Connected: Identity theft not just one category anymore

How well do you understand identity theft? Until my recent discussion with Clint Kelley, I thought I had it down pretty well. That’s when Mr. Kelley made me realize that I understand credit/financial ID theft fairly well — but not the four other types of ID theft that he says make up 72 percent of the risk.

Mr. Kelley is a licensed practicing attorney and certified identity theft risk management specialist. He spends most of his time coaching other attorneys, businesses and organizations about identity theft and its liabilities, and giving tips about how to avoid it and deal with it when it happens.

Credit/financial ID theft accounts for 28 percent of the total and is characterized when a culprit uses your credit card for his own financial gain. Many people think the Internet is the main conduit; and while it is a contributor, Mr. Kelley warns that credit offers in your mailbox also contribute to the problem.

Online scams — phishing, pharming and hacking, for instance — that fool you into sharing your credit data with unsavory characters are indications that larger criminal organizations are involved. Mr. Kelley suggests that drug lords and terrorist organizations are high among the perpetrators of the online variety, often using sophisticated techniques. These scams often target existing credit cards.

But when somebody pulls a credit offer out of your mailbox and submits it with a different postal mailing address, you might not even know the credit card is being issued to you — so it’s harder to correct.

According to the Fair Credit Billing Act and Electronic Fund Transfer Act, you have to dispute a fraudulent credit card charge within 60 days of the first statement showing it. But if the credit card is issued to you at the ID thief’s address, you may never see the charge. So you’ll never have the chance to dispute it — until it goes unpaid and blemishes your credit record. Plus, you’ll be responsible for the payments, even though you didn’t make the purchases.

If you think the bank is responsible because they didn’t warn you, you’re wrong. The bank is not obligated to send you anything at your current address if the account is opened at somebody else’ address — even if it’s with your name. That’s why Mr. Kelley says credit monitoring is so critical — because it may be your only way to find out about new accounts or changes.

The other types of ID theft include driver’s license and Social Security ID theft, both of which are popular for illegal immigrants who need documentation to get jobs in the United States, as well as medical ID theft and character criminal ID theft (where a criminal poses as you to avoid the long-term blot on his personal record).

Mr. Kelley told me about people who are unable to get medical treatment after somebody else had posed as them to get their own treatment, using up valuable benefits.

Imagine a desperate person with a serious illness decides to pose as you to get expensive treatment for cancer or some other debilitating disease. If you then contract an expensive-to-treat illness, the funds might not be there for you.

So don’t just look at the Internet when protecting yourself from identity theft.

Shred your credit offers, keep track of your cards (including medical and driver’s license), and monitor your credit report.

Florida Shredding