When someone uses your personal information to impersonate you or steal from you, this is known as identity theft. 

Identity thieves may deplete your bank accounts, create new credit lines, obtain utility service, steal your tax refund, or provide authorities with your name and address when they are apprehended.

Because data breaches are so common, your personal information may have already been compromised. In this new world, it’s prudent to take precautions to avoid criminal actors from accessing your personal data and destroying your financial situation.

Effects of identity theft

The steps you’ll need to take, the time it will take to recover, and the implications of having your personal information taken will all be determined by the type of identity theft you’ve had. Some people have spent more than six months settling financial and credit issues related to identity theft in extreme circumstances.

The financial implications of identity theft are common, but there can also be other effects, such as an emotional toll. For example, if a thief commits a crime and gives police your name—a practice known as criminal identity theft—and authorities arrest you, as a result, you can imagine the stress and interruption to your life until the problem is resolved.

Here are a few scenarios of what identity thieves could do with your private information.

  • Use your identifying information to open new credit cards or lines of credit.
  • Use your existing credit and debit cards to make unlawful purchases.
  • File a tax return using your Social Security number to claim your refund.
  • Make use of your health insurance to obtain medical treatment.
  • Pass a background check for a job or rent an apartment based on your identity and financial situation.

How does identity theft happen?

  • Phishing:

Cybercriminals send phony emails or SMS that appear to be from a trusted source. The links in these emails or texts could lead to downloading harmful software or malware. Personal information on your computer could be mined by the malware and sent to a remote machine. Cybercriminals use this information to steal identities or sell it on the dark web. It’s best not to open suspicious-looking emails, click on links, or download files.

  • Skimming:

When fraudsters replace card readers with counterfeit devices at cash registers or other point-of-sale systems, such as those at grocery stores, coffee shops, petrol stations, or ATMs, credit card or ATM card skimming occurs. This device reads data from credit cards and debit cards’ magnetic strips and sends it to the skimmer. A tiny camera is sometimes used to gather ZIP codes and ATM PINs.

Criminals may be able to make fraudulent transactions or withdraw cash in the account holder’s name using information such as credit card or debit card numbers, names, ZIP codes, or ATM PINs.

  • Wi-Fi hacking:

Unencrypted connections are available on some public Wi-Fi networks. Criminals may be able to snoop on data moving to and from your device due to this. Cybercriminals may be able to insert malware into your device to assist them in obtaining access to your data if it has software vulnerabilities.

Cybercriminals have been known to build fake Wi-Fi hotspots with names that look real. The information traveling over the rogue network could be viewed and exploited by identity thieves. Before connecting, double-check the spelling of the network name. Also, when connecting to public Wi-Fi, use a VPN, especially if you’re accessing your bank account, making an online purchase, or completing your tax return.

  • Phone scams:

Fraudsters may call you and ask for money, pretending to be from a bank or the IRS. If you get a call like this, don’t give out any personal information over the phone. Instead, hang up right away. Banks and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) interact through the mail. If you’re unsure about a call, search up the caller’s number and call them.

  • Data breaches:

After a data breach, your personal information could be sold on the dark web. A data breach can put the personal information of millions of people in danger.

  • Malware:

To install malware on another person’s device, criminals employ various methods. Malware could provide the thief access to the device and the data it contains. Viruses, spyware, trojans, and keyloggers are examples of malware.

If you need further advice on this matter, don’t hesitate and reach out to us. 

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