6 Terrifying Facts About Identity Theft

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Identity Theft Can Take Many Different Forms

Identity theft is broken down into many different types of crime. Some of these finer distinctions vary depending on who you're talking to, and many of them involve splitting semantic hairs. But among those subtypes are many schemes and scams that most people haven't considered. Most people think of what's known as "financial identity theft," which is using your information for personal financial gain. But that's far from the only type of identity theft.

One of the big ones is "medical identity theft." First identified by Pam Dixon, who went on to found the World Privacy Forum, medical ID theft involves using a person's name, and sometimes even their insurance information, to receive "free" (for them) health care. This is particularly insidious, because not only does it hold the potential to wreck your finances and insurance rates, it also can result in your medical records being contaminated by the erroneous medical records of the person who stole your information. A bipartisan Congressional initiative is underway to look into prevention, but this remains an understudied and incredibly harmful crime.

 

Other types of identity theft include synthetic identity theft, which involves using your social security number with a fabricated name and birthdate. A person can live with your social security number for years without ever affecting you or you ever knowing about it, but it can cause significant damage to your credit. 

Child identity theft involves using a minor's identity for personal gain. The really horrible part about this is that it usually doesn't occur to a parent to check their six-year-old kid's credit score (why should it?) and the kid certainly won't know to do it themselves, so this can go undetected for years.  A Carnegie Mellon University study found that 10.2% of children studied had someone else using their Social Security number, racking up fraudulent debts of as much as $725,000. This can go on for years, becoming incredibly difficult to fix and ruining someone's financial life before it even starts. 

Finally, there's also criminal identity theft, where someone poses as you if arrested for a crime. This can be executed with enough personal information, and/or with assistance from your driver's license if they look enough like you.

Did you know...

  • Paper money is actually pretty heavy. One pound would be worth $454 in $1 bills. That means $1 million comprised solely of $100 bills would weigh over 20 pounds. Those suitcases filled with money in movies must be hefty to lug around all that paper money. If you plan on robbing a bank, you better bulk up!
  • It's an understatement to say that the odds when playing the lottery are not in your favor. You are statistically three times more likely to die in a car accident while driving 10 miles to buy a lottery ticket than you are to actually win. Even more astounding, over half the tickets in an average lottery draw are bought by only 5% of the participants.
  • When it comes to counterfeiters, North Korea are pros. They have gotten so good at counterfeiting American currency (particularly the $50 and $100 bills) they their fakes are known as "superdollars." They require specialized Federal Reserve equipment to be identified. There are $45 million worth of North Korean fakes…that we know of.
  • The most expensive hotel room in the world (the Royal Penthouse Suite at the Hotel President Wilson in Geneva, Switzerland) costs $83,200 a night. That's $58 per minute for a stay! Good thing it has 12 bedrooms, 12 baths, a wraparound terrace, a Steinway piano, and an assigned private staff (including a chef)!
  • Do you know what the lifespan of U.S. currency is? The higher the denomination, the longer it stays in circulation. Both $50 and $100 bills last 9 years. The $20 sticks around for 4 years. $10 bills circulate for 3 years. The $5 bill has a 2-year lifespan, and the $1 bill only lasts around 18 months before being retired. Coins last around 30 years.