Identity theft is a rapidly growing crime, with millions of Americans falling victim to it every year.
With data breaches happening often, identity thieves and fraudsters are getting more sophisticated in their attacks — using your personal information to open bank accounts, get new credit cards, take out mortgages, file for bankruptcy, and much more.
Identity fraud victims are at risk of damaged credit scores and direct financial losses, which create an array of challenges; finding employment, getting new loans, passing background checks, and much more.
Who’s most at risk of identity theft?
Anyone with a Social Security number can be the subject of identity theft, but the most common victims are members of the military, children, seniors and social media users.
How do identity thieves get my information?
There are many different ways identity thieves can obtain your personal information.
Here are some common ways:
- Lost or misplaced wallet: thieves get access to your wallet containing identification, credit cards and bank cards.
- Dumpster diving: thieves sift through your trash at home or work to find bills, credit card statements, and other information that contains your personal information.
- Looking over your shoulder: thieves use camera phones to take pictures of your personal information when you are completing a transaction.
- Company wide breaches: thieves steal information when there is an accidental data breach in an organization, resulting from employees leaving a work computer with information in a vulnerable place.
- Mail theft: thieves steal your mail to access personal information like credit card statements or tax forms, which include your Social Security number.
- Phishing: thieves scam information from you by posing as a legitimate business or government official by either phone or email.
- Public Wifi: thieves watch what you are doing online and take your information when you connect to public wifi at airports, coffee shops or other locations.
How can I tell if I am a victim of identity theft?
- You notice unexplained charges or withdrawals from your bank account
- You stopped receiving bills or other mail
- You find unfamiliar criminal records, court records, address information or bankruptcies
- You receive credit cards you didn’t apply for
- You are denied for credit for no apparent reason
- You receive medical bills for services you didn’t get
- You are notified of a data breach from a company
- You receive calls from debt collectors about merchandise you didn’t buy