Identity theft occurs when a fraudster another person’s information, such as name, date of birth, contacts, and addresses to commit fraud regardless of whether the victim of fraud is alive or dead. These types of crimes can impact your financial situation and make it impossible to meet your basic needs. Consequently, it’s important to understand how to protect yourself or your loved ones from identity theft.
Perpetrators of identity theft typically target vulnerable individuals, such as the elderly and sick people. The crime can be committed by someone close to the victim, who could be a family member, caregiver, or a stranger–no one should be trusted where money is involved! If you or a loved one has been a victim of this crime, you should contact a Toronto criminal lawyers’ agency for help.
Risk Factors of Identity Theft
The common factors that may aggravate identity theft can include:
1. Losing Personal Documents
Losing the place where you keep important personal documents securely, such as a purse for women or a wallet for men, can expose you to identity fraud. Ensure documents that contain your financial information or any information that can be used to access your accounts. Examples of documents that are relevant to your finances can include:
- Government-issued identity card or passport;
- Bank account details and social security number;
- Address and contacts;
- E-mail, and others.
2. Insecure Online Data
The risk of online fraud continues to increase with the popularity of online transactions, such as banking, shopping, and others. For instance, your online footprints are left behind every time you access insecure sites, which can expose you to online fraud. It’s important to avoid clicking on suspicious links that can expose you to hackers. Also, strong and unique passwords can reduce exposure to online fraud.
3. Data Breaches
Probably you’ve heard about companies being sued for data breaches, particularly big retailers and big websites. A data breach occurs when hackers infiltrate a site and obtain personal information related to users of the website, such as bank details or social security numbers.
In a typical data breach, cybercriminals hack into a company’s private records to obtain its customers’ or users’ data, such as social security and credit card numbers.
Indicators of Identity Theft
Unfortunately, detecting identity theft is not easy because it doesn’t involve any physical signs. Besides, most people are not keen on reviewing their historical financial transactions because they’re the only ones who have access to their accounts. Reviewing your accounts regularly can help you detect identity theft earlier. The red flags for identity theft for personal banking, mail & telephone, taxes & social security, and health insurance can include:
1. Personal Banking
- Receiving calls or emails from your banker about suspicious transactions or activities on your account
- Unexplainable withdrawals or charges on your credit card;
- Increasing interest rate;
- Unknown accounts and checks on your credit report;
- Credit denial even with a strong credit history and good credit score.
2. Mail and Telephone
- Bills or emails stop coming;
- Receiving strange bills;
- Getting credit cards you didn’t apply for, or statements of unfamiliar accounts.
- Calls from unfamiliar debtors.
3. Taxes and Social Security
- Conflicting information from the IRS, such as they received multiple tax returns from you, or that a dependent’s Social Security number has been claimed.
- Receiving tax documents from unfamiliar employers;
- Inconsistencies and errors in Social Security statements, such as inflated earnings.
4. Health Insurance
- Strange claims under your health insurance plan;
- Your health insurance claims that your medical record includes a condition you don’t have.
- Receiving regular treatment offers for conditions you don’t have.
5. General Indicators
- Your checks are rejected;
- Job denial after a background check reveals misdeeds you did not commit;
- News that a company you transact with is involved in a data breach.
Avoiding Identity Theft
You can protect yourself against identity theft in the following ways:
Creating Unique Passwords
Use unique passwords that can’t be easily cracked.
Monitor your Financial Records Regularly
Financial records can include bank statements, credit card statements, and health insurance records.
Enabling Two-factor Authentication
Activating two-factor authentication limits access to your and helps avoid hacking.
Using a VPN to Hide your Online Footprints
A VPN encrypts internet traffic making it hard for hackers to infiltrate your account and siphon sensitive data, particularly when using public or shared Wi-Fi.
Familiarize yourself with How Cybercriminals Work
Most cybercrimes involve phishing and pharming attacks–that’s why it’s important to scrutinize the safety of your emails or websites before opening, particularly when entering sensitive personal information, downloading, or clicking suspicious links.
Using Antivirus Software
Good antivirus software not only protects you from phishing attacks, hackers, and malicious, but also against malware.
Identity theft can negatively impact your financial well-being. Fortunately, you can avoid it by being vigilant and educating others about it.