When we think of ID theft, what usually comes to mind is some computer hacker gaining access to your credit card or bank account information online and then spending all your money. That's certainly something to look out for, but there are several other ways that creative crooks are stealing identities, and the more you know, the better you can protect yourself.
Medical Identity Theft: This is when someone, usually a medical insider, uses your information for the purpose of acquiring medical goods and services, like drugs or treatment, covered by your insurance. A social security number isn't necessary in this type of fraud -- you should protect your insurance number like you protect your social security information. You can also protect yourself by requesting a copy of your medical file each time you visit the doctor. Though it won't prevent the ID theft, it will make the recovery process easier for you if you have these records.
Synthetic Identity Theft: Synthetic ID theft is when a fraudster creates a false identity using a real or realistic social security number. Businesses more than individuals tend to be the victims of this type of crime, but if someone is using your SSN to open accounts and rack up debt, that could potentially get into your credit history; though in most cases, the criminal is using your number but not your address or even name, so it should not affect your files. You may never realize if part of your identity is stolen this way, as the "person" whose credit is being ruined by this fraud doesn't actually exist. However, businesses can protect themselves from fraudulent customers by better authenticating someone's identity before extending credit.
Criminal Identity Theft: When someone is busted for breaking the law and they provide false identity information, this is known as criminal identity theft. If they use your identity, you may find yourself arrested, fined, or denied employment because of something fishy in a background check. Following the same steps you would to protect your financial identity is helpful in preventing criminal identity theft. In addition to regularly checking your credit history, you can review your driving record for traffic violations you didn't commit.
Unfortunately, most types of identity theft are difficult to prevent, and many victims don't realize anything is wrong until a criminal has already unraveled much of their lives. Closely guarding your identity information and regularly checking your personal records for signs of unusual activity will help protect you from the nightmarish effects of identity theft. Though you may never be able to prevent it entirely, remaining vigilant will help you detect ID theft early, before it ruins your life.