Protecting Yourself From 5 Types of Identity Theft

Protecting Yourself From Medical Identity Theft

HIPAA, or the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, was introduced in 1996 to help to protect our medical identities and medical records when our info is shared with health plans, health care providers, and other organizations. HIPAA states that individuals must be notified if there are any breaches of their personal medical information.

Most states require that entities disclose any data breach. Since a health care facility often handles and stores the same sensitive information that businesses do, all corporations are subject to these regulations. However, taking the steps to protect yourself from medical identity theft is not as easy as protecting yourself from other types of identity theft, such as financial. Medical ID cards, insurance cards, and statements that come in the mail make it easy to steal your medical identity. Here are some things you can do to prevent it:

  • Install a mailbox that locks to prevent people from stealing your mail.
  • Do not carry any medical or insurance cards in your wallet unless it is necessary, such as when you have a doctor’s appointment.
  • Protect all of your medical information documents. Shred these documents before you throw them away, and then lock up any files with medical information in your office or home.
  • Look into getting identity theft protection. If a thief cannot steal your financial identity, they will likely not steal your medical identity. Why? Because they usually need both to do the most damage.

Protecting Yourself From Criminal Identity Theft

There is no guarantee that you can totally prevent your identity from being stolen by a criminal.

The only thing you can do is to make the best effort you can to protect your personal information.

If you think that someone might have used your personal information to commit a crime, the first thing you should do is to conduct a background check on yourself. You can do this through an online database, which is available in most states, or you can hire a private investigator, but that’s expensive and not neccesary. Every state also has a criminal offender record search of some type, which is administered by the government. 

There are also paid search websites that will alert you to any possible criminal activity associated with your identity.

Protecting Yourself From Identity Cloning

Generally, the victims of identity cloning may or may not be adversely affected by this, and in some cases, might never know that they have had their identity cloned. If they do find out, it usually only happens when a bill collector contacts them or incorrect information appears on their tax returns or credit reports. In the worst-case scenario, these people might even be arrested for a crime that they did not commit.

The best way to protect yourself from identity cloning is to look at the advice above for medical and criminal identity theft.

Remember, in order to clone your identity, a criminal must have access to your personal identifying information. So, if you are aware of the health of your identity, and you take the time to make plans and put precautions into place, it will be more difficult for a thief to access the information they can use to pose as you.

Protecting Yourself From Commercial or Business Identity Theft

Commercial, or business identity theft, often comes from within an actual organization or corporation. Company employees often have easy access to documents that include the Social Security numbers of employees and business tax ID numbers. It is extremely important that this information remains secure.

An organization must put a system of checks and balances into place to ensure that every employee who has access to company accounts cannot compromise this information.

To do this, ensure that there are at least two employees, preferably those in upper management, who will make sure that the books are balanced, that there is no cash missing, and that all financial statements are checked for inaccuracies. In some instances, it might be necessary to contract the services of forensic accountants or other examiners, who will pay close attention to a business’s books, and then work to put in a monitoring system.

Identity theft protection with a credit monitoring service can be helpful, as it will inform officers or owners of any potential illicit activities. This is because a Social Security number is sometimes required to open an account under a business’s name.

Business credit is handled just a bit different than personal credit. There are three main credit reporting agencies that businesses use. Dun and Bradstreet handles credit reporting for about 90 percent of the market, but Experian and Equifax also play a role.

There are also a number of other services that offer information, mostly financial information, on a business. Reuters is one of these. Almost all of them are designed to help businesses manage their risk when doing business with another company.

Businesses also obtain credit in a different way than a person does. A business can contact one of these bureaus, and then ask them to how to provide the information necessary to establish a new credit report. As with personal credit, however, most of these files become established because a creditor will contact the bureaus to ask for a report. If there is not a file, the bureau will usually start one. Dun and Bradstreet are the most proactive about this, and they have a process in place for starting these new files. One criticism of Dun and Bradstreet, however, has been that too much of the information on these reports are self-reported, which means it can manipulated.

Generally, people believe that there are a number of identifiers that are required for business credit, but all that is required is an address and name. You might also hear about the “Duns Number,” which is used by Dun and Bradstreet as a file identifier. This number helps to make it easy to obtain the report, but it is not required. Unlike private credit reports, where the access is governed by the FCRA, anyone can access a business credit report for any reason and at any time. The three main bureaus maintain websites that allow anyone can purchase a credit report for a business.

EIN’s can also be helpful when searching for business information, but it is not usually the way that someone accesses the credit file. Instead, business reports are normally done by searching the name of the business, and then narrowing down the selection from several ‘similars.’ With Dun and Bradstreet, you can access a credit file directly if you know the Duns number, which makes it easy as there might be a number of organizations with the same basic name, especially when a company has several divisions or branches. Dun and Bradstreet, and in some cases, Experian, provides a way to view the relationships from one company to another, such as in the case of subsidiaries. This does not, however, exist in consumer reports.

If a person has a sole proprietorship, they must use the identity of the owner, along with their Social Security number, as their Tax ID number. There are hundreds of thousands of sole proprietorships in the US that only use the name of the owner as the identifying characteristic. This is one of the reasons the owner has an unlimited liability for the business. There is no real difference between the owner and the business. Some LLC’s out there also use the Social Security number of the owner. Otherwise, businesses are legal entities, all of which are independent, and must establish an EIN.

A business must also protect its credit, and they do so by reviewing reports and confirming that the reports are extremely accurate. Unlike consumer reports, there is not a law that requires bureaus to provide free copies of the report, as these are more expensive than consumer credit reports. Any business can go to the Dun and Bradstreet website and enroll in a service that give them access to their business report and also monitors changes. It costs about $350 each year for this service.

Protecting Yourself From Identity Theft on Social Networks

Finally, it is important to understand how to protect yourself from identity theft when using social networks. Facebook is the most popular network for social networking, and thus, it is a major target for cyber criminals. Because of this, Facebook has taken on the accountability for its users’ security.

When you are using a social networking site, including Facebook, it is important to take the following precautions:

  • Make sure that you create a strong password that is a minimum of eight characters. It should also contain a combination of lower and upper case letters, symbols, and numbers. Do not use the same password for all accounts.
  • Limit the information that you post about yourself. Do not provide any information such as your employer’s address, your home address, your date of birth, or any detailed family information.
  • Do not accept any friend requests from those you do not know in real life.
  • Check your privacy settings frequently when using social media. Make sure that any personal information is only available to real-life friends, and do not allow that information to be shared with any other party.
  • Stay aware of the information you share online, and make sure you realize that everything you post is visible to the public and hackable, even if you use the strongest available security settings.

Most of the people out there lack the resources, time, and knowledge to protect their identity. On top of this, not all forms of identity theft and fraud are preventable, which is why it is best to prepare yourself ahead of time for these situations.