What are the Most Common Types of Identity Theft?
Identity theft occurs when someone steals your personal information, such as your date of birth, name, and address history. Criminals can then use this information to commit identity fraud, typically using your identity to gain financially. Unfortunately, identity theft can happen to anyone. If your identity is stolen and used to commit identity fraud, you could face serious consequences. Perpetrators may:
- Max out your bank or credit card funds.
- Leave you liable for debts you didn’t accrue.
- Use your identity to commit non-financial crimes.
- Severely damage your credit score so you are unable to take out loans or mortgages.
Though it might be possible for you to clear your name or regain lost funds, the emotional toll and financial worries can linger for a long time. Therefore, it’s important that you are aware of the common types of identity theft and how criminals steal information so you can protect yourself.
Common Types of Identity Theft
Identity thieves are always finding new ways to steal and use personal and confidential information. Below are some examples of how a criminal might commit identity fraud.
- Driver’s license fraud. Driver’s license fraud occurs when a criminal has a driver’s license issued to themselves under another person’s identity. They might use the license to commit traffic violations that end up on your record and you could lose your license.
- Financial identity theft. Criminals are able to use your stolen personal information to take over your financial accounts or create their own, which can be very serious and stressful. It can take you months or years to rectify the effects of financial identity theft and it could result in large volumes of debt and a poor credit score.
- Child identity theft. Child identity theft is usually committed by a relative who will take out loans and credit cards in the child’s name. As children have no reason to check or monitor their credit reports, they will usually remain unaware of the fraudulent activity until they come of age and require loans. This type of fraud can take years to sort out and could stop you from being able to buy a house or car. It’s also likely to increase the interest rates on any loans you might be offered.
- Change of address fraud. A fraudster could change your mailing address, diverting it to themselves instead. This allows them to look through all your mail and find out bank details, credit card details and other personal information.
- Employment identity theft. Criminals, illegal immigrants and the jobless use stolen identification and personal details to obtain employment. By using stolen identification, they are able to conceal their real personal history from their employers.
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How does Identity Theft Happen?
Identity theft can happen to anyone. Because of this, it’s important that you understand how criminals steal data so you know how to protect yourself. Below we have outlined the most common ways criminals can gain your personal details to use them against you.
Theft of your personal belongings, such as a purse or wallet, or of credit card or bank statements can provide criminals with your sensitive information. Criminals might even go rooting through your rubbish in search of discarded bank statements, so be cautious and shred them or block out sensitive information like your name, address and account numbers. Alternatively, they might attempt to steal new statements or cards directly from your mailbox. You should inform your local post office immediately if you notice your mailbox has been tampered with.
Phishing is a type of email scam. The sender might pose as a real company, organisation or agency and prompt you to enter your personal information. If an email asks you for a large amount of personal data, such as your name, address, card details or bank account numbers, do not click on any links and register the email as spam. Additionally, if the email contains poor spelling or grammar, claims you won contests you didn’t enter, has offers that are too good to be true or makes unrealistic threats, it’s probably spam.
Cold calling is when a criminal calls you, pretending to be a real company, organisation or agency, and coerces you into providing them with your personal information. You should always ignore unsolicited phone calls and assume they have bad intentions. Never give them any of your personal details.
From banks to retail chains, criminals can hack into computer systems and steal personal credit card and bank information. Organisations will have systems in place to warn you in the event of a security breach, but before reacting to a message check with the company that your data has actually been compromised. Once you know the alert is legitimate, takes steps to close down any affected cards if necessary.
Identity fraud can be costly, both emotionally and financially. However, by understanding the ways criminals go about committing identity fraud and taking measures to stop people getting hold of your personal information, you can reduce the risks of being the victim of identity theft.
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