The call center at the Identity Theft Resource Center is a busy place.
Our small group of Victim Advisors handle calls from all over the United States, dealing with everything from email account takeovers to medical identity theft and everything in between.
That being said, the same misconceptions come up again and again. We thought it would be a great idea to dispel some of these myths surrounding the issue of identity theft and replace them with the facts.
Fact: Yes they do. We cannot tell you how many times we hear people say “No one would want my identity because my credit is terrible.” Your credit score matters only slightly to an identity thief. Not only can thieves obtain funds via non-traditional methods, such as payday loans, but financial identity theft is only one type of the crime. Thieves can use your identity to get medical services, avoid criminal charges and receive government benefits. None of those scenarios has anything to do with your credit score.
Myth: There are ways to completely avoid identity theft.
Fact: There is no way to completely remove the risk of identity theft. Even with identity theft monitoring services it is still possible to become a victim of identity theft. Services that monitor your identity and credit can help you pinpoint activity quickly and alleviate some of the hassle of mitigating your case. However, they cannot prevent you from ever becoming a victim of identity theft.
Myth: If I know who the identity thief is, they will be arrested.
Fact: Even if you have the name, address and picture of the person who stole your identity, the chances of them being arrested and charged are low. Often times victims have a hard time even obtaining a police report for their identity theft cases. Identity theft is so rampant that law enforcement has a hard time working through all of the case. Unless the case has certain factors, such as mortgage fraud or large sums of money, law enforcement may not get too involved. While this may seem frustrating to victims, we stress that individuals can clear their cases up with little more than a copy of their police report. It is more important for a victim to focus on rectifying their situation, than catching the thief.
Myth: You can tell a person’s age by their Social Security number.
Truth: Parents whose children have become victims of identity theft will often ask how it is possible that someone used a child’s personal information to obtain goods or services that a child would not need or want. The truth is that if an identity thief goes in and buys a car using a 5 year old’s Social Security number, most likely the car dealership and the financing institution will not know that the social belongs to a child. When a credit report is run, especially if it is blank like a child’s credit report would be, the age and sex of the information’s true holder will not be evident. This is why thieves find children such desirable targets when stealing identities. Not only will the crime not be discovered until the child needs their credit, but the record will be blank and ready for new credit.
After looking at these myths and their factual counterparts, the situation revolving around identity theft appears to be bleak. Though there seems as though protecting yourself is nearly impossible, that is not true. Being someone other than the “lowest hanging fruit” can do wonders for avoiding victimization.
Knowledge is power and using these now known facts can help you protect yourself.