What is identity theft? Definition

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Definition of identity theft

Identity theft is a term that covers a variety of crimes in which someone steals another person’s personal information, such as their social security number or bank account number, usually for the purpose of operate for profit.

How Identity Theft Happens

A person can have their identity stolen in several ways. the Impersonation Resource Center (ITRC), a national non-profit organization, identifies three basic pathways used by identity thieves: cyberattacks, human and system error, and physical attacks.

Cyberattacks include tactics such as ‘phishing’, where emails are designed to give the impression that they are from your bank, credit card company or other legitimate source, and induce the recipient to open a malicious attachment or link.

A related scam called “smishing” uses Short Message Service (SMS) text messages to steal data.

Identity thieves also profit from human error: losing a computer or smartphone, leaving a restaurant without removing your credit card from the table, using weak passwords, not securing or properly disposing of physical documents, using the Public Wi-Fi to manage banking or other sensitive activities, visiting unsecured websites, and providing personal data to unsolicited telephone callers. Examples of system errors are failing to properly configure firewalls or cloud security and not securing your home network.

Stealing physical mail, computers or important documents from people, and installing skimming devices on gas pumps to extract customer payment information are examples of physical attacks.

Types of Identity Theft

1. Access to Fraudulent Account

Identity thieves often hack into personal accounts, whether it’s a bank or credit card account, an online shopping account, or an online magazine subscription. Hackers know that people tend to reuse usernames and passwords, says Eva Velasquez, president and CEO of ITRC, and they have tools to take advantage of that.

“If information is somehow compromised, there are automated programs that can take that username and password and then access all of these online portals,” she says, finding out as well as other accounts where you use the same username and password.

2. Government Issued Identity Theft

Any form of government-issued identification—Social Security number, driver’s license or ID card, passport, tax identification number (TIN), Medicare identification number—is a preferred choice for vehicle thieves. identify.

A criminal can use stolen government credentials to commit various frauds, such as obtaining a credit card, filing a fraudulent tax return to get a refund, or applying for unemployment benefits. A stolen driver’s license or passport can help a criminal avoid arrest. Your name and reputation can be ruined if someone is caught carrying your identification material.

3. Phishing, smishing and vishing

Phishing and smishing are easy and cheap methods for identity thieves to send emails and text messages that contain malware or a link that redirects the recipient to a fake landing page.

Vishing is when a thief calls you on the phone and pretends to be someone from the IRS or another legitimate source, hoping to trick you into giving up personal information. Seniors are frequent targets of vishing.

4. Medical Identity Theft

When someone fraudulently obtains your Medicare Membership ID or Medicare ID, they can use it to obtain health care on your behalf or to send fraudulent bills to an insurer and try to collect money.

5. Biometric Identity Theft

Biometric authenticators include fingerprints, voice and facial recognition, and eye patterns. These are often used to secure smartphones or workplaces.

Biometrics add another layer of security to credentials, but they are not invincible. Biometric data is stored and if the storage is not secure, highly sophisticated thieves can breach it and use it to access digital wallets and more.

6. Theft of physical mail

Identity thieves who swipe physical mail can intercept, forge, and cash checks; steal debit cards or credit cards and activate them; or steal pre-selected credit card offers and apply for credit in someone else’s name.

With a name and address, a thief can submit a change of address to the US Postal Service and redirect someone’s mail.

7. Mortgage Fraud and Real Estate Fraud

Identity thieves can use mortgage account numbers and social security numbers to get a home equity line of credit or other second mortgage in your name and get away with the money.

Title fraud occurs when someone falsifies a title deed, changes the owner’s name, and takes out equity loans or even tries to sell the house.

8. Unemployed identity theft

the US Department of Labor reports that there has been a surge in fraudulent claims for unemployment benefits by organized criminal networks that use personal identifying information stolen in past data breaches.

This scam is used to collect unemployment benefits in several states.

9. Child Identity Theft

A child’s social security number and other personal information may be used to take out loans, apply for benefits, rent housing, open a bank account, or register for a public service. This crime is often committed by a family member and can hurt the child later in life when they are old enough to apply for credit.

10. Synthetic ID

Synthetic spoofing involves the mixing of real people’s personal data, such as social security numbers, dates of birth, addresses, and names, with fake data to create new identities.

These fake composite identities are then used to defraud financial institutions, the government or other people.

How to check identity theft

It is essential to keep a close eye on your personal information. Here are the steps to follow:

  • Carefully check monthly financial statements for charges, purchases, or withdrawals that you don’t recognize.
  • Review your annual credit reports from the three major credit reporting agencies and look for accounts you haven’t opened.
  • Review the Explanation of Benefits, or EOB, on your insurance plan for services you did not receive or unknown charges.
  • Beware if you stop receiving mail, especially bills or financial statements.
  • Check the three major credit bureaus to see if your child has a credit history.
  • Join the ITRC for free Service notified to learn about the latest data breaches and perform personalized breach searches.
  • Consider signing up for a credit monitoring or identity protection service.
  • Some social media platforms and internet services like Google allow you to see a list of devices that have logged into your accounts. Look for any suspicious activity.

What to do if you think you’ve been a victim of identity theft

If you know or suspect that your personal information has been hacked, do not hesitate to act. Even if you’re not sure your data has been compromised, report it anyway.

Report the identity theft to the Federal Trade Commission, which will use your information to design a personal recovery plan. the FTC provides checklists and sample letters to guide you through the process.

The ITRC is another resource. Victims of identity theft can live chat with experts on the website that provide them with a detailed recovery plan. “That advisor is assigned to them throughout the process,” says Velasquez.

Other steps to take depending on your situation:

  • Contact the bank or credit card company that has your account hacked.
  • File a report with your local police department.
  • Put a freeze on your credit by contacting the three major credit reporting agencies: Visit Equifax or call (800) 685-1111; to visit Trans Union or call (888) 909-8872; to visit Experian or call (888) 397-3742. Freezing your credit prevents anyone from applying for new credit on your behalf.
  • Report a lost or stolen driver’s license to your local police and state Department of Motor Vehicles.
  • If You Suspect Tax Fraud, Visit the IRS central impersonation page. You may need to complete a Form 14039which is an affidavit of identity theft.
  • Change usernames and passwords.
  • Configure multi-factor authentication for accounts.
  • For identity theft involving unemployment benefits, visit this Ministry of Labour and call the fraud hotline listed for the state that issued the fraudulent benefits.
  • Report stolen mail to United States Postal Inspection Service.
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