Is Identity Theft what you think it is?

Identity theft is the least understood crime by the majority of people, even including those that have been a victim of it. 

Your identity is the very essence of who you are, therefore the most important possession you have.  Without it, you are no one.  The very instruments we use to identify who we are can be dangerously used against us.  Our thoughtlessness towards what we carry with us daily should be a concern.  Some of these include: Driver’s License or Provincial ID Card, Social Insurance Card, Birth Certificate, Passport, Health or medical Card, Marriage Certificate, Membership Cards, Loyalty Cards, Military or School ID, Firearm Certificate, Employee Security Cards, Club memberships and even your Library Card… to name a few.

Identity give-a-way is on the rise.  Identity theft or fraud can only be understood if you first define identity.  What is your perception of it?  I have concluded, after years of experience, that even though they say otherwise, most people in this country are so laid back and unconcerned about the power of their identity that they freely give it to anyone who asks for it. Even worse, it is misconceived that identity loss refers to a thief fraudulently using your credit or debit card.

Opposite to what you may think, 66% of identity theft or abuse involves activity other than financial or internet.  The crime itself is not always for a criminal purpose.  As in my book “In Your Good Name”, the act of taking on someone else’s identity for their own purpose is called Ghosting, and taking on the name of a deceased person is called tombstoning.  Crimes of this nature often use the identities of seniors and kids.  

There are countless stories of people being arrested in their own area or worse when traveling out of country, by something having been done in their name.  A young lady who cannot go to an airport today without being red flagged because someone using her identification was caught transporting drugs.  A man travelling to the USA arrested at the border for manslaughter because someone using his identity was “identified” but not captured.  A young teen arrested while applying for her driver’s License because there was a history of criminal activity using her name.  These are real stories.

Ask yourself this question, “If you had to prove you are not you…could you?”  What if there is a warrant for your arrest and all of your identification is used as evidence against you?  What if your Driver’s license number is used to rent a vehicle used for criminal activity?  Are you responsible? Recently in Alberta, a man stole a health card, went to the hospital and subsequently died.  Ask yourself “Who died?”  If this was your card that was stolen, can you imagine trying to convince bureaucracy that you are not deceased?

Know those who you give your information to and what it is for.  If you have doubt, trust your instinct and do not provide it.  Never use your Social Insurance number for identification.  Just because someone asked for it is not justification to provide it.  Always ask why.

Think before handing over your life to a stranger.  Always ask who, what, where, when and why.     Shh! Your identity is showing… Keep it to yourself!