There’s a pervasive myth that having bad credit or even no credit means an identity thief won’t waste his time on you. It’s a common question from victims who reach out to the Identity Theft Resource Center: “I never thought someone would go after my identity with credit like mine. What can they possibly want with it?”
To be honest, your Social Security number doesn’t come with an assigned credit score so thieves don’t know whether it’s good, bad or non-existent.
To understand why you’re just as likely—if not more likely—to be a victim of identity theft with what the industry considers “bad” credit, you have to first understand what a thief plans to do with your information. If you’re only aware of racking up credit card debt as a form of identity theft, you might be very surprised by the different ways your identity is still very valuable to a criminal.
MYTH: My credit score is terrible, good luck trying to get a credit card in my name!
FACT: Taking out a credit card is just one of the ways an identity thief can use your information. There are several different types of identity theft, including medical, criminal, and government. Your information might not let a thief buy a car, but he could still get medical care, provide your name and data if he’s arrested for a crime, apply for disability or unemployment benefits, or even file a fraudulent tax return in your name.
MYTH: I have no credit at all, so an identity thief can’t exactly buy anything in my name.
FACT: If you have no credit, then the time is perfect for a thief to open a small account in your name, perhaps even with another victim’s identity as your co-signer. Having no credit means you’re not likely to get any alerts from a bank about credit card bills, and you might not be checking your credit report for any signs of the thief’s activity.
MYTH: I actually don’t have “bad” credit, but I’m maxed out in debt right now. You’d have to be crazy to steal my identity!
FACT: Again, this belief comes from only thinking of purchasing power when you think of credit or identifying information. Your identity can be sold to another criminal for a variety of purposes, or it can be used as the gateway to reaching other victims. With the right pieces of your information (like your email address and password, for example), a criminal can target your friends, co-workers, social media contacts, and family members, many of whom might have better credit than you do.
MYTH: I couldn’t even pass the credit check to rent an apartment. I’m not a target.
FACT: Real estate applications, rental property lease agreements, and mortgages are certainly some of the highest priced housing items an identity thief can go for, but there are other housing-related needs like utilities that aren’t necessarily denied based on your credit application, but would just require a security deposit in case you failed to pay. Since you wouldn’t even know about this new utility account, you won’t be paying and the criminal gets a few months’ worth of free service until it’s shut off. You, however, are left with another black mark on your credit report.
MYTH: I don’t need to keep track of my credit report.
FACT: If you don’t know your credit score and are not keeping up with your credit report routinely, you’re the ideal victim to an identity thief. The thief can use your data and enjoy lots of perks in your name while you’re unaware that anything is going on. If you’re not checking your account statements carefully and monitoring your credit reports throughout the year, how will you know if anyone did steal your identity?
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