Cybercrime grows proportionally with the increasing use of the internet. Different types of vicious tactics have become common, and internet users are advised to educate themselves about possible ways of protecting their online data.
Identity theft, as one of the most concerning cybercriminal activities, scares many people worldwide. It’s a severe crime that can hit anyone due to the increased information about us.
And, sometimes, even reputable parties cannot be trusted. Recent news discussed how USPS mail carriers allegedly stole credit cards as a part of an identity theft ring. Thus, you must be extra careful.
This article will dive deeper into identity theft to provide you with all the information you might need concerning this cybercriminal activity.
What is identity theft?
Identity theft is a form of criminal activity in which one’s identity, usually personal and financial data, is used without permission. In many cases, scammers use an SSN, driving license, date of birth, phone number, and various bank statements to impersonate someone whose details they have obtained and gain a financial advantage.
Typically, scammers use misappropriated information to drain monetary accounts, use health insurance, collect tax fillings, sell details to someone who will benefit from the information they collect. Additional people are becoming targets of identity stealing every year.
In most cases, your private information is disclosed in the event of a data breach. The hackers then use this data to access various databases and steal valuable data. Whether the hackers use the details they collect or sell them to somebody else, the crime of identity theft is complete.
In other cases, scammers deceive internet users by sending phishing emails or impersonating a legitimate bank, store, or other business. Then, they trick users into giving them personal information.
The cost of identity theft was $56 billion, only in 2020. It’s the highest amount recorded in history, which will most likely be toppled with 2021 stats.
Also, read Your Guide to Staying Safe Online
Additional identity theft types
Because identity theft is such a widely spread crime, it’s possible to differentiate between several kinds of this crime.
- Financial identity theft:
This identity theft is frequently connected to illegal activities across banks and other monetary institutions.
- Tax identity theft:
Offenders gather personal data to file a fraudulent tax filing and collect it before the natural person does.
- Employment identity theft:
Wrongdoers use private information to obtain a job. It’s widespread among criminals who already have a criminal record or a poor work history.
- Account takeover fraud:
Criminals gain access to an online account. Then, they make unauthorised transactions. Additionally, collected information to access other versions can be used against you. This Account takeover fraud is also known as personal data theft.
- Medical identity theft:
Culprit uses personal data to receive health care services or fill out insurance claims. With preys’ and criminals’ health records blending, doctors can provide inadequate treatments.
- Synthetic identity theft:
Offenders blend real and fake identicalness data to create a unique identity. It often involves using an SSN with a different name, address, or DOB.
- Child identity theft:
Criminals also search for child identities. They collect information from schools or medical institutions to apply for government benefits or a credit card.
- Outlawed identity theft:
Criminals provide somebody else’s input when questioned or arrested. It can direct to warrants and criminal histories in the wrong name.
Forewarning signs of identity theft
- Unauthorised transactions in bank or card records.
- Inaccurate information on credit card reports.
- There is a sudden drop in credit score when you pay bills on time and rarely use a credit card.
- Calls, emails, and letters from foreign debt collection agencies.
- Confirmations of unreceived tax returns.
- Tax documents from a foreign company or employer.
- Inaccurate health insurance listings regarding procedures or prescriptions.
How to stop identity theft
Averting identity theft may not be entirely possible since most people’s private and monetary information is stored and shared digitally. Once you share your information with a company or government entity, it’s their responsibility to keep it safe from cybercriminals.
Although there aren’t any guaranteed ways to discourage identity stealing, there are some actions you can take to minimise your risk or catch it early on:
- Secure your sensitive documents:
Keep your passport, birth certificate, and other valuable papers in secure places. Additionally, try not to keep digital copies of such documents in online storage. Accidents happen, or you might leave your account unattended, giving a malicious entity to steal the document.
- Don’t share sensitive details:
Don’t share confidential and sensitive information with others, primarily through social media platforms, text notes, or phone calls. When sharing such information is necessary, make sure the source is valid. Phishing messages are common ways for attackers to steal users’ information.
- Review credit statements and bills:
With regular bill and credit report reviews, you can spot inaccurate statements and take the necessary measures.
- Stay away from unsecured networks:
Exchanging sensitive data on unsecured networks is dangerous. Someone might be secretly monitoring your activities. Thus, it becomes possible to intercept or steal data in transit.
If you wish to stay safe on such networks, use a Virtual Private Network. It encrypts traffic and makes it possible to exchange communication without the fear of losing it. Therefore, connect to a VPN server before you join a public network.
Identity theft is a severe crime that can cause serious consequences. By staying informed on this topic, you’ll be able to save yourself from most identity theft attempts. Although no program or system can guarantee you complete safety, preventive measures mentioned in this article are among the best solutions for fighting this harmful and illegal activity.