As more services move online, the threat of identity theft and fraud increases. Many services rely on passwords and PINs that people reuse between different websites, creating a significant security risk if one of those websites is breached. Although you can reduce the risk by using different passwords and PINs, it becomes difficult to keep track of them.
Staying informed about the most common types of identity theft can help you avoid the risks and take action when you see the warning signs. Here are six common types of identity theft that can affect you even if you’re careful online.
Account Takeover Fraud
Account takeover fraud involves hacking or otherwise accessing someone’s existing financial, email, or social media accounts. This fraud is often for direct or indirect financial gain, including stealing directly from the account, spamming advertisements, or defrauding your friends or relatives. The break-in may go undetected for long periods if the theft is in small amounts.
The fraud is sometimes accomplished by guessing a password. Still, other times, the fraud occurs when someone calls a bank with your Social Security Number and additional information in hand, impersonating you. Usually, banks require a PIN or other security question to be answered to hand over an account, but hackers can steal this information if you have it stored in an email or another account.
In some cases, the damage is to your reputation, but even this can be devastating. Social media takeover or impersonation is often a targeted event, but it can be random and based on the hacker’s desire to spam as many people as possible. Make sure to monitor your social media accounts and change your password as soon as you notice suspicious activity.
New Financial Accounts in Your Name
Another common form of fraud is when a thief uses your information to open a new account. These financial accounts commonly include loans, credit cards, and debit accounts. Identity theft is rare for mortgages but can happen with car loans.
New financial accounts are among the most common types of identity theft because of how easy it is for a thief to open the account, rack up charges, and then escape with the goods or cash. Plus, the theft may go unnoticed for an extended period, decreasing the chances of law enforcement tracking down the thief.
Watch your credit report for new accounts each month, and if anything looks unfamiliar, contact the bank or institution that opened the account. If the activity is fraudulent, you can report the fraud and remove it from your credit report.
Driver’s License Identity Theft
Driver’s license identity theft is surprisingly easy to pull off. Most driver’s license bureaus require a copy of a utility bill and another form of ID or a birth certificate proving the applicant’s age, but these are easy for criminals to fake.
Identity theft solely to get a driver’s license is uncommon. Usually, the act involves a broader plot of some kind, such as cashing bad checks or opening a bank account in your name. However, having a fraudulent driver’s license opened in your name could keep you from renewing yours or could cause fraudulent traffic charges to show up in your name.
Criminal Identity Theft
Although all identity theft is a crime, criminal identity theft is the term used when someone is arrested for a crime and gives a false name, date of birth, and other identifying information when they are booked into jail. This can result in charges being brought against the wrong person later on, while the real criminal gets away on bail.
Criminal identity theft is often preceded by the criminal getting a fake driver’s license in the victim’s name. If the fake ID is convincing, the police won’t notice it while the criminal is being processed.
In severe cases, the victim may struggle to remove the criminal charges or could permanently have incorrect fingerprints associated with their name. Jurisdictions’ processes for challenging criminal charges on the grounds of identity theft may vary, but in some cases, talking with the arresting officers could clear up the situation once they recognize you’re not the person they arrested.
Medical Identity Theft
Medical identity theft involves a patient visiting a doctor using a fake name and billing information. The thief often uses stolen health insurance information as well, but not always. The thief’s goal is to get treatment without paying for it, and often results in the victim receiving bills for thousands of dollars.
Since almost all insurance requires the patient to pay at least part of the cost of the visit, the scheme is usually uncovered quickly after the victim receives a bill. However, sometimes the theft is undiscovered for a long time if the insurance plan covers most care and the thief pays the co-pays at the time of the appointment.
Medical identity theft can result in inaccurate treatment information being left on your medical chart, potentially affecting future care, so always check your statements from your insurance providers each month. If you discover medical identity theft, you’ll need to follow up with all of your usual providers as well as any new ones the thief visited. They will help clean up any inaccuracies in your medical history.
Child Identity Theft
Even your child may be a target of identity theft. Since you can open a line of credit in your child’s name before they turn 18, someone can take out a loan and even open credit cards in their name.
Sometimes, a family member might steal your child’s identity for financial gain. This has become one of the most common types of identity theft by acquaintances and family, so you need to be careful about who you give your child’s information to.
Protecting Yourself and Your Family
Manually checking your credit report each month will help you stay on top of suspicious activity, but some types of fraud move so fast that you can’t afford to wait a month before noticing. Credit monitoring and ID theft protection is an excellent option for families. If you have kids, make sure you upgrade to a plan that includes them so you can all enjoy peace of mind.