How to Protect Your Identity

Identity Theft (IDT) isn't going to happen me. They can have my identity; nobody would want to be me. I don't have any money, so they can't get anything from me. These are only a few reasons people give in denial that Identity Theft can happen to them.

The fact is, your personal information has probably already been compromised. What most people also don't realize is that they have given their personal information out voluntarily. Credit cards, loans, cell phone contracts, schools, utility companies, insurance agencies are only a few of the areas where people have voluntarily provided all their personal identifiable information (PII) or non-public information (NPI) without thinking twice.

The general public is frequently misled by TV, radio, written news and articles and are led to believe Identity Theft is by in large primarily financial. In all actuality, Financial Identity Theft only accounts for approximately 26% of Identity Theft according to the FTC. There are actually 5 basic areas of Identity Theft Social Security, Drivers License, Character & Criminal, Medical and Financial. A sixth form of Identity Theft that is on the rise is Synthetic Identity Theft. To date there have been 340 million data records exposed from the U.S. alone related to security breaches (

To briefly describe the 5 forms of Identity Theft:

  • Social Security - Someone uses your social security number to apply for credit cards, loans, utilities; anywhere this number is used as a form of identification. Use of your SSN for employment and not paying the taxes, the IRS will come knocking on YOUR door.
  • Drivers License - Again, this can be used for identification. This has nothing to do with establishing credit or financial IDT.
  • Character & Criminal - Identity Theft thieves use your personal information for identification if caught committing a crime as an example. Guess what, this goes on YOUR record!
  • Medical - A fast growing area of Identity Theft where people steal your medical insurance information and have medical procedures performed. This can be devastating related to the criminal changing your medical record which could potentially kill you.
  • Financial - We've heard a lot about this area. This is where people use your credit card or bank accounts to make purchases which you end up paying for.

As you can see, financial IDT is the least of your worries. Unfortunately, IDT can literally destroy your life and put you out of business if, as a business owner, you lose your clients or customers personal information.

Here's the kicker you need to be aware of, according to FACTA (Fair and Accurate Credit Transaction Act), there is no statutory limitation if you lose someone's NPI. Even 10 years down the road you may be held liable, along with hefty fines filed against your company per piece of information lost. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has required businesses that collect and/or aggregate NPI place specific policies and make specific changes to the collection and storage process of NPI.

These policies are in accordance with the FACTA Disposal Rule and Red Flags Rule, Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and the Graham Leach Bliley Safeguard Rule. There is also a deadline of June 1, 2010 (previously extended from 11/1/08) to meet the legislative requirements. Unfortunately, a large majority of companies and businesses are unaware of this legislation.

With the steady increase of Identity Theft across the United States, which is still in its infancy, many Identity Theft protection plans are being advertised. One piece of advice READ what is actually covered. Just about every Identity Theft plan on the market will not protect a covered member from all 5 areas of Identity Theft. The vast majority of plans only cover Financial Identity Theft or possibly one other area. Some coverages barely protect the member at all. If you are paying for coverage, find out what is covered, what the plan covers in the event your identity is stolen and what your responsibilities are.

I have yet to find a plan that will pay or reimburse you for the actual financial loss. Many will pay postage, notary fees, and reapplication fees, along with some reimbursement for lost wages if your plan requires you to restore your identity; there may be no reimbursement for time lost if you are self-employed. Identity Theft plans are not created equal, make sure you know what you're paying for. Do not let anyone tell you that they can PREVENT identity theft, no one can.

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