Identity theft happens when someone uses one’s sensitive data to pose as the person illegally, usually to extract money. Identity thieves may drain bank and investment accounts, open new credit lines, get utility service, steal tax refund, use insurance information to get medical treatments, or give police the stolen name and address when they are arrested.
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Here are a few ways trough which fraudsters misuse or steal your identity:
- Credit identity theft
Credit identity theft happens when one’s personal information, such as name, birthdate or social security number etc. are misused for creating a new credit line.
Warning signs: Unexpected change in credit scores or an account you don’t recognize on your credit reports, debt collection notices or a court judgment against you are enough to know your identity has been stolen. To prevent it, you can immediately freeze your credit.
- Child identity theft
Often this kind of theft isn’t discovered until the victim applies for education loans or other credit. To carry out this kind of theft, the exploiter steals a child’s identity and apply for credit in the child’s name.
Warning signs: If your child is getting offers of credit cards or phone calls about late payments or debt collections, report the matter immediately. Freezing credit is way to prevent this kind of theft.
- Taxpayer identity theft
Sometimes fraudsters use a social security number to file a tax return by stealing one’s tax refund or tax credit.
Warning signs: This kind of theft could be discovering while one’s unable to e-file tax refund because someone else has already filed it under his/her Social Security number, the person gets an IRS notice or letter referencing some unknown activity. Filing early tax refund can help beat criminals from filing it in your name. Moreover, to prevent identity theft and ensure safety, some states offer six-digit identity protection PINs with additional security.
Apart from the above mentioned types and tips, there are several other ways through which your identity could be stolen online.
- Synthetic identity theft
Synthetic identity theft is when criminals construct a fictitious consumer, using a stolen Social Security number — often one of a minor or one that is simply made up — that is not yet in the credit bureaus’ database and combining it with a name and address. They even apply for loans and credit cards, using that name often making payments for a long time to pretend authenticity and as the credit limits grow, the exploiters disappear.
Warning signs: When trying to freeze your credit, you discover the social security number is already in use. Often it is not discovered until one applies for loans. It is not always preventable as sometimes these fraudsters use a Social Security number even before it’s assigned.
- Medical identity theft
When someone is stolen in order to get health care services is medical identity theft. This theft has other repercussions too as it can result in medical histories being mixed, giving doctors and hospitals wrong information about a person.
Warning signs: Irrelevant claims or payments on one’s insurance benefits can suggest that someone else is misusing the health care benefits.
- Account takeover
Exploiters use personal data such as passwords, emails etc. to access one’s financial accounts, then change passwords or addresses so that the owner of the account no longer have access to them.
Warning signs: An email, letter or text from your bank that refers to an action like a password or email change or transaction you don’t recognize.
- Criminal identity theft Criminal identity theft occurs when during a police investigation the accused gives someone else’s name and address.
Mobile devices can be a massive source for the ones who try to steal someone’s identity. Using strong passwords on electronic devices and using a banking app rather than a mobile browser for banking can secure your identity from being misused.
If you are a victim of identity theft, there are identity theft protection services that let you know when your identity is misused. They may also guide you and reimburse the amount that’s been misused in your name.
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