Identity theft in the United States has been on the rise every year for a decade. The price the banking community and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) have paid is quite steep: both have been losing billions of dollars.

Every year, this crime victimizes millions of Americans, especially children, the elderly and people with a significant online presence. As online security and protocols improve each day in protecting delicate information, so do the talents of the hackers and thieves who attempt to access this information. They have been learning how to access this at alarmingly fast rates.

When you understand what identity theft is and how it can affect your life, you will be able to protect yourself or anyone close to you from these identity thieves. A breech in security can cause a variety of economical problems to arise such as debt or poor credit scores. Understanding identity theft can also help you notice whether you have been hacked and even how to better protect your digital accounts from fraudulent attacks. If you have become the victim of identity theft recently, there are a few steps that you can take in order to minimize the damage an identity thief has done and limit the possibility of another attack. Read further to find out more about identity theft, how it can affect you and what measures to take to protect yourself.

Defining Identity Theft

What identity theft refers to is the robbing of private information from a person in order to illegally use his or her identity. The identity of a person can be stolen in a variety of ways, most of these forms involving the stealing of at least one of the pieces of information listed below:

  • Driver’s license number
  • Name, address and phone number
  • Credit cards, debit cards or bank account numbers
  • The personal information of a child
  • Social Security number
  • Medical Insurance account numbers
  • The login information for online accounts

Thieves can use the personal data they have collected as an entry point to find even more information on a victim. They use this personal data to dodge double and triple security verification processes to get to this sensitive information. There can be times when hackers will sift through any information they have access to in order to hack into valuable assets, such as bank accounts. Recently, hackers have been using stolen identities to open new lines of credit, which is a very alarming form of identity theft as it can go unnoticed by victims for years.  

The remedy to this is to consistently track your spending either with apps or reviewing your accounts. These methods can help you discover any fraudulent or suspicious claims.

When someone takes the personal information of someone without their permission, it is considered identity fraud. Here are the most common types of identity fraud within the United States and what they mean:

Social Security Fraud  

This occurs when the Social Security Number (SSN) of a victim is stolen and used fraudulently for a variety of situations, such as employment, to open new credit accounts and forge new documents. The SSN is used for several official documents, making this one of the more serious forms of theft. Unfortunately, it is also one of the more common types of theft.

Tax Identity Theft

Once someone illegally files for a tax refund and requests it in your name without your explicit consent, it is considered tax identity theft. Because of this type of theft, the IRS has lost billions.

Criminal Identity Theft

This is another common form of identity theft in the United States. This occurs when a person who commits a crime and provides your name and identification to the authorities when he or she has been caught. As a result, the criminal record of the thief will remain blank while the victim suffers from the charges.

Driver’s License Identity Theft

This occurs when someone uses your driver’s license pretending to be you while he or she is driving or when the police requests for identification when he or she is stopped.

Financial Identity Theft

When a thief steals the banking or credit card information of someone and makes illegal purchases or withdrawals.

Child Identity Theft

Identity thieves can also steal the SSN or the identification details of children in order to open bank accounts or access goods or services. This is one of the most invasive forms of identity fraud because it can soil the future of child before they reach adulthood.

Medical Identity Theft

Once someone steals the medical information of another person and uses it illicitly to buy medical products and services. This type of fraud has been rising steadily because of the increasing cost of healthcare.

Insurance Identity Fraud

The stealing of insurance information in order to illegally receive products, services or payments is know as insurance identity fraud. This sort of fraud can also include medical identity fraud and other types of insurance theft.

How to Know When Someone has Stolen Your Identity

The importance of how to identify if your identity has been stolen can help prevent the potential damage an identity thief can to do your financial life. There are more ways to make sure that your privacy is taken care of besides having a general idea of how much money you have in your bank account.

Below are some details to know when your identity could be stolen.

Review Your Financial Statements

Read your financial statements both on paper and online and make sure that there are not any suspicious charges on your accounts.

Know What Bills Should Be Expecting

During busy times, people tend to not pay attention to the amount the bills are charging and pay whatever is on the page. However, this can lead to thoughtless spending if you end up paying for an unknown bill. Make sure to look over the bills that get sent, otherwise, you might miss some red flags.

Check Your Credit Report

A credit report shows the financial history of a person from the point of view of national regulating agencies and consequently, anyone who will run a credit check on you. Your bank or one of these national agencies can provide a free complete copy of your credit report. The credit report should include but is not limited to the SSN, bank accounts, credit card loans, and outstanding bills sent to collections. Review your credit report to check for any suspicious account activity.

Avoiding Having Your Identity Stolen

Alongside the rise in privacy breeches there have also been improvements in the methods and tools used to protect this sensitive information. Below are some preventative ways for identity theft in daily life and going online.

Pay Attention to Your Purse and Your ATM Pin

When you are shopping around town, take note of your financial belongings such as cash or credit cards. When withdrawing cash or using an ATM in any fashion, make sure that you cover your ATM. It is also wise to not tell anyone of your ATM pin.

Get Your Mail Immediately

You can put yourself at higher risk of theft if you leave your bills outside for an extended period of time.

Do Not Answer to Unsolicited Requests

Beware of anything that seems too good to be true because it might just be true. Unsolicited requests, both on paper and online, can be an attempt to get more information out of you.

Security: Passwords and Websites

For better security, create a unique, multi-lettered password for each account. This will lessen the likelihood of an identity thief taking over other accounts if one of them has been compromised. Special characters and numbers provide additional security as well.

When you are shopping online, it is also important to note if the shop you are purchasing from is secure. Any website URLs that do not start with “https” and does not display a secure lock symbol, then do not input your financial information on that website.

Personal Information on Public Devices

The same will go for placing personal information on devices that you do not privately own. Information that has been put in public terminals can easily be copied or mined, so beware.

Security Programs on Electronic Devices

Installing a trusted security software program is a good way to ensure your information remains secure. Most popular security programs are compatible across different platforms and even offer live support if troubleshooting is necessary.