@merchantsinfo.com.

Article source: http://www.azcentral.com/story/money/business/consumer/2014/04/17/theft-financial/7843917/

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