The Types of Identity Theft and How to Prevent It From Happening To You

Every day, you utilize your personal data to conduct a variety of tasks, such as logging into bank and credit card accounts, email, social media sites, and other password-protected services. Although this data is typically encrypted, it is not totally safe. In fact, your personal information, and hence your identity, can be stolen and utilized for financial benefit by criminals.

This blog has been created to educate you on what identity theft is and how you can best protect yourself against it.

What exactly is identity theft? 

When someone uses your personal information to impersonate you or steal from you, this is referred to as identity theft. When apprehended, identity thieves may deplete your bank and investment accounts, open new credit lines, gain utility service, steal your tax refund, use your insurance information to obtain medical treatment or provide police with your name and address.

Identity theft can be committed in a variety of methods, such as hacking, banking and social media account takeovers, credit card fraud, phishing, ransomware attacks, tech support fraud, medical ID fraud, and others.

Because of the frequency of data breaches, your information may have already been compromised. In this new environment, it’s prudent to take precautions to keep criminal actors from stealing your personal information and harming your financial situation.

Types of identity theft and the warning signs

  1. Credit identity theft:

When a criminal uses your personal information, such as your birthdate and Social Security number, to apply for a new credit line, this is referred to as credit identity theft.

Warning signs: You may notice an unexpected adjustment in your credit scores or an account on your credit reports that you do not recognise. Debt collection notices or a court judgement may be issued against you. The best way to avoid it is to put your credit on hold.

  1. Child identity theft

Criminals take a child’s identity and use it to apply for credit in his or her name. It is frequently not found until the victim applies for student loans or other forms of credit.

Criminals steal a child’s identity and apply for credit in that child’s name. Often it is not discovered until the victim applies for college loans or other credit.

Warning signs: Investigate whether your youngster receives credit card offers or phone calls regarding late payments or debt collectors. You can prevent this by freezing your child’s credit.

  1. Synthetic identity theft

Synthetic identity theft occurs when criminals utilise a patchwork of identification details to create a synthetic consumer, often using a Social Security number that is not yet in the credit bureaus’ database and combining it with a name and address. They then seek loans and credit cards, often for years while their credit limits increase. Then there’s a “bust out,” when all of the cards are exhausted and the criminals vanish.

Warning signs: If you attempt to freeze your child’s credit and learn that their Social Security number is already in use. It is frequently revealed only when the youngster applies for student loans. It is not always prevented since thieves may invent and use a Social Security number before it is assigned.

  1. Taxpayer identity theft

Fraudsters will sometimes exploit your Social Security number to make a tax return and take your tax refund or credit.

Warning signs: You may be unable to e-file because someone else has previously filed under that Social Security number, you may receive an IRS notice or letter referencing some behaviour you were unaware of, or IRS records may indicate you worked for an employer you did not work for. Filing early will help you beat fraudsters to filing in your name, and some states offer six-digit identity protection PINs with additional security (after rigorous verification).

  1. Medical identity theft

Medical identity theft occurs when you use someone else’s identity to obtain health care services. It’s especially problematic since it can lead to medical histories being mixed up, giving doctors and hospitals incorrect information when making health-care decisions.

Warning signs: Claims or payments on your insurance explanation of benefits that you do not recognise can indicate that someone is taking advantage of your health care benefits. If you’ve been a victim, you’ll need to notify your insurance company as well as your healthcare team to ensure that the information in your healthcare records is truly yours.

  1. Account takeover

Criminals utilize personal information to get access to your financial accounts and then alter passwords or addresses to prevent you from accessing them.

Warning signs: An email, letter, or text from your financial institution referring to an action (such as a password or email change) or transaction that you do not recognise.

  1. Criminal identity theft

Criminal identity theft happens when a person provides law enforcement with another person’s name and address during an arrest or investigation. This is frequently accomplished through the use of forged identity, such as a forged driver’s licence.

Warning signs: You may be detained by a police officer for reasons unknown to you, or you may be denied work or a promotion due to information discovered in a background check.

10 methods to avoid identity theft

  1. Freeze your credit

When you freeze your credit with all three main credit agencies — Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion — access to your data is restricted, and new credit files cannot be opened. It is free to freeze and unfreeze your credit when you want to open an account, and it gives the best security against an identity thief utilising your information to open a new account.

  1. Be alert to phishing and spoofing

Scammers can make phone calls that appear to be from government or business entities, and emails that appear to be authentic may be attempts to steal your information. Rather than replying to a phone or email, initiate a callback or return email from a known entity, such as the official website. Also, be aware of attachments, as many of them include viruses.

  1. Review credit card and bank statements regularly

Credit card fraud is the most prevalent kind of identity theft. As a result, checking your credit card and bank accounts frequently for transactions you don’t recognise is one of the best strategies to prevent ID theft. It’s possible that a thief is making these little sums to test whether you’ll notice. The thief will probably try to make more expensive purchases if neither you nor your financial institutions flag them. Understand when you typically receive statements and check to see if any are late.

  1. Use strong passwords and add an authentication step

To create and save complicated, one-of-a-kind passwords for your accounts, use a password manager. Passwords should not be reused. Using an authenticator app can help you lower your risk. Don’t rely on security questions to keep your accounts secure; your mother’s maiden name and the name of your pet aren’t difficult to find. Think carefully about what you publish on social media to avoid giving away sensitive information or hints about how you answer security questions.

  1. Create different passwords for your accounts

According to the FTC, a secure password is one that is long, difficult, and unique. Create unique passwords for each account, which is facilitated by a solid password manager. Avoid utilising personal information such as your Social Security number’s last four digits, your birthdate, initials, or parts of your name.

  1. Install antivirus software

Hackers can’t get into your computer or mobile devices if you use antivirus software. According to the FTC, you may be a victim of malware, which includes viruses, spyware, and other potentially harmful software, if your computer:

Slowing, crashing, or displaying error messages

Inability to shutdown or restart

Delivers pop-ups or other unwelcome advertisements

Sends you to web pages that you did not seek for Displays new and unexpected toolbars

It modifies your default web browser.

It swiftly depletes its battery.

  1. Use alerts

When transactions are made on your accounts, many financial institutions will SMS or email you. Sign up to receive notifications on when and where your credit cards are used, as well as withdrawals and deposits to financial accounts.

  1. Wipe electronics before donating

When you remove files from computers or other electronic devices such as tablets, parts of those files remain and can be reconstructed with a data recovery programme until they are overwritten with fresh data. Overwriting software that removes hardware or transfers data from your old computer to a new one can do this.

  1. Keep your mobile devices safe.

Mobile devices can pose a significant risk. Only 48% of us frequently lock our mobile devices, according to the Javelin survey. On your technological gadgets, use passwords. For banking, use a banking app rather than a mobile browser.

  1. Keep an eye on financial and medical statements.

Examine financial statements. Make certain that you recognise each transaction. Know your due dates and contact to inquire if you have not received an expected bill. To avoid health care fraud, review “explanation of benefits” statements to ensure you recognise the services offered.

What to Do If You Are a Victim of Identity Theft

First, immediately notify your local police and request that a police report be issued regarding the incident. Local law enforcement must receive the complaint, produce a police report, provide a copy of the report to the victim, investigate the accusation and any other relevant violations, and coordinate investigations with other law enforcement authorities as needed. 

Maintain a copy of your police report for your creditors. It may be useful in your dealings with credit bureaus.

Keep all documentation and keep a record of any phone calls regarding the theft.

Check your credit report carefully and look for items that you do not recognize. Verify your name, address and other important details on the report.

After properly analyzing your credit report and reporting any errors, Inform your creditors, bank, utilities, and any other service providers that your identity has been stolen.

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