In the digital world we live in today, all of us are at risk of being exposed to identity theft. Scammers need very few details of your personal information to impersonate you and commit financial crimes. Identity theft-related financial crimes can disqualify you from mortgages, loans, tax refunds, and much more. In severe cases, identity theft can even drag people into criminal investigations leading up to a wrongful arrest. This begs the question, how can you protect yourself from identity theft in a digital world booming with crimes?
Let’s find out.
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Identity theft is the act of getting unlawful access to another person’s sensitive information and carrying out a fraudulent act. Just as robbers need cash from the bank, identity criminals want to obtain your personal information, such as your Social Security number, credit card number, medical records, account numbers, or passwords to your account.
So, any information that allows an identity thief to impersonate you and commit financial crimes under your name is good for them. A case study documented by Javelin Strategy and Research in 2018 provided that more than 15.4 million people were victims of identity theft in 2017, with an estimated $16.8 billion worth of data stolen.
Nowadays, vigilance is the key to preventing identity theft. Here are a few red flags that you should take note of:
- Unauthorized financial activity in your bank account that you do not recognize
- Inquiries about financial transactions or loans you did not apply for
- A bounced cheque
- Strange charges on your credit card or bank account
- Automatic deductions from your credit card, charged by online retailers
- Not receiving bank notifications or bills
- Receiving notifications for services you did not use
- Alerts from security companies that your data has been breached
According to the Department of Justice, here are the most common types of identity thefts:
Pre-Approved Credit Cards
When you discard pre-approved credit cards without properly shredding and discarding them in enclosed materials, scammers access and activate them in your name. Having your mail delivered to a location that anyone can easily access allows thieves to intercept your mail without your knowledge.
Putting up your information in public spaces can allow thieves to access your credit card information or codes. They watch you add information on your phone or computer and later use it to commit financial crimes.
It is becoming increasingly common for thieves to file a tax return in your name to use your personal information. They redirect your mail and collect a refund on your behalf.
Responding to spam emails is the easiest way for scammers to access your data. Cybercriminals have used spam email to steal heaps of sensitive information and data.