Identity theft is when someone steals your personal information and uses it without your permission. There are several forms of identity theft, and each one can affect you in a different way.
There’s no way to inoculate yourself against identity theft completely. But if you’re diligent in learning how your information can be at risk and what fraudsters can do with it, you’ll be better equipped to protect your data and act quickly if someone does manage to steal it.
It is the crime of obtaining the personal or financial information of another person for the sole purpose of assuming that person’s name or identity to make transactions or purchases
It is also the unauthorized use of someone’s personal data or documents (usually social security card or credit cards) to obtain merchandise, services or credit.
1. Driver’s License Identity Theft
Driver’s license theft is the most common form of ID theft. The person who stole your ID may try to buy items under your name and get other forms of identification with their picture which can lead to criminal identity theft.
2. Mail Identity Theft
Mail Identity theft is one of the oldest ways for a criminal to steal your personal information. If your mail has been stolen a thief may be able to retrieve your financial account information to make purchases or open up new credit cards. They could also change your address on your statements or bills.
3. Debit Card Fraud or Credit Card Fraud
credit card fraud or debit card fraud is when someone uses your credit card or credit account to make a purchase you didn’t authorize. Fraudsters can also steal your credit card account number, PIN and security code to make unauthorized transactions, without needing your physical credit card.
4. Online Shopping Fraud
Online shopping fraud or ecommerce fraud occurs when a criminal leverages stolen payment information or fraudulently acquired bank or credit card accounts to attempt retail transactions without the account owner’s knowledge. The items purchased are then shipped to an address other than victim’s where the stolen items are sold or shipped overseas.
5. Social Security Number Identity Theft
Social security number identity theft can usually happen from data breaches or Tax ID theft. If you start to notice mail that lists the wrong last four digits of your SSN or the wrong name or address this may be a sign of fraud or ID theft. Make sure to check your credit report, Experian does list all other Social Security numbers reported as belonging to you because they may be a sign of fraud, or hopefully just the result of a typo from someone wrongly entering information on a loan or credit application.
6. Account Takeover Identity Theft
Account takeover fraud occurs when criminals gain or have access to your bank or credit card accounts—usually because of a data breach, phishing scam, or malware attack—and start making charges to those accounts.
9. Tax Identity Theft
Tax identity theft happens when fraudsters have your name and Social Security number and file a tax return in your name before you file yours. In some cases, the fraudsters use fake income and withholding numbers so they can get a bigger refund check sent to their address.
10. Biometric ID Theft
Biometric ID theft is when the physical or behavioral characteristics used to verify a person’s identity through a device are stolen. These characteristics are measurable, such as a fingerprint or voice recognition “Hey, Alexa”, that can be copied and recorded. These attributes are unique to individuals but in the wrong hands can be used to manipulate devices or people.
12. Synthetic Identity Theft
Synthetic ID theft is the fastest-growing type of ID fraud, representing 80-to-85% of all current identity fraud, according to the FTC. Synthetic ID theft merges real and fake personal consumer data to create a new identity using information such as Social Security numbers, names, addresses, and birthdays that can be bought on the dark web.
13. New Account Takeover
New account takeover or new account identity theft is when a criminal creates a new account under your name using personal information they received from stealing your data, either directly or via a data breach. It is a combination of both synthetic identity theft and account takeover theft.
New account ID theft often has higher rewards for fraudsters, because in many cases the victim being impersonated will have an established relationship with the credit card lender and that may mean access to higher credit limits. Pay attention to messages that lenders send you to confirm activity on new and existing accounts.
14. Medical Identity Theft
Medical ID theft can be harder to discover than other types of ID theft because it happens when someone steals another person’s identity to obtain medical services. As a result, no one may notice for awhile or until the victim receives a statement for care that they never received. More than 27% of data breaches in 2017 were medical or healthcare related. By reading your claims received in the mail, reviewing in detail any statement of benefits, or going online to check existing claims you can monitor all medical activity done in your name.
15. Loan Stacking Fraud
Loan stacking fraud occurs when multiple loans are taken out by borrowers who slide through today’s automated approval process. Consumers love the ease of access to these online loans and so do fraudsters. Loopholes in online lending marketplaces can result in multiple lenders making loans to the same (fake) borrowers, often within a short period, without the full picture of their rising obligations and declining ability to pay. Loan stacking can affect consumers if these loans are taken out in their name.
How to Protect Yourself from Identity Theft
To protect yourself against identity theft you should consider the following
Mail Theft — Identity thieves often thrive on plucking vital information from your mailbox. Promptly remove your mail. If you’ll be gone for a few days, contact the post office and request a vacation hold on your mail. When you order new checks, don’t have them mailed to your home (unless you have a secure mailbox with a lock).
Undoubtedly, you receive voluminous pre-screened offers of credit and insurance. It’s sometimes best to opt out of those offers (call 1-888-567-8688 or go to www.OptOutPreScreen.com).
It’s a great practice to purchase a shredder, so you can dispense of receipts, credit applications, credit offers, insurance forms, physician statements, checks, bank statements, expired charge cards and other documents that could be seized by identity thieves.
Protect Yourself — Don’t carry your Social Security card in a wallet or purse and don’t give it out in a public place. Don’t put all of your identifying information in one place. Protect your passwords. Make them complex — even though it’s a hassle — because that makes them difficult to steal.
“Trust me … you can’t trust anyone,’’ Weisman said. “Sarah Palin’s email was hacked when someone answered her security question about where did she meet her husband. The answer was readily available on Wikipedia.
“Although most of us are not celebrities, there is much information about us that can be easily obtained to answer security questions. A common security question is your mother’s maiden name. Consider using a nonsensical answer to the question. For instance, you can put your mother’s maiden name as ‘Firetruck.’ No identity thief will ever be able to find it and it is silly enough to be easily remembered.’’
The website www.scamicide.com has further tips on how to choose and remember complex passwords.
Another simple password strategy? Use a space. Security researchers obtained a list of 550-million passwords and found that only 0.03% of them used a space.
“A space works just like any other character in a password, but using one or more spaces increases the password’s strength,’’ said Drew Kellerman, founder of Phase 2 Wealth Advisors in Gig Harbor, Wash.
The longer the password, the more secure. It doesn’t need to be an unrecognizable mass of letters, numbers and symbols. It simply needs to be long. Example: If your favorite movie is the original “Star Wars,’’ your password could be … May the force be with you. For another account, you could use May the force be with you @1. For still another account, you could use Mtfbwy@1.
Check Your Credit Report — By federal law, the three credit reporting bureaus must each supply you one credit report a year. Get one every four months and inspect them carefully, looking for suspicious activity.
Unsolicited Requests — NEVER respond to unsolicited inquiries that ask for personal data such as name, birthdate and Social Security number.
Update Virus Software — Make sure your computers have the latest software available to identify and deal with computer-driven viruses.
Security Freeze/Fraud Alert — To combat concerns about your information being too accessible, you can put a security freeze or fraud alert on your credit report. A security freeze locks out everyone from accessing your credit report (it might come with a $10 fee for each of the three credit reporting agencies, meaning $30 for every time you “freeze’’ or “unfreeze’’ your account). Important: A security freeze does not lock out people who already have legitimate access to it, such as companies you do business with. It does not affect your credit score. A fraud alert, meanwhile, lasts 90 days and tells potential creditors to contact you before granting credit in your name.
Shred — When you discard receipts, copies of credit applications, insurance forms, physician statements, bank checks and statements and expired charge cards, it’s best to tear or shred them. That can thwart identity thieves who are seeking your personal information.
Beware of Impersonators — The sad truth is impostors are everywhere, whether it’s over the telephone or online. They might sound convincing as they represent themselves as representatives of your bank or credit-card company. Don’t believe it! Don’t give out your personal information over the phone or internet unless YOU have initiated the contact and you ABSOLUTELY know the person or company.
Beware of Public Wi-Fi — Portable workplaces are popular, but there could be dangers in setting up your “office’’ in the local coffee shop. With public Wi-Fi, your data could be intercepted by outsiders. So, when you’re at the cafe, airport, library or hotel, don’t conduct bank transactions, make online purchases or enter any sensitive information.
Old Technology Disposal — Be careful when dispensing of your old computers and mobile devices. You should protect your personal information by making the computer hard drives unreadable. When backing up the data and transferring the files, you can “sanitize’’ the computer by magnetically cleaning the disk or using software to wipe the disk clean. Remember to remove the memory or subscriber identity module (SIM) card from mobile devices.
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