Identity theft is a lot more common than you think.
The data from Aite-Novarica Group revealed that nearly half of Americans went through financial identity theft in 2020.
While identity theft can have a million faces, one of the most common is ID fraud.
What Can Fraudsters Do with Your ID?
Your identification card is a treasure trove of personally and non-personally identifiable information that fraudsters can leverage to their advantage – and to your detriment.
Here are some of the ways they may try to use your ID:
- Create a new identity: By combining your personal information with a fake name or Social Security number, fraudsters can open new accounts in your name and rack up debt. They may also apply for a passport or driver’s license, which they can use to travel or commit other crimes.
- Steal your benefits: Fraudsters can use your information to file for government benefits, like Social Security or unemployment payments. In 2021 alone, these criminals stole around $100 billion of COVID-19 relief funds. They may also commit tax fraud by filing a false return in your name and pocketing the refund.
- Take over your accounts: By gaining access to your financial accounts, scammers can empty your savings, run up your credit card balances, and even take out loans in your name. They can also use your account to commit other crimes, like money laundering.
- Commit medical identity theft: With your insurance information, fraudsters can receive free or low-cost medical care. They may also use your information to submit false claims to your insurance company.
- Apply for a job: By using your information to apply for a job, scammers can get access to your employer-sponsored benefits, like health insurance. They may also use your information to commit tax fraud or steal your wages.
- Open loans and checking accounts: By taking out a loan or opening a checking account in your name, fraudsters can damage your credit score and rack up debt.
How Do Scammers Acquire Your ID Information?
There are a variety of ways that scammers can acquire your personal identification information. One common method is phishing scams, where scammers will pose as a legitimate company or individual in an attempt to get you to divulge your information.
They may do this by sending you an email or text message that looks like it’s from a trusted source and which contains a link that leads to a phony website. Once you input your information on the fake site, the scammers will then have access to it. A
Another way is by stealing your mail. They may look through your trash for discarded bills or other financial documents that contain your personal information. They may break into your home or office to steal physical copies of these same documents.
Scammers can also acquire your information through data breaches, where hackers gain access to databases containing millions of people’s personal information. According to one statistic, data breaches in the United States affected over 200 million users in 2021.
Once they have this information, they can then sell it on the black market or use it themselves to commit identity theft.
Lastly, scammers may simply ask you for your information. This is known as pretexting, and it often happens over the phone or online. The fraudster will pose as a legitimate business or individual and try to trick you into giving them your information.
For example, they may say they’re from your bank and need to verify your account information. Or they may say they’re from the government and need to confirm your Social Security number.
What Can You Do to Protect Yourself Against ID Fraud?
The best way to protect yourself against ID fraud is to be vigilant about who has access to your personal information. Be careful about giving out your Social Security number, date of birth, or other sensitive information.
And be on the lookout for phishing scams and other ways that scammers may try to acquire your information. If you’re ever in doubt about an email, text message, or phone call, don’t hesitate to reach out to the company or individual directly to verify its authenticity.
You should also regularly check your credit report for any suspicious activity. And if you do become a victim of ID fraud, be sure to report it to the proper authorities so they can help you resolve the issue.
Finally, consider investing in identity theft protection services, especially if you’re protecting significant assets. These services can help you monitor your personal information for any signs of fraud and can provide you with support and resources if you do become a victim.
Identity theft is a serious problem that can have lasting consequences. By understanding how it works and what you can do to protect yourself, you can help keep your information safe and make it harder for scammers to commit this crime.