The use of Social Security numbers as an identification number has facilitated the engineering of ways to use a person’s identity for criminal gain. Initially, identity theft may manifest itself through affected credit or financial records, often severely affecting the victim through foreclosed mortgages, collection accounts, bankruptcy filings, tenancy evictions, fraudulent utility accounts, student or auto loans, denied bank accounts, fraudulent credit card accounts and/or the inability to write personal checks. The complexity increases when you consider affected employment histories, disability claims, driving records, outstanding debts with tax-revenue agencies and terminated social services.
If that is not enough, add warrants for arrest, arrest records, misdemeanor and felony counts. Criminal records, when incorrect, are difficult to correct. In addition, include mixed medical records, emergency service bills for services not received and mixed prescription records that lead to denial of valid prescription drugs. Individually, each type of identity theft is daunting. Multiple cases make life a horror show for the victim. Corrective actions may take, in some cases, years to correct.
I see the pain inflicted by identity theft every day. Yes, I’m afraid of the Big Bad Wolf.
Gabby Beltran is a victim adviser and public information officer for the California-based Identity Theft Resource Center.