Identity theft is a type of identity breach that criminals can use to open new accounts, make purchases, and commit other crimes. The impact of identity theft can be devastating, but there are a few steps you can take to protect yourself. In this post, we'll discuss what identity theft is and how you can prevent it from happening.
What Is Identity Theft?
Identity theft is when someone acquires your personal information fraudulently with the intent to commit fraud or other crimes. This information can include:
- Payment card information
- Banking details
- Social Security number (SSN)
- Driver’s license
- Passport information
Identity thieves can obtain your identity through physical and digital methods, such as stealing your wallet or purse, digging through your trash for important documents, ATM skimming, hacking your personal accounts, accessing sensitive data obtained through a data breach, or stealing information through phishing attacks.
Identity fraud is mostly carried out through cyber attacks such as:
Malware is a type of malicious software that is designed to damage or disable computer systems on various operating systems, such as Windows, Apple, Android, and Linux. It can be used to steal important files, destroy data, or take control of a victim's system. Malware is usually spread through email attachments, websites, or malicious links on network attached storage (NAS).
Setting up automatic backups with preset settings for the backup process may save your files from malicious software. Nevertheless, if you think your computer has been infected with malware, there are a few things you can do to remove it. You can use anti-malware programs to scan and remove the malware from your hard disks (offsite external storage) and cloud storage services (on-site storage), or you can try to remove it manually.
Learn more about malware here.
A phishing attack is a type of social engineering attack that uses fraudulent emails or other communications to trick victims into exposing sensitive information. They can also be used to install malware on a victim's computer or mobile device to gain access to sensitive data.
Phishing scams are the leading cause of data leaks and breaches, and they are becoming increasingly common over the years. If you receive a suspicious email from an unrecognized source, do not click on any links or open any attachments.
Learn more about phishing here.
Ransomware is a type of malware that encrypts a victim's files and demands a ransom be paid to decrypt them. Ransomware attacks have become increasingly common in recent years, as cybercriminals have discovered that it is a highly effective way to make money by limiting access to storage devices and programs. While ransomware can be a serious problem for businesses and individuals, there are steps that you can take to protect yourself from these attacks.
The most effective way to avoid and overcome ransomware attacks is by utilizing data backup services such as cloud backup, which will keep backup files safe and ready to be restored. When you backup data, copies of your data are kept on a safe storage solution in case your local backup is compromised.
Learn more about ransomware here.
Types of Identity Theft
In most cases, identity theft occurs with the aim of financial gain. Here are the most five common types of identity theft:
1. Financial Identity Theft
Financial identity theft is a type of ID theft that involves the unauthorized use of your personal financial information. This can include stealing:
- Credit card numbers
- Bank account information
- Social Security number
Financial identity theft can lead to unauthorized withdrawals from your bank accounts, decreases in credit score, and the opening of new accounts in your name. IRS (internal revenue service) and tax identity theft scams often use your name to file a tax return in order to claim the tax refund.
If you think you may have been a victim of financial identity theft, contact your financial institution immediately and report any unauthorized activity. You should also file a report with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and law enforcement. Remember to monitor your free credit report using major credit bureaus like Equifax, Experian, or TransUnion to ensure that no further unauthorized activity takes place.
2. Criminal Identity Theft
Criminal identity theft occurs when someone uses your personal information to commit a crime. Victims of criminal identity theft often get arrested for a crime they did not commit, which can result in them not being able to get a job or getting denied credit or loans from lenders. Warning signs that you may be a victim of criminal identity theft include:
- Court-ordered summons
- Arrest warrants
- Negative background checks
The best way to avoid criminal identity theft is to always safeguard your ID, credit card information, passports, or anything that can be used to identify you. Any lost forms of ID should be reported to respective organizations and officials immediately.
3. Medical Identity Theft
Medical identity theft is a type of identity theft that occurs when someone uses your personal data to fraudulently obtain medical care, services, or goods. This can include:
- Medical or health insurance fraud
- Stealing prescriptions for drugs
- Gaining access to medical devices
Medical identity theft can have a major impact on your life, as it can lead to false information being entered into your medical records. This can cause problems with your health care and make it difficult to get the care you need.
If you think you may be a victim of medical identity theft, you should contact your health care provider and inform them of the situation. They can help you correct any inaccurate information in your records. You should also file a report with the FTC and the Office of Inspector General.
4. Synthetic Identity Theft
Synthetic identity theft is a type of fraud that involves creating an entirely new false identity using a combination of real and fake information. This can be done by using a real name and Social Security number, but by adding a fake date of birth, address, and email address. The most common targets are children and seniors who don’t often use their SSNs.
Synthetic identity theft can also be done by using entirely fake information. This type of fraud is becoming more and more common, as it can be difficult for companies to detect. Synthetic identity theft can be used for a variety of purposes, such as opening new accounts, taking out loans, and even filing for bankruptcy.
5. Child Identity Theft
Child identity theft is when criminals use a child’s identity to commit fraud. It’s much easier for criminals to use the identities of children because they often have no credit history or existing financial accounts. In many cases, child identity theft is committed by a family member or relative who has easy access to personal information like birthdate and birthplace.
A good way to prevent child identity theft is to check if the child has any existing credit reports or open credit card accounts. If any are found, you should report the fraudulent activity immediately to law enforcement. Contact credit bureaus next to place a freeze on the associated SSN and related accounts.
How Can I Protect Myself From Identity Theft?
So what can you do to protect yourself from identity theft? There are a few simple steps you can take to help keep your personal information safe and prevent data loss. Here are a few tips:
- Backup all your important documents and files - This includes your Social Security number, birth date, and bank account numbers. There are plenty of online backup solutions, including Google Drive, iCloud, and iDrive, but you could always use external drives as an offline backup method if you have no internet coverage.
- Be careful about who you give your personal information to - Only give it to people and businesses you trust. Any emails or text messages that ask for personal information should be viewed with suspicion and reported immediately.
- Protect important data with security software - This will help keep your information safe whether you're online or offline. Always keep the anti-virus software updated and running to secure all incoming and outgoing files.
- Don’t use public Wi-Fi networks - Public, unsecured networks are an easy way for criminals to loop into your computer to steal sensitive information. If you work in a public setting such as a coffee shop or library, use a VPN (virtual private network) to keep your data safe.
- Check your credit report and credit card statements regularly - Regular checks will help you catch any signs of identity theft early enough to stop it. You can also set up fraud alerts and identity theft protection services with your bank, credit card issuers, and other credit monitoring services to notify you of any suspicious activity.
- Have a recovery plan in place - In the event of identity theft, you want to make sure you know what to do next to prevent the identity thief from continuing to use your identity.
How Can I Tell If My Identity Has Been Stolen?
Getting your identity stolen typically leaves behind a paper trail. If any of these signs show up, be on high alert and notify the respective officials immediately.
You're Alerted to a Credit Card Charge You Didn't Make
If you get an alert from your credit card company about a charge you didn't make, chances are that some sensitive types of data have been stolen from you. This is just one of the many ways hackers can get your personal information and start using it for their gain.
Hackers are always finding new ways to access people's personal information. They may use malware to track your online activity or they may simply buy your information from someone who has access to it.
There's a New Account You Didn't Open
If you find a new account open under your name, chances are your identity has been stolen. For example, if you see strange activity on your credit or debit card, it might be a sign that your information has been compromised. You might also get strange calls or messages from people you don't know, or find that your social media accounts have been taken over by someone else.
Your Information Was Part of a Data Breach
There are a lot of signs that your information has been part of a data breach. Some of these signs are obvious, like if you get an email from a company saying that your information is part of a data breach on your online or offline storage space. But some signs are more subtle, like if you start getting a lot of spam emails all of a sudden or you no longer have access to your Microsoft or social accounts.
Learn more about data breaches here.
Mail Is Addressed to Your Home but With Another Person's Name
You know you are hacked if you suddenly receive mail addressed to your home but with another person's name. This is a common sign that your personal information has been compromised and that someone is trying to use your identity to commit fraud. If you see this sign, be sure to change your passwords immediately and take steps to secure your personal information.