Centra Blog

Increasing your Financial IQ

Forms of Identity Theft

man pondering with a cell phone in hadn

Identity thieves steal a person’s identifying information and use it for any of several different purposes. Many of them overlap.


Financial identity theft is what most people think of when they hear of identity theft. It involves stealing another person’s credit card number, Social Security number, bank account number, or some other information that allows that person to access the victim’s money. The thief can also buy homes, rent apartments, get utility services, sign up for credit cards, and many other actions.


Medical identity theft has the most potential of all the forms of ID theft to cause physical harm. It happens when someone uses your name or your insurance information to obtain medical services or to change your medical record. Beyond just the monetary costs to you and your insurance company, the changes to your record can result in incorrect and life-threatening diagnoses or treatments.


This form of ID theft is sometimes not detected until you get stopped for a minor criminal infraction, such as speeding. The officer pulls up your information, and you discover that there is an arrest warrant or some other surprise there. In other cases, you might get a letter stating that a fine you did not incur is overdue. If the thief is the one who gets caught, they will typically have a fake ID with the victim’s information but their picture.

Driver’s License

Stealing a driver’s license is as simple as stealing a wallet or purse. Once the thief has it, they can sell it to someone who looks like you. Then that impostor can open up other forms of identification in your name.

Social Security

Your Social Security number is the most valuable piece of information that a thief can steal, because it’s required for opening so many types of accounts and forms of ID. This form of theft can also be perpetrated by people who want you to pay their taxes for them. They steal your Social Security number and put it onto a W4, then underpay their taxes. The result: you get stuck with the tax burden and have to convince the IRS that you are not the thief.


Synthetic ID theft is a more recent innovation and is growing rapidly. It involves combining personal information (real or fake, or some of both) from several people to form a new, non-real person. All of the victims involved can be affected by it. In cases where the information is fake, victims may not see it on their credit reports. Because of the presence of so much fake information and non-real people, victim surveys do not capture the full scope of synthetic ID theft.


Children are also victims of ID theft. Why? Partly because they won’t be checking their credit reports for many years to come. In some cases, the ID thief is the child’s parent(s) or a relative.


With business ID theft, a person uses a business’s name to get credit or to bill the business’s clients for money. Sometimes, the thief is an insider with access to the company’s information.


If you believe someone is using your identity to make purchases, apply for loans, or commit fraud:

  • Visit www.identitytheft.gov/Steps for a detailed list of what to do right away.
  • If any of your Centra accounts are involved, contact us or visit a branch immediately.
  • File a Police Report and complete an ID Theft Complaint Form to initiate the investigation.
  • We can add an alert to your account to let Centra Team Members know that you are a victim of identity theft and to use precaution.
  • You can also add a password to be required for account changes and transactions.

Visit our Fraud Awareness page to learn more.