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3 more types of identity theft
Credit trouble and financial pain aren't the only symptoms of ID theft. Thieves can exploit the lives of others in many ways.
Protecting your identity

The many facets of identity theft

Anyone falsely claiming to be another person when arrested, fined or otherwise apprehended for breaking the law, is committing criminal ID theft. With as little information as the victim's name and birth date, perpetrators can get out of an arrest and throw an innocent person's life into a tailspin.

The many facets of identity theft
Criminal ID theft
What is it?
How to prevent
How to recognize
How to recover
The repercussions of criminal ID theft vary. In some cases it may never be discovered by the injured party; other times, victims can be fined or arrested for the transgressions of the fraudster. They can even be denied employment if a potential employer runs a background check and finds a list of crimes under their name.

"When I talk to individuals who have had this happen or know someone else who's had it happen, they describe it as living in a nightmare. You know who you are; you know you didn't do what happened in your name," says Rob Douglas, editor of InsideIDTheft.info.

Like other forms of fraud, criminal ID theft can be difficult to prevent.

But, taking some proactive steps to guard your identifying information could help. Follow commonsense precautions that you would employ to prevent financial identity theft, including regularly pulling your credit reports to scan for any incorrect information.

Anything amiss on your credit report can signal an identity theft incident.

Further, check your driver's license record at the local DMV occasionally and carefully review your earnings record from the Social Security Administration. Statements are sent out every year to eligible citizens, but they can also be requested.

"Obviously you should be doing the common-sense stuff, but the serious question is whether it will prevent criminal ID theft. There is almost no study on it," says Rob Douglas, editor of InsideIDTheft.info. "But there will be some crossover -- the person who has stolen your ID may use it for several different reasons."

"If you are doing everything you should be doing, like checking your credit report to look out for financial ID theft, then it's more likely you will be alert to it. Otherwise you just may never know," he says.

One entirely unambiguous way to find out that you've become a victim of criminal ID theft is when the police show up at your door with a warrant for your arrest.

"On the criminal justice side -- unless it's traffic tickets or very minor criminal infractions and they get a notice in the mail -- it may be a knock at the door by a warrant squad," says Rob Douglas, editor of InsideIDTheft.info.

"Or victims will get pulled over on a traffic violation and the next thing they know they're being handcuffed and hauled away for an outstanding warrant," he says.

Like medical ID theft, until something goes awry, there is almost no way to find out if you're a victim, but you may be able to glean some clues.

Checking your driver's license record can reveal fraudulent activity, for instance, if a criminal has gotten a license in your name or incurred traffic violations. Similarly, your credit report and your Social Security statement can confirm that your identity in general has been exposed to fraud.

Unraveling the problems caused by criminal ID theft can be frustrating.

"Try convincing the police you're not actually the person that committed the offense, says Rob Douglas, editor of InsideIDTheft.info.

"There are so many examples out there of situations where it should have been obvious to the police that they had the wrong person -- maybe based on skin color, hair color, height -- any number of a number of objective criteria," he says. "These are the kinds of things, when you're talking criminal justice-type identity theft, that create real nightmares for people."

Victims need to be organized when fighting to get their good names back. Unlike the financial services industry, the criminal justice system has no built-in procedures for dealing with identity theft.

"We have yet to successfully deal with the issue of when someone has misappropriated the ID for the purposes of criminal violations," says Douglas. "That community has not come to terms with the problem."

The Identity Theft Resource Center recommends working with law enforcement and the court system to establish your identity and clear your name. Their factsheet on criminal identity theft details some of the necessary steps for proving yourself and getting your name removed as a criminal from court records.

-- Posted: May 27, 2008
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