Common Signs of Identity Theft: How Are Our Identities Stolen?

Common Signs of Identity Theft How Are Our Identities Stolen

Even with bodyguards, celebrities still fall prey to identity theft. It’s about time to find out all the juiciest details. 

Working from dusk till dawn, your hard-earned money is safely kept in your bank. Say you want to take out a loan from the bank to pay your mortgage, but you are turned down because of your bad credit score. Skimming through your credit card statements, you realize a purchase of lavish items that you have never even heard of or imagined yourself buying. So, who bought them? 

Most probably, you’ve become a victim of identity theft, and someone used your credit card to pay for all those luxury items. 

What is identity theft? 

Identity theft is when someone steals your personal or financial information, such as your bank account number and credit card information, to commit fraud in your name. Thieves take over your email or social media and turn your life upside down. From affecting your credit rating (the criteria, usually established by your repayment history, that determine whether one will be able to pay the creditors back) to your personal life, identity thieves can control you as if you are their puppet. So, do not play right into their hands!

Identity thefts are so common that victims fall prey to them every two seconds. There is no turning back once the reputation of the victim is damaged. 

But first, how are our identities stolen from us?

Largely, through two ways:

Dumpster Diving: This is just the treasure island for thieves 

Imagine diving into a sea of abandoned electrical appliances or junk; that is literally how identity thieves get their lead on you. Say you throw confidential documents into the trash can without shredding. Your personal information, such as your address, email or credit card number, can be obtained through that mere piece of paper.

Besides shredding documents that contain your info, you have to be careful with your electronic devices as well. Have you ever wondered why your devices have a factory setting (a software that erases all the information on the hard disk)? To keep you safe! If you are one of those who discards devices, like computers, printers or phones, without wiping the hard drives, stop now. Identity thieves can access personal or corporate data in any discarded item, making the dumpster a treasure island for the thieves.  

After collecting data about you, the thieves will perform a social engineering attack, also known as phishing (a psychological manipulation for meticulous scams). You would be struggling in the palm of the perpetrator with their attempt to commit illegal activities, like financial fraud or criminal activities. Hence, you should always destroy documents containing your data and clear your hard disks before disposing of your personal electronics if you do not want someone sticking their noses in your life.

Data Breach: Let’s see what you have in secret 

Private photos of Jennifer Lawrence, a Hollywood star famously known for her role in Hunger Games, as well as many other actresses, models and personalities, were leaked back in 2014. 

A data breach is the unauthorized disclosure or alteration of personal and corporate data. It sometimes happens through human error and honest mistakes, such as sending an email with personal data to the wrong person. Luck is not on the victim’s side when their data is used for other people’s gain. Sometimes hackers can gain unauthorized access to laptops through public Wi-Fi or the “forget my passwords” functions of email accounts. 

So do double-check if you have to deal with confidential data!

Why is it such a big deal? 

Here’s what thieves can do once they have their hands on your identity:

Criminal activities 

This type of identity fraud involves taking on someone else’s identity to commit a crime, like cybercrimes, organized crime, smuggling or money laundering, or to have access to another country by stealing your passport. 

Have you heard of the “golden circle”, a drug cartel that supplies drug rings with marijuana or cocaine, from the action spy comedy film Kingsman? In the movie, we see people donning wigs and carrying fake passports to hide drug mules under the facade of another legitimate person to sell and transport drugs for the cartels. That is an example of perpetrators manipulating people’s identities for their illegal business. 

Financial fraud 

“Hello, I am Kim Kardashian. I would love it if you could transfer US$71,000 from Kris Jenner’s account to my account as per her request. Thank you!” That may sound like Kim Kardashian on the phone, but is it really her? 

Financial fraud is a type of identity theft that includes frauds from banks to taxes. Most often, in cases in the U.S., perpetrators get hold of your credit card and social security numbers (a nine-digit number the U.S. government issues to all citizens to track their income). The numbers are significant as they will be asked for when citizens want to obtain credit, open bank accounts or other governmental benefits. With those credentials, they can perform numerous fraudulent online monetary activities, such as making false applications for loans or credit cards

Signs that tell you that you are a victim of identity theft

1.  Rejection from loans or credit applications

It is high time you check your credit report if you are encountering difficulties in getting a credit card or loan application approved. There are usually traces of an unknown source or new account in the credit report. In case of any discrepancies concerning your personal details in the future, go through your credit report and credit score regularly. 

2. Unauthorized withdrawals from bank accounts 

Keep a close eye on any unauthorized charges in your monthly bank statements. The hacker’s game has begun, no matter how small the withdrawal is. Therefore, contact your credit card company to freeze your credit if you notice anything suspicious. 

3. Calls from debt collectors about debts that you never knew of 

If debt collectors call you on accounts or applications you are unfamiliar with, be very cautious. Please do not provide any personal information to the agencies; it can be a potential case of phishing. 

Identity theft comes in all shapes and sizes; no one would like to be framed for illegal activities or have their information in the wrong hands. The best way to protect ourselves is always to be alert and keep our belongings safe to prevent that from happening. 

Also Read: 

Header image courtesy of Pexel

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