Identity theft refers to a crime in which a malicious individual wrongfully obtains and uses the personally identifiable information of another individual for personal gain.
The four major types include financial, medical, criminal and child identity theft. Although criminal identity theft is much rarer, it is one of the most emotionally damaging for victims – who may even end up losing their freedom in the process.
Criminal identity theft happens when an individual who is cited or arrested for a crime uses the personal information of other individuals to present himself in front of law enforcement. The perp uses a stolen name, date of birth and Social Security number during the investigation or arrest, usually giving the victim a criminal record.
The criminals often use a fake ID or other counterfeit forms of identification mentioning the victims’ information. This later ends up in a criminal database. In some scenarios, the perp may even appear in court and plead guilty to a misdemeanor or traffic infraction, thus creating the criminal records in the victims’ name.
Criminal identity theft is a growing threat for both law-abiding citizens as well as individuals with a criminal past who may make attractive targets for identity thieves. While criminal identity theft can take many forms, victims may not find out about it until the police come knocking or during a background check for a loan or job application.
Tips to protect against criminal identity theft:
- Take care of your personally identifiable information. Never give out your Social Security number, bank information, date of birth, or copies of your ID or driver’s license via unsolicited emails or messages or forms
- Stick to good cybersecurity practices, such as password hygiene and 2FA authentication, when setting up online accounts, and install a security solution to fend off malicious attacks and phishing
- Act fast if you believe your identity is compromised or if you think someone may be misusing your information. Contact the local police and file a report
- Contact police if a potential employer or bank denies a job or loan application due to a background check that revealed a criminal record you were not aware of
- Maintain records and make sure to keep copies and documentation to help you clear your name
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