There are countless online scams that people fall victim to every day, identity theft being one of them. According to ProofPoint, about 33% of Americans have been the victim of identity theft. But, what is identity theft and the different types of it to watch out for? Below, we discuss this and how to prevent identity theft online.
What Is Identity Theft?
Identity theft is when a person purposely assumes the identity of another for personal gain. Identity thieves usually look to do any of the following:
- Steal another person’s personal finances
- Write fraudulent checks
- Get loans, insurance and credit cards
- Intercept cash social security and disability checks
- Change your billing address
- Use your information if they are arrested
For someone to steal your identity, they will need your personal identifiable information (PII) which includes your full name, date of birth, social security number, email address, drivers license number, credit card information, insurance information, medical records, and more.
Different Types Of Identity Theft
- Social Security Number Identity Theft
A person’s social security number is the key to their identity. When an identity thief obtains a SSN, they can apply for credit cards, loans, steal disability benefits, file a fake tax refund, and more. Usually, a social security number is obtained through data breaches.
- Account Takeover Identity Theft
Credit card and bank accounts are more vulnerable to being taken over than you might think. By simply obtaining someone’s personal information through the use of malware, phishing, and more, a criminal can access someone’s financial accounts and make charges to them.
- Child Identity Theft
Children are a prime target for ID theft and other online scams. They have no credit history, loans, or financial accounts. With this being the case, parents don’t think to check their child’s credit history since they shouldn’t have one. Parents won’t find out their child’s identity has been stolen until it’s too late.
- Tax Identity Theft
This type of theft typically occurs during tax season. Criminals will use someone else’s name and social security number to file for a tax refund. However, they must do so before their victim files their taxes. They may also falsify income and withholding numbers to receive a larger refund check amount.
- Criminal Identity Theft
In order to protect their own identity, criminals may use another person’s information when arrested by law enforcement. The criminal may want to avoid serving more time, especially if they have prior convictions. Any false criminal charges will show up when a background check is conducted on the identity theft victim.
- Medical Identity Theft
This sneaky form of identity theft happens when someone uses another person’s medical and health insurance information to obtain medical services. It’s often hard to catch right away since there isn’t much ID verification at the time of treatment. Usually, it isn’t uncovered until the victim receives a medical bill.
- Employment Identity Theft
It’s obvious that criminals have a hard time getting hired for legitimate jobs. To get around this, they may impersonate another person using their name and social security number. Then, when a business reports the employment to the IRS, it will be under the victims name.
- Synthetic Identity Theft
This form of identity theft occurs when criminals use both real and fake information to assume a fake identity. Then, they use the fake identity to make purchases, and get loans and credit cards. It’s often hard to detect as not all of the information used is real.
How To Protect Yourself From Becoming A Victim
- Use Strong Passwords On All Of Your Accounts
The simplest way to secure any online accounts, financial or otherwise, is to make sure to use strong passwords. This means that you should use passwords that contain 16+ random upper and lowercase letters, symbols, and numbers. And make sure not to reuse the same password for various accounts. Criminals can often get access to a person’s account by guessing their password based on information they find about them online.
- Be Careful Giving Out Your Personal Information
Your personal information is your property. Only provide your sensitive information to people you know or are legitimate businesses. If someone you don’t know contacts you asking for your information via text, call, or email, don’t tell them.
- Don’t Click On Suspicious Links
Criminals often send links to their victims in order to: 1) Get them to fill out a form on a fake website, and 2) Infect their device with malware, control it, and view their information. If you receive any suspicious links via text or email, don’t click on it.
- Use Fraud Alerts On Your Accounts
To stay active in knowing your bank or credit card account is safe, enable fraud alerts. If there is any suspicious activity on your accounts, you will be notified immediately.
- Check Your Credit History Regularly
If someone is assuming your identity, any repercussions will likely be displayed in your credit history and report. By reviewing it regularly, you will be able to see if any irregular activities have occurred and act immediately.
- Credit Freeze Your Credit Report
With most financial services, you have the option to freeze (not allow) anyone to access your credit report. Identity thieves often need to view a victim’s credit report in order to effectively impersonate them.
That is all there is to know about identity theft and how to protect yourself from it. Identity theft is a serious online threat that no internet user should overlook or dismiss.
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