The term ‘identity theft’ covers a wide range of different crimes. Just about anything in which a thief uses your identity without your consent falls under the same umbrella. Unfortunately, identity theft can happen to anyone, and even the most safety-conscious among us can fall victim to it. Here we’ll take a look at the most frequent types of identity theft, so you know what to look out for and how to protect yourself.
Financial fraud covers a lot of different crimes, but we’ll be specifically looking at those committed against your bank account, as 35.4% of all identity theft is credit card fraud. Thieves need just a few details – like your Social Security number, date of birth, or your address – to get started. This data is usually obtained from complicated fishing scams or from having access to your physical bank cards – so take care not to lose your wallet. From there, identity thieves can use your credit to make purchases or create new accounts without your knowledge, leaving you to pay up later.
You work hard all year long for your money, so you shouldn’t have to worry about someone stealing your tax refunds. However, you’d be surprised by how easily this could happen. Using a stolen Social Security number, an identity thief can file an early forged tax return in your name. Unless you’ve already beaten them to the punch, the thief will receive your refund before you even think of doing your own taxes, let alone have them processed by the IRS.
Tax fraud has been made all the easier for criminals thanks to paperless e-filling. Identity thieves can submit fictional information about wages or any other income and then sit back, relax, and wait for the money to arrive.
We’d all love to not pay our bills, and some fraudsters try to do the same while using your identity to help along the way. This type of fraud covers everything from traditional utilities like electricity, gas, phone, or water – although the most frequent type of utilities fraud is cable. There are many reasons why utility fraud is so prevalent, the most important being that it is remarkably easy to do. Opening up new utilities accounts doesn’t require nearly as many details compared to what’s needed for other types of identity fraud. Additionally, it may take a long time before you realize that utility fraud has happened – and by that point, the damage has already been done. So, it’s advisable that you carefully read all your utility bills, as they can show evidence of any unusual activity.
For all the good that government benefits provide, there is the downside that it’s easy for someone else to commit benefits fraud in your name. Whether it’s unemployment benefits, disability benefits, medical benefits, or even food stamps, there’s someone out there who wants to take advantage of it. This can happen even if you don’t qualify for these benefits. This means that if at some point in the future you actually need those benefits, you won’t be able to get them. As far as the government knows, you’re already receiving them.
Child Identity Theft
You’re not the only potential victim of identity theft – your children are too. Child identity theft is becoming more and more prevalent for a variety of reasons. First, it’s easy to do: by using your child’s Social Security number, identity thieves can essentially create fictional identities. From there the criminal can do just about whatever they want, like creating new bank accounts and taking out loans. What really entices identity thieves is that this kind of crime may go unnoticed for years because, why would you regularly check your toddler’s credit score? When child identity theft occurs, it’s recommended that you not only freeze your child’s credit score, but also use identity theft protection that specializes in child identity theft like IdentityForce or LifeLock.
Protecting Yourself from Identity Theft
While all of this may seem daunting at first, there are ways to keep yourself safe from identity thieves. Crucially, there are some practical steps you can take yourself. Since identity thieves often rely on data breaches to discover their victims’ online credentials, it’s important to be aware of password hygiene. Regularly updating passwords and only using strong passwords is essential. Password managers make this easier for you by storing all your online credentials securely. Of course, you can’t forget your physical documents either, so make sure your sensitive information is stored in a safe place.
The best way to stay protected, however, is by acquiring dedicated identity theft protection solutions. They’re designed to monitor credit bureaus, so you’ll be notified if anyone tries to take out credit in your name. If you become a victim of identity theft, not only will you be covered by a large insurance guarantee for your losses, but on top of that you’ll have access to identity theft experts who can help you get back on your feet.
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