What's Identity Theft?
Identity theft is any crime in which the attacker gets a hold of another person’s data and uses the victim’s identity to commit fraud. For example, a common type of identity theft is when someone uses another person’s credit card to make unauthorized transactions.
That said, while identity thefts most often result in the victim losing money, they can also damage the victim's reputation and even wellbeing. Besides financial identity theft, other types of this criminal activity include medical identity theft, social security identity theft, tax identity theft, and even synthetic identity theft.
The Most Common Forms of Identity Theft
The phrase “identity theft” is a broad term that encompasses all sorts of privacy breaches in which an attacker steals the victim’s personal or financial information. But, there are many different methods that fall under this umbrella. So, it’s crucial to know the most common ones. Here are the most frequent ways attackers can obtain your personal data:
- Data Breaches - This is the most common reason for identity theft problems. The number of data breaches rose dramatically in 2021, and 2022 will likely end up in the same pattern. Personal details like Social Security numbers and credit/debit card information are among the most commonly stolen data in this form of identity theft.
- Compromised Browsing - If you share your personal information on a malicious website, you’re likely directly giving hackers your personal information. So, stick to well-known sites and use a secure browser.
- Malware and Phishing - By injecting your device with malware, hackers can steal your data or spy on your activities without you even realizing it. In line with that, attackers might use phishing emails or text messages to get you to unknowingly give them your valuable personal data.
- Credit Card Theft - A simple and very dangerous form of identity theft. The most common ways credit card theft can occur are through a direct data breach, physical theft, or the attacker using a credit card skimmer.
- Mail Theft - When it comes to this, we’re talking about physical mail theft, a problem that has existed long before the Internet. Any mail you send or receive using the postal system can be intercepted and used by a malicious person to commit identity theft.
Identity Theft Consequences
The consequences of identity theft can be numerous and far-reaching. This is because identity theft doesn’t only affect you at the moment. Most victims of identity theft spend months cleaning up the situation and setting things back in order. This can manifest in several damaging ways:
Consequences on Your Emotional Well-Being
The shock of discovering you’ve become a victim of identity theft is enough to rattle anyone. But, the anger, insecurity, and anxiety that come after it can have even bigger consequences on your emotional well-being. Even more worryingly, some people even get suicidal thoughts and depression from having to go through this.
Consequences on Your Financial Status
Most identity thefts are committed in the interest of gaining some financial benefit from the victim. From the victim’s perspective, this adds to the overall emotional stress, as you’re also experiencing financial consequences.
If the attackers get a hold of your financial information, they can drain your accounts, leaving you penniless. Moreover, the financial ramifications could show through damaged credit, tax problems, and many more issues.
Consequences on Your Physical Health
The stress from losing money or even just having to deal with an identity theft attack can also affect your physical health. Many victims of identity theft attacks report issues like sleeplessness, heart and stomach problems, and other difficulties that come as a result of a weakened immune system.
Consequences on Your Kids
Lastly, even your children aren’t safe from identity theft attacks. Minors are often the target of identity theft, and the consequences can range from having trouble obtaining financial aid to being unable to apply to their desired universities.
Dealing With Identity Theft
The best way to check for any signs of identity theft is to regularly check your credit reports and credit score. Besides this, if you notice any unauthorized transactions, bills for items you didn’t purchase, or get denied credit despite knowing you have a great credit score, any of these can be a telltale sign that you’ve fallen victim to an identity theft attack.
If you determine that you’ve been the target of identity theft, the first thing to do is report it. Luckily, for people in the US, this process is fairly straightforward and uncomplicated. With that in mind, here’s how to report identity theft:
- Contact the company/organization where the fraud occurred
- Place a fraud alert by contacting a credit bureau
- Report the identity theft to the FTC
- File a police report with your local police department
Additionally, once you’ve completed all four steps, it’s time to mitigate and repair the damage the identity theft attack caused you. The first thing to do is close any new accounts the attacker might’ve opened in your name. Then, you should try to get all of your fraudulent charges removed. After that, correct your credit report and keep a close eye on future reports to see if any new frauds pop up.
How Identity Theft Can Be Prevented
By this point, it’s clear why identity theft is bad in so many ways. Moreover, we can also provide you with actionable steps on what to do if you experience identity theft. But, apart from dealing with it, the best way to avoid issues that identity theft causes is to prevent it from happening altogether. In this regard, here are the best ways how to prevent identity theft:
1. Freeze Your Credit
A very practical way to prevent identity fraud is to freeze your credit. Not many people know that they can freeze and unfreeze their credit whenever they want, entirely for free. Freezing your credit won’t impact your credit score or any current accounts. At the same time, it can be great protection against scammers that would try to open an account under your name.
2. Stay On Alert For Malware and Phishing
Malware and phishing attacks are still among the leading causes of identity theft. Most often, these attacks are crude, but sometimes they can be hard to distinguish from legitimate communication.
For instance, scammers might spoof phone calls to appear as they’re calling on behalf of a government agency or trusted organization. In such cases, it’s best to be extra cautious and never click on attachments right away. Instead, try to initiate communication through a trusted source like a phone contact you’ve used before or the official website you’re familiar with.
3. Protect Your Social Security Number
For US citizens, the Social Security number is the pass key to all valuable information. You should always shred any documents that contain it and never carry your card with you. Always be careful when giving it to strangers and offer alternative IDs wherever you can.
4. Use Strong Passwords and Have Additional Authentication
Ultimately, one of the best ways to prevent identity theft is to use strong and unique passwords for every account. Don’t use any obvious passwords that people could guess by getting to know you or by inspecting your social media profiles. Moreover, consider adding an authenticator app into the mix, as it can provide you with an additional layer of protection. This leads us to the final part of this article.
What is the Best Tool for Preventing Online Identity Theft?
Hideez Key 4 is the best all-in-one device you can get to obtain ultimate digital security. This is because it serves several crucial purposes. Available in standalone and enterprise editions, the Hideez Key 4 can:
- Act as a password manager with autofill and an OTP generator, delivering uncompromising passwordless security and proximity login/logout capabilities.
- Protect against cyberattacks like phishing, spoofing, keylogging, and MITM attacks.
- Provide compliance with the latest security standards, ensuring identity theft prevention
If you want to protect your valuable information from identity theft, order your Hideez Key 4 without delay! If you’re a personal user, you can get a 10% discount using the promo code TRYHIDEEZ. For businesses, we’ve also prepared a free pilot and personalized demo of the Hideez Authentication Service, which you can get by clicking the buttons below.