We are more than a string of nine numbers.
We are complex creatures who possess the capacity to feel love and fear and hope millions of times over. And, though there are billions of us spread across this green and blue globe, we are all unique.
Yes, our identities are composed of far more than our Social Security numbers. And when identity thieves steal our data, they’re not just jeopardizing our bank account. They’re endangering our freedom, our health, our safety, and our future.
Identity thieves can have you arrested for crimes they commit
Imagine it: You’re driving in your car and get pulled over for a broken tail light. When the officer comes back, instead of being issued a citation or warning, you’re arrested for a crime you didn’t commit. It’s only after a night in jail do officials determine your fingerprints don’t match with the criminal’s — if they even have the crook’s prints on file.
This nightmare is a reality for many victims of identity theft because identity thieves can provide a victim’s personal details to police when they get busted.
While this is also used for more serious crimes, even minor offenses like parking tickets can lead to significant problems for a victim. If too much time passes before minor citations are addressed, a warrant will be issued without the victim’s knowledge.
When identity thieves steal your information, it can jeopardize your health
The number of cases involving medical identity fraud has skyrocketed in recent years. Thieves can use your personal information to seek medical treatment, undergo costly surgeries, and even fill their prescriptions, leaving you to foot the bill.
Further complicating matters, the thief’s medical treatment, diagnosis, and history can become intertwined with your electronic health records. Ann Patterson, senior vice president of the Medical Identity Fraud Alliance (MIFA), tells Consumer Reports that “about 20 percent of victims told us that they got the wrong diagnosis or treatment, or that their care was delayed because there was confusion about what was true in their records due to the identity theft.”
Not even your shelter is safe from identity thieves
Identity thieves know no bounds. We saw this firsthand over the summer when Hurricane Harvey battered Houston and displaced over 50,000 residents. Many people had to flee their homes for shelter and turn to FEMA for assistance. But, for some, the tragedy was far from over.
There were widespread reports of victims being targeted by identity thieves. Many were denied FEMA funds because an identity thief already filed claims on their behalf using the victim’s information. In some instances, the fraudulent filings were related to a natural disaster that occurred years ago – the identity theft quietly went undetected.
If left undetected, identity theft can imperil your entire future
Buying a home, financing a car, getting the health care you desperately need — these are just a few of the ways your life can be turned upside down from identity theft. Your entire future can be placed in jeopardy, especially if the crime goes undetected for an extended period. On average, it can take over 200 hours and six months to repair damages. That equates to a lot of missed work and out-of-pocket costs many Americans don’t have the luxury of losing. These expenses are why it’s imperative to be proactive when it comes to protecting your identity.
Identity theft has altered our reality
We are living in a new reality, one where protecting ourselves and our families has changed dramatically.
In our great-grandfather’s day, protection meant owning a fence and a shotgun. This has evolved significantly over the years. From depending on private citizens to protect us to the rise of peacekeeping units like the police, it seemed as though we were becoming a much safer society.
But, in today’s changing landscape, our intangible valuables are more at risk than ever from those who seek to cause us harm. In fact, strangers can now enter our homes without us ever knowing, making use of technology that can steal our personal data, credit card numbers, and yes, our own identities, in just a few seconds.
What worked in the past to protect us will not work today.
Start protecting your identity now
While no one is immune to identity theft, there are steps you can take to minimize the risks associated with it. The first step is to secure a copy of your credit report. You’ll want to review it immediately and verify its accuracy. If everything is correct, be sure to save your report so you can compare any changes that might occur in the future.
But, to truly limit your risks, traditional credit monitoring services are not enough. You need more. You need a program designed to send proactive alerts about any questionable activity — from new addresses to the opening of new accounts — as they occur.
You need a service that has your back if your identity is compromised, like by providing you with 24/7 assistance when it comes to reclaiming your identity.
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