Identity theft is when someone uses your personal data your name, Social Security number, birthdate, etc to impersonate you, typically using that information to steal from you. Having access to the internet makes us all feel liberating and powerful. However, this liberty and power may be glorified, especially when we hear reports like 4 out of 10 people in India were victims of identity theft.
Identity theft can happen in a variety of ways, but regardless of methods, the outcome is usually the same. Scammers or thieves can use your personal details and documents for a number of fraudulent activities, including opening a bank account, taking a loan or duping others. They can even buy a SIM card and misuse it.
In such cases, even though you have become a victim of embezzlement, it could still have a serious impact on your personal records, credit scores and can land you in a fix.
Ways to trace Identity Theft
There are a number of ways of knowing that someone is misusing your data. Here is what you can do:
- A portal has recently been launched by the Department of Telecommunication (DoT), under the Ministry of Communications, for fraud management and consumer protection. Based on the mobile number provided, a person can check whether other phone numbers are registered by their name. In case any unauthorised numbers are found, you can block them by sending a request to DoT. However, it should be noted that this DoT service is not yet available across the entire country and efforts are being made to expand it.
- Another way of tracking document misuse is to check the credit report regularly. Through this report, a person can check if any suspicious loan or credit card has been issued using their details. If you find anything suspicious, approach the lender or credit card issuer for further details. Always remember that if the loan or card doesn’t belong to you, you need to inform the lender or the card issuer. Also, file a police complaint.
- Check your computer for viruses regularly. One more important point is that if you use your computer to access sensitive online accounts, you need to be more careful. This is because a computer infected with malicious computer programs could allow a hacker to steal sensitive data you may be typing to manage online transactions, such as bank, credit card and other sensitive identification information.
- Check your bank account statement. Withdrawals you did not make could be a sign of identity theft.
How to protect yourself from Identity Theft?
1. Change your Passwords regularly
There are three ways any hacker may use to steal your passwords. They can use a brute force attack, a dictionary attack, and a phishing attack. The brute force attack can be tackled with setting passwords that have more than 12 characters. A dictionary attack uses every word in the dictionary until your password is cracked. The best way to combat this is to set unusual and mixed passwords. Phishing attacks require you to be smart and identify every aspect before sharing any personal information with the sender.
2. Credit Reports
Monitor your credit reports constantly for any signs of suspicious activity. Or think about freezing your credit reports. It’s not a perfect solution but it will help prevent identity thieves from opening up new accounts.
3. Protect your Information
Protect your computers and personal information your phones and tablets, your accounts and passwords, your surfing, your banking and accounts, your social network etc. These can all be points of vulnerability that crooks will quickly exploit.
4. Use Antiviruses
Identity theft can also be perpetrated if you have less than optimal protection. On your phone and your computer, install good and authentic anti-virus software that can shield you from DDoS attacks, malware, and ransomware attacks. All these attacks will give the hacker unlimited access, and they can use it to extort money from you.
5. Protect your Home
Too much personal information lying around your home could be an easy temptation to people you doesn’t know. So hide it where burglars and others can’t easily find it. And make sure you shred any sensitive financial information before you dispose of it.
6. Guard your Mail
Some thieves say that most of their crimes start with stolen mail, so make sure you don’t leave it in your mailbox for longer than you have to.
7. Social Networks
Mind what you and your kids say on Facebook and other social networks. Thieves are constantly checking out Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and other networks for personal information that might help them commit a fraud.
8. Lock down your Computer
There are dozens of free security tools, from antivirus to safe surfing that will help keep malicious software or malware from infecting your computer and stealing your information.
9. Manage Social Media
Almost every social media platform has to mandatorily give you the option to secure and hide your account from unknown people on the web. So, use these settings to hide all the personal information.
10. Use a VPN
Secure all the home networks like WiFi and other hotspot devices with a VPN. This protects your data and does not let hackers access it even if they have penetrated the firewall.
7 Types of Identity Theft
Here are common ways of Identity Theft:
1. Credit Identity Theft
Credit identity theft happens when a criminal uses your personal information, such as birthdate and Social Security number, to apply for a new credit line.
2. Child Identity Theft
Criminals steal a child’s identity and apply for credit in that child’s name. Often it is not discovered until the victim applies for college loans or other credit.
3. Synthetic Identity Theft
Synthetic identity theft is when criminals use a patchwork of identity details to construct a fictitious consumer, using a Social Security number — often one of a minor child 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 then apply for loans and credit cards, often making payments for years as the credit limits grow. Then comes a “bust out,” when cards are maxed out and the criminals disappear.
4. Taxpayer Identity Theft
Sometimes fraudsters use a Social Security number to file a tax return and steal your tax refund or tax credit.
5. Medical Identity Theft
Using someone else’s identity to get health care services is medical identity theft. It’s particularly dangerous because it can result in medical histories being mixed, giving doctors and hospitals wrong information as they are making health care decisions.
6. Account Takeover
Criminals use personal data to access your financial accounts, then change passwords or addresses so that you no longer have access.
7. Criminal Identity Theft
Criminal identity theft occurs when someone gives law authorities someone else’s name and address during an arrest or investigation. This is often done with false identification, such as a fake driver’s license.