The Many Different Types of Identity Theft

Man using ATM

Image Source/Getty Images

When we hear of identity theft, or people stealing personal information to commit fraud, we may think of thieves stealing credit and bank information, otherwise known as financial identity theft. But there are several other types of identity theft beyond that. And protecting yourself if you are a victim of identity theft starts by knowing what type of it you're dealing with.

Medical Identity Theft

This happens when thieves use your name, Social Security number, insurance information, and other personal information to access medical services and information. They may obtain medical care, medication, access to your medical records, or health insurance coverage using this information. It's can also be known as insurance identity theft if related specifically to insurance coverage.

To help prevent or catch medical identity theft, carefully review your insurance benefits summaries and medical records, and keep your insurance and Social Security cards in a secure place.

Criminal Identity Theft

This can happen when someone presents themselves to be another person when they're arrested or cited for a crime. Usually, criminals who do this have a photo ID, Social Security number, and other information associated with the victim. If done successfully, the thief will avoid the criminal activity being listed on their own record, and instead it will go on the victim's record. 

This type of identity theft is pretty rare, but it does happen.

Tax Identity Theft

People can steal and use your Social Security number or your business' Employer Identification Number to get a tax refund. Often people don't realize this happens until they get a notice from the Internal Revenue Service or your state. Or, you may be unable to file your tax return because your Social Security number has already been used. 

You must file your taxes and pay anything owed even if you're a victim of tax identity theft.

Social Security Identity Theft

Your Social Security number may be the most valuable piece of personal information that a person can steal. Thieves can use it along with your other personal information to open various types of accounts and even receive services.

Some of this type of theft involves scammers calling people and pretending to be from the Social Security Administration. They'll say that your Social Security number is about to be suspended, or something similar, and ask you to verify it—hence, stealing it. 

Never give your Social Security number to anyone who contacts you out of the blue—even if they say they're from a government office.

Synthetic Identity Theft

In this case, the thief will take parts of information from many victims and combine them to create a new identity. The new identity isn’t any specific person, but all the victims can be affected when it’s used. 

Child Identity Theft

Child identity theft has become a serious concern in recent times. Children are ideal targets because people don't usually monitor their credit reports—since there's often no other reason to do so. Because of this, thieves might get away with a lot of damage before they're caught.

They may use a child's information to open accounts or file taxes, and it's possible that nobody will find out until a kid starts working, wants to purchase a car, or gets car insurance.

Sadly, in these cases, it is often a friend or family member who commits identity theft against children. This means the parents will usually not want to press charges, and the identity thief counts on that.