The world of identity theft is quite complex and there are a lot of terms to learn. Knowing them helps you understand what dangers exist and what precautions you can take. There are various forms of identity theft as fraudsters are always innovating and finding new ways to take your money. While you may be safe from one type of fraud, you may be blissfully unaware of another. Then there are all the various methods that identity theft protection services use to help keep you safe and what they do specifically. To make life easier, we went through some of the most common terms to help you get your head around the complexities of identity theft.
Bankruptcy is a complex legal process that happens when a person can’t pay their debts. There are different implications of what bankruptcy can mean, but it ordinarily involves having your debts reorganized (to be paid back over a long period of time) or dissolved completely.
When people use stolen credit card data found online it is known as carding. Often criminals use bots to automate the process and make small purchases to check if they work. In that case, a working stolen card can be used by criminals or sold for profit.
Although catfishing is frequently associated with dating websites, it is a form of identity theft. Catfishing is when someone creates a fake profile (often using another person’s identity) to scam another person – winning their confidence along the way. Sometimes this can lead to a scammer using their fake identity to get money out of the victim.
Check kiting involves writing a check for a greater value than the amount of money in a bank account. Fraudsters can potentially do this with multiple banks and get checks cashed before the bank realizes the funds aren’t there. Although this scam isn’t common anymore, it can still have a huge impact on small businesses.
Child Identity Theft
Child identity theft often happens when thieves get hold of a child’s Social Security number to create a completely new identity (also known as synthetic identity theft). Thieves can then open bank accounts and start amassing debt in a child’s name. Many identity theft protection services will monitor a child’s identity to protect against this.
Freezing your credit is an easy process that involves contacting the major credit bureaus directly to put a freeze on your credit score. By doing this it becomes extremely difficult for identity thieves to open up a new account in your name. As easily as you can put a freeze on, you can also remove it.
Credit monitoring helps you keep an eye on your credit score as unexpected changes are a clear sign of identity theft. Identity theft protection services often monitor your credit for this reason.
Criminal Identity Theft
When a crime is committed in another person’s name it’s known as criminal identity theft. Authorities can be fooled by something as simple as a fake or stolen ID and it’s often very difficult for someone to clear their name.
Dark Web Monitoring
One of the many commodities sold on the dark web is people’s identities. Fraudsters can go to the dark web and buy users’ passport details, credit card information, and addresses – all the things they need to wreak havoc with a person’s identity. However, many identity theft protection services combat this by searching the dark web for your details, so you’ll know if you’ve been compromised.
Data breaches occur when a company’s secure or private information is unintentionally or maliciously leaked. This may involve usernames, passwords, email addresses, or any other personal information. Often, leaked data will end up for sale on the dark web, where criminals can use it for identity theft.
Debt tagging happens when an identity thief accumulates debt in your name. Sometimes this can happen accidentally from something as simple as having the same name as the person who originally amassed the debt. Other times it’s a result of identity theft. Debt tagging can be difficult to clear up and you may even need the intervention of an attorney.
Dumpster diving is a common activity around the world — some salvage items for profit while others may do it out of necessity. When it comes to identity theft it’s a lot more sinister. People can raid your trash can or go through dumpsters to find traces of your personal details. So, if you’ve thrown away any documents that you haven’t shredded or anything else with your information on it, identity thieves can piece them all together to get all the data they need.
An old trick of hackers is the email bomb, which involves sending as many emails as it takes to fill up a user’s inbox storage. Back in the day, this was a huge concern but now it’s most often used as a distraction tactic. In one of the many thousands of emails that you receive there may be ones where a fraudster has used your account to change important details or make purchases in your name but since your inbox is so full, it’s extremely unlikely you’ll notice it.
Financial Identity Theft
Financial identity theft is a broad term to cover various types of identity theft committed against your bank account. It can include credit card fraud (the most common), online shopping fraud, account takeover fraud – just about any type of fraud that involves using your identity and, ultimately, your money.
A fraud alert is something that can be placed either by an identity theft protection service or yourself to add an extra layer of protection against identity theft. When a fraud alert is triggered it encourages companies to take further security measures before complying with any credit request. This could be in the form of identification or asking for any further personal details. Generally, fraud alerts last for a year, but they are renewable.
Ghost terminals are devices used by criminals to rig an ATM with a card-reading device or camera that can grab all your card details including your pin number. The act of using a ghost terminal (or any other similar device) is known as skimming.
No, this is not where Winnie the Pooh keeps his honey. In a technical sense, a honeypot is a clever method to lure cyber attackers away. It’s often used by companies to protect them from breaches — while a hacker may think they’re getting close to your data, they’re barking up the wrong tree entirely.
Identity Theft Insurance
When you subscribe to an identity theft protection service, you’ll also get help if anything goes wrong. That means offering identity theft insurance that will typically cover you for up to $1 million in damages from identity theft.
Keystroke logging, or sometimes simply ‘keylogging’, is something malware or spyware may do to obtain your confidential information. As the name suggests, a keylogger will record every stroke made by the victim’s keyboard. That means passwords, credit card details, passport numbers, and other sensitive information may be exposed and sent to the wrong person.
Medical Identity Theft
If someone has all of your personal information then they can use it just about everywhere, including at a hospital or doctor’s office. This is called medical identity theft and it’s a term for when someone will fraudulently take advantage of a government program or your personal medical insurance for their own benefit.
One of the oldest — and most effective — tricks by hackers to obtain credentials is phishing. Phishing involves sending a fake email to a user while pretending to be someone else to encourage the victim to give away their personal information. One common example is an email that looks exactly like a message from PayPal about a dispute that requires your response. However, the links provided in the email will take you to a fake version of the website and any fields you fill out (like username and password) will instead be stored by fraudsters. But as long as you never click on an email link and instead go to a website directly through your browser, you should be safe from phishing.
Identity restoration is provided by any good identity theft protection service to help users restore their accounts. As this can be a long and difficult process, you’ll get specialist staff to help you every step of the way.
In the business world, a risk profile allows companies to anticipate any threats to their business operations. Similarly, many identity theft protection services provide risk profiles to users to determine how vulnerable they are to identity theft.
When you see an online advertisement telling you that “your system is under threat!” – that’s known as scareware. These ads encourage users to download software to help protect their systems. However, the software isn’t always what it seems and often they have a more malicious purpose. While they may look like they’re helping, in fact they’re doing the opposite. Some may even include the very same malware and viruses they warn you about.
It’s an old-fashioned method but it still works like a charm. Shoulder surfing involves peering over someone’s shoulder as they type in their PIN at an ATM or while using a phone or laptop. It’s a simple but effective method to obtain sensitive information.
When someone uses a ghost terminal or any other form of device to obtain card data, it’s known as skimming. With enough data, thieves can clone a credit card and use it anywhere else. Cleverly, some skimming devices attach to store card readers or ATMs don’t actually prevent them from operating normally. Instead, they simply scan and send credit card data, which also makes them hard to detect.
Social Insight Report
An extra service provided by some identity theft protection services, a social insight report will analyze your social media activity, like Facebook posts. The point is to give you a general overview of how you may be viewed online, including what kind of personal information you could be unwittingly giving away.
Synthetic Identity Theft
Synthetic identity fraud is one of the hardest to spot. For synthetic identity theft, fraudsters will combine real and fake information to create an entirely new identity. It could be that your Social Security number coupled with a fictional identity is used to commit theft and get away with it for longer.
Spyware covers a lot of different applications that all spy on you and your actions. For identity thieves this is great as all of your data is valuable to them. But since some spyware is able to get access to your credit card numbers it makes their lives much easier. As mentioned, keystroke logging apps are considered part of spyware, but the term encompasses a wide range of harmful software.
One aspect of phishing, spoofing involves fooling a victim into believing that a fake email is legitimate. The emails may look like they’ve come from your bank, an online shop, or even a relative. The better the spoofing, the more difficult it is to tell that an email is fake.
As you may have guessed from the name, a trojan horse – or simply just a trojan – is an application that might not be all that it seems. You may think that they’re legitimate programs but after a while, they’ll take control to spread malware or viruses, provide hackers with remote access to your computer, or get access to confidential information. Scareware is a good example of a trojan horse.
‘Whales’ is a term used to refer to the most valuable targets for identity thieves because they offer the greatest reward. Targeting them is known as whaling. So, anyone in a position of power or of greater responsibility needs to be extra careful about their personal data as they’re an even more attractive target of identity theft.