Criminal Identity Theft: What Is It and How Can It Be Prevented

Criminal identity theft is a bit different than what most people expect. Identity theft generally involves stealing people’s identities for financial gain. It often involves crimes like opening and using a credit account in the victim’s name. However, “criminal” identity theft has a different goal – in this case, the thief intends to use your name for criminal activities. For example, if the thief commits a crime and gets caught by the police, they might produce a fake ID with your name on it. Unfortunately, victims rarely realize they have suffered from criminal identity theft. Often, they do not learn about it until a background screening.

Criminal identity theft occurs when thieves provide personally identifiable information or identification using the victim’s name to law enforcement. For example, when a thief gets caught for a traffic violation, they may use the victim’s name. In this case, they would sign the citation and agree to appear in court but fail to follow through. By not appearing, the victim of identity theft gets the blame. On the rare occurrence when the thief goes to court, they might plead guilty to a misdemeanor or traffic violation, but the victim’s records will update with the criminal record, not the thief’s.

Steps To Take if You Are a Victim of Identity Theft

If you become a victim of identity theft, fixing the situation can prove more challenging than other types of identity theft. Here are some steps you can take to correct the problem:

  • Contact an attorney if the police have contacted you or if there is a warrant out for your arrest.
  • File a report with the police to verify your identity. You will want your Social Security card, birth certificate, and other official documents to prove your identity.
  • Notify your financial institutions about your stolen identity, and check your credit report for any new accounts opened in your name.

Preventing Criminal Identity Theft

Unfortunately, you cannot eliminate the risk of identity theft. However, you can take steps to lower the risk of a stolen identity. Here are a few tips:

  • Always review your credit card and bank statements.
  • Create strong passwords and change them frequently.
  • Ensure your devices stay up-to-date with security patches, and that you have antivirus software and a firewall.
  • Beware of phishing scams.
  • Check your credit report.
  • Run a self-background check for crimes committed in your name.

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