July 14, 2008
MIB – that’s an ancronym for ‘Medical Information Bureau’. Why is it important?
One of the ways you can have your identity stolen is through your health insurance. Medical identity theft is becoming more common. Someone who has your information and needs medical care can pretend to be you. Not only are you on the hook for the cost of the care, you also get that person’s health problems listed in your MIB file. That can be very serious and potentially dangerous to your health.
MIB is a corporation that maintains a database for insurers to exchange confidential information about your health history. It’s used by insurance companies for underwriting a new policy for life, health, long-term car, critical illness or disability insurance. You can be charged an extra premium for your policy or even declined depending on your history.
MIB records also contain any history of hazardous occupation or hobbies (like flying) and motor vehicle reports that show poor driving history and DUI’s.
This bureau is the twin to the credit bureaus. It’s a very important and personal part of your life. Information in the MIB files stays on record for 7 years.
Most of us have no idea what’s in our MIB or even that it exists. You can get a free MIB report once a year just like you can get a free credit report once a year.
How to get your free MIB report:
- US – 1-866-692-6901 (TTY: 1-866-346-3642 for hearing impaired).
- Canada – 416-597-0590 (this is not a toll-free number).
- Web page explaining this is at: http://www.mib.com/html/request_your_record.html
It will take about 15 days to get your report in the mail. Look it over carefully. As with your credit report, you can dispute any errors on your medical information bureau report.
June 18, 2008
A natural disaster like floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, wild fires, etc. are difficult enough when your home is destroyed or damaged. You try to salvage as many of your possessions from the rubble as you can. One of your possessions you need to remember to salvage is your identity. You’re probably not even thinking about that while worrying where you’re going to be sleeping tonight.
Your home is a storage place for pieces of your identity like:
- Extra Credit Cards
- Banking statements
- Medical information
You’re already experiencing emotional trauma from the loss and possibly physical trauma from injuries. The last thing you need to discover is that one top of everything else, someone stole your identity.
Here are some quick tips on things you can do to prevent identity theft after a disaster:
- Lost Checkbook – call your bank and put a ‘stop payment’ on missing checks. Or even change your bank account number.
- Missing Credit Cards – call the 800 number for your credit card company to let them know your card is lost. Normally, you’d find it on the back of your card, but you can also find it online at their website. Directory assistance can get it for you, too.
- Lost Passport – contact the United States Department of State at 1-800-877-8339.
- Lost Social Security Card – call the Social Security Administration at 1-877-876-2455 and request a copy of your Social Security Statement.
- Beware of Scammers – you may be approached by people offering ‘Diaster Relief’ or home repair. Don’t give anyone your social security number, credit card number or PIN without thoroughly checking them out. If they pressure you with a time deadline, they’re probably scammers trying to take advantage of your vulnerability.
- Opt-out of pre-approved credit offers – if you haven’t done this yet, now is a good time to do it. It’s a simple free telephone call that takes only minutes – 1-888-567-8688 (888-5-OPT-OUT.)
- Fraud Alert – place a fraud alert now. It’s free and will give you protection from thieves opening new lines of credit in your name. It won’t interfere with you trying to get credit yourself to rebuild and recover.
- Get Credit Reports – after things have settled down, order your free credit reports from annualcreditreport.com. Check for any incorrect information.
Keeping your identity safe after a natural disaster will make the recovery a bit easier.
November 11, 2007
We’re familiar with traditional identity theft. Someone steals your personal information and opens lines of credit in your name. There’s a new spin on that now that’s harder to detect – Synthetic Identity Theft.
Synthetic identity theft happens when a thief steals bits and pieces of info from different people and creates a whole new identity. This usually happens when your social security number is used with a different name and date of birth. This is much more difficult to detect because of all the mismatched pieces of information. It can go on for years before you become aware of it.
Using your social security number, thief can open new bank accounts, credit cards and get a job. Because the only piece of info that matches you is the SSN, these accounts and actions don’t usually show up on your credit report. That’s why it can go on for years without you finding out. All the different pieces of information confuse and pollute the system.
Where is gets serious is when your social security number gets into databases designed to flag criminals. If a background check is ever done, your number shows up and you’re accused of the crime. Just because it has a different name attached to the number won’t automatically prove your innocence. You’ll probably be accused of using an alias. You could easily be turned down for a job even if you’re able to prove it wasn’t you. An employer may just not want to take the time to listen to you use the TODDI defense – "The Other Dude Did It".
If someone created an identity using your social security number and was accused of murder, your name would pop up in that database search. Ouch…. If taxes haven’t been paid on any income for your number, you could be hounded by the IRS for back taxes and fees. Double-ouch…
Here’s a couple of things to look for to see if you’ve been victimized. Don’t blow them off. Start digging to find out what’s going on.
- Look carefully at your yearly Social Security statement. Make sure there’s not more income reported than you actually earned.
- You get lots of mail in someone else’s name.
November 5, 2007
For anyone covered by Medicare, you know your Medicare ID number is actually your social security number.
This creates a problem with keeping that number secure when you carry your card in your wallet. All your life, you’ve probably carried your health insurance card with you, so naturally, you carry your Medicare card. Isn’t that what Mom and Dad used to do?
A better solution is to make a copy of both sides of your Medicare card. Get some scissors and cut out the last four digits of your social security number. Don’t use a black marker – actually cut them out.
You won’t be denied emergency care from hospitals or doctors because your last four numbers are missing.
Put your card in a safe place like a fireproof box in your house. You’ll only need to carry it if you have an appointment with a new doctor. Now you’ll have one less critical piece of information safely tucked away from identity thieves.
August 7, 2007
Many times people will never realize they are an identity theft victim until they apply for credit. Like to buy a car or get a mortgage. A lot of new credit approvals will lower your score because of the higher amount of money you can borrow. This can happen because you personally have been applying or because a thief has used your identity for his own personal gain. Anytime your credit score is low, you’ll pay a higher interest rate.
Sometimes it even affects your premiums for your car insurance. Many auto insurers run a credit report on your before giving you a quote. Seems if you have a lower credit score, they consider you a higher risk driver. They’ll charge you more than a person with a score of 700 or above.
But that scenario above is for the lucky ones.
Here’s the unlucky scene….
The first time you get an inkling that your identity has been stolen is a call from a collections agency. The bills are way overdue now and you’re out of any grace period. At this point, your credit has been dinged pretty hard and your score is down there with the bottom feeders.
You may also get something in the mail about an apartment you never rented, a job you never had or a house you never bought. This is serious stuff – don’t ignore it. Immediately call the number on the letter to see what it’s about. And right after that, get a credit report from Experian, Equifax and Transunion. Yes, from all three.
You can keep a check on your credit to avoid any big surprises by getting a credit report every month. The credit reporting agencies will sell you a service that reports to you any changes or new accounts under your social security number. They will monitor them for you. Be aware that not all three agencies have the same information at the same time. If you have Equifax monitoring but they don’t pick up on a change, you won’t know. I have personally found discrepancies in my credit report numerous times. Don’t assume monitoring one agency is full protection.
Preventing identity theft is so much easier than fixing it.
August 7, 2007
Kids and students are especially vulnerable to identity thieves because their personal and financial activities often aren’t closely monitored. They need identity theft protection as much as adults if not more. Each member of your family is unique and should have their identity kept safe. Safeguards your kids’ identities to be sure of a positive, fresh start when they leave home and start out on their own.
Many schools use social security numbers as student id numbers. Universities and colleges do too. Some are changing this format, but all the records from years past are available to thieves. A child’s identity can be stolen every bit as easily as your own.
Just imagine how devasting it would be when you apply for a student loan only to find out your child’s credit is already ruined. Could you eventually get it straighened out? Probably. Could you get it fixed in time to get the loan for the upcoming school year? Probably not.
When you request a credit report for your child, the report would ideally have no information. That’s because your child has no credit history. If it comes back with a listing of accounts, well, you’re in trouble.
Children’s identities aren’t as ideal as an adults to exploit because there’s no credit history to take advantage of. But just think of how many times you’ve gone shopping and been offered "a 10% discount on today’s purchases by opening an account now". These instant approval credit cards can really cause trouble.
Protect your childrens’ identities to ensure they can start their adult lives with an untarnished name and a clean financial slate.