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Identity Theft Explained

Identity theft occurs when an impostor obtains your personal information such as name, identification number, drivers licence details, social security number plus other personal details to create a different account. They then use the information to file fake returns, buy property, and engage in criminal activities using your identity.

Types of Identity Theft

There are two recognized categories of identity theft; true name identity theft where the fraudster uses the personal information they have stolen to set up new accounts, and account takeover; a form of identity theft where the impostor takes personal information and uses it to access the person’s account. They then use the account to engage in fraudulent activities such as making purchases, conning people and diverting mail.

Online banking and transactions have made it easier for such impostors to thrive since they do not need to have face to face interactions with the merchandisers. You should know that payment methods such as echecks have many safeguards built in to prevent identity theft.

Where People Are Likely to Be Victims

  • Taxation related; in this form of identity theft, the thief files a false tax report using a stolen social security number.
  • Medical identity theft; here, the impostor steals relevant health information such as insurance details and uses them to seek medical services.
  • Child related identity theft; this is becoming one of the most common identity thefts online. The thief uses the child’s social security number to set up bank accounts, seek government services and acquire documents. Most criminals tend to use children’s details during identity theft since it takes relatively longer for people to notice their child’s details are being used elsewhere.
  • Senior members; senior citizens who have retired are likely to be victims of identity theft since they are not very active online, and may not notice when their identity is being used fraudulently.

How It Is Done

  • Retrieving dumped personal items such as mail, gift cards, transcripts and utility bills.
  • Shoulder surfing, where the impostor hovers around someone making a private transaction such as in a banking hall or when making purchases and notes the personal details they have input.
  • Phishing and spam email; in this case, the impostor sends emails and information that tricks people into giving their personal information. They sometimes pose as financial institutions. This is why most banks always advise people to safeguard their personal details.
  • Introducing malware; for this kind of identity theft, fraudsters send an attachment that has a bug which is capable of grabbing data and personal information from your gadget.