The most common types of identity theft
If you’ve ever gotten a call from your credit card company checking on potentially fraudulent charges, you may think hackers are primarily focused on plastic.
However, while most data breaches expose credit card numbers, there are several other ways thieves are able to steal your personal information, including accessing business accounts and medical records, and obtaining your Social Security number.
In 2018, the number of exposed consumer records that contained personally identifiable information jumped to 446.5 million from 197.6 million in 2017, according to the Identity Theft Resource Center.
The good news: By knowing the different types of identity theft, you can better protect yourself and your important personal data.
This is the most common type of identity theft, in which a thief uses a stolen account number to initiate a “takeover” of your account.
If it’s a credit card, all that’s missing is your zip code or verification code to make fraudulent purchases online.
For a bank transfer, any other personal data they have (e.g., your birthdate) can lead a bank to believe it’s you.
New Account Fraud
In this case, identity thieves use your Social Security information to open new accounts, including lines of credit, loans—even utilities.
Unlike credit card fraud, it’s harder to immediately determine if you’re a victim of new account fraud because you are unlikely to be notified or receive statements.
The effects are longer-term. Your credit score may be affected, and your legitimate credit or loan applications may be denied.
The best way to protect yourself is by regularly monitoring your credit reports.
Tax ID Theft
Here, an identity thief will use your Social Security number to falsely file your income taxes with the goal of receiving a refund. The most threatening types of tax fraud include:
IRS impersonation telephone scams, in which a thief poses as an IRS representative asking for some kind of payment; be aware that the IRS will never contact you by phone, and communications from them will always start in the mail.
Email, phishing, and malware scams, where thieves will send an email posing as the IRS to try and trick you into replying with personal information; these emails may also contain malware viruses.
Avoid the possibility of tax fraud by filing your taxes as early as possible—if you get a notification that your return has already been filed, chances are your identity has been stolen.
To further protect yourself against all types of identity theft, the IRS recommends you:
be on alert for phishing emails, threatening calls, and texts from thieves masquerading as your bank, credit card company, or the IRS.
use the IRS Form 14039 if you've been the victim of identity theft, or if your Social Security number is compromised
alert the IRS if you’ve been hacked, explaining in detail which accounts have been compromised so they can look out for potential tax ID theft
Medical ID Theft
While less common, this occurs when someone steals your Medicare ID or accesses your health insurance member number. They then use your account to see doctors—or to submit fake bills to your health insurer.
You’ll know if you’re a victim if you receive medical bills or insurance claims for doctor visits or procedures you didn’t have. Stay protected by:
keeping your personal information safe and sharing it only with reputable companies.
regularly checking your medical bills and statements.
promptly reporting suspicious charges or fraud.
Social ID Theft
Chances are you’ve had a friend warn you on Facebook to not accept a new friend request from them. This is likely because someone has used their name and photos to create a fake social media account.
Why do this? By posting as you, thieves can trick your friends and family into divulging your sensitive personal information, which they can then use to commit other types of fraud.
You can lower your risk by:
getting in the habit of never disclosing sensitive personal information online.
reminding friends and family of the potential for social ID theft.
Though thieves are always looking for new ways to take advantage of your online information, there are also many ways to avoid and protect yourself from identity theft. Knowing the kinds of threats that are out there is a great start.
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