The Most Common Identity Theft Scams
Have you ever worried about who might have access to your most important personal information? From your bank statements to your online logins to your credit card number, all of your vital information could be secure. But it could also be in the hands of identity thieves – without you even realizing it.
Identity theft is one of the most common and concerning crimes today. In 2018 alone, nearly 60 million Americans were victims of identity theft. And that number is rising each year. Identity theft scams are happening at an alarming rate, and they can happen whether you’re at home, browsing the internet, or traveling.
The best way to protect yourself from becoming the next victim of identity theft is to be informed and aware. Identity theft comes in many different forms, and scams can appear anywhere. The following are some of the most common identity theft scams criminals will use.
You might not give your mailbox much thought – but you should. Mail identity theft is one of the oldest identity theft scams in existence, and criminals still rely on it to steal your information today. The U.S. Postal Service received over 60,000 mail theft reports in 2016.
Here’s how this type of theft works: criminals steal your mail right from your porch, mailbox, or doorstep. Or, they’ll go through your trash, sifting through all the papers you’ve thrown out for bank or identity information. They look for all kinds of sensitive documents, like bank statements, credit card applications, medical bills, or financial paperwork.
Criminals then use that information to open up new credit cards, accounts, and more in your name. They might even sell your information to other criminals online.
Driver’s License Theft
You might not think that your driver’s license is susceptible to identity theft. After all, most people keep their licenses secured in a wallet or on their person. Yet despite this, driver’s license theft is actually the most common type of identity theft.
Thieves usually get their hands on others’ driver’s licenses by outright stealing them. They can steal your license right out of your wallet, grab it if you drop your license somewhere, or take the information from your license when you write a check or use your license as ID somewhere.
Once criminals have your driver’s license number, your name, and your address, they’re able to do a lot with it. They can open new accounts, buy items under your name, and even get new forms of ID with their own picture to continue committing theft.
Credit or Debit Card Skimming
Another very common identity theft trick is card skimming. This scam can affect both your credit cards and your debit cards, and it can happen anywhere you use one of your cards as payment.
Criminals will install skimmers, or devices that are added to payment machines, at various locations. Each time a customer inserts or scans their card, the skimmer intercepts your payment information and sends it to the criminals. They’ll get your card number, your PIN, and all of the details they need to begin stealing your money.
Thieves then use that information to make clones of your credit or debit card. From there, they can use your card information to drain your bank account.
The reason card skimming is so common is because it’s difficult to detect. It’s very hard for the average person to tell if a machine has a skimmer added to it. Skimmers often pop up at locations that are easily accessible and experience a lot of daily customers, like gas stations, ATMs, and fast food payment kiosks.
You’ve definitely heard about this type of identity theft. Data breaches have been making headlines in newspapers, online, and on the nightly news frequently in recent years. From Equifax to Target, some of the biggest companies in the world have experienced data breaches.
Criminals will hack into companies’ computer systems, which is where customer data and information is stored. This gives them access to customers’ usernames and passwords, financial information (if they’ve ever purchased something), and personal information. Criminals can then use or sell that information, wreaking havoc on customers’ personal information and identities.
Most concerning, however, is the fact that data breaches are usually how identity thieves get their hands on social security numbers (SSN). Even if they only get the last four digits of your SSN, they can commit a lot of dangerous fraud.
Data breaches aren’t going to stop anytime soon. According to security experts, nearly every company in existence is vulnerable to these breaches – and 97 percent of companies are actively having their systems hacked into. Often, data breaches aren’t discovered until later on, which means thieves have plenty of time to use customers’ information.
How You Can Protect Yourself From These Identity Theft Scams
Identity theft is a growing problem. You could easily become a victim of this type of crime. In fact, it could happen without you even realizing it. Actions as simple as shopping online or visiting a local gas station could put your information and your identity at risk.
But you don’t have to live in constant fear of having your identity stolen. There are ways to protect yourself and your information.
You can turn to an identity theft protection service to keep your information safe. These services come in many different forms. They can monitor your information online, watch for new accounts opened in your name, and report data breaches or changes to your information. And they can be affordable methods of monitoring.
To find these identity theft protection and monitoring services, you’ll want to search online. Many allow you to sign up online, or even via an app. From there, the service will alert you to any changes. And you can relax, having peace of mind knowing someone is watching over your information.