Anyone can become a victim of identity theft or fraud. Criminals do not discriminate. They target people of all ages, backgrounds and income levels. The effect on victims, their families and finances can be devastating. It could impact their ability to obtain loans, credit cards or even a mobile phone contract until the matter is resolved.
One of the best ways to fight identity theft or fraud is to prevent it from happening in the first place. Prevention through awareness is crucial, so here are ten of the most common identity thefts and frauds.
Because criminals need access to your usernames and passwords to take over your account, keep this information safe. Use strong passwords unique to each account. Use a password creator or manager if you find it difficult to devise and remember unique passwords. You may also find that your bank and other service providers text you a code to access your account online or make transfers. Or ask for a second piece of information, known as two-factor authentication. This is for extra security and to check that it’s really you accessing the account.
Child Identity Theft
Children are also good targets for identity thieves, because they are a blank slate with no credit history, especially if they are minors. Criminals use the names, addresses, dates of birth and government ID numbers of children to open fraudulent accounts or otherwise run up debt.
If your child has a credit report, freezing it can prevent further fraud while protecting them from future attacks. Often the perpetrator of child identity theft is an ill-intentioned family member or someone familiar with the victim, who can gain access to their personal information. Be wary when giving out a child’s personal details. Educate your children accordingly. And take steps to secure sensitive documents in your home.
To minimize the impact of this fraud, check your card and bank statements regularly. Contact your card issuer or bank immediately if you notice anything suspicious. Most card providers will not make you responsible for payments you didn’t authorize. Always keep and destroy receipts and statements securely.
Government ID Number Fraud
Most government departments issue numbers on passports, driving licences, tax correspondence, social benefit books or cards. This makes it easier for people to identify themselves when claiming services to which they are entitled. Clearly, these government-issued credentials are useful to criminals to impersonate you and make applications or claims to which they are not entitled.
Contact your bank or card issuer in the first instance to clarify the unauthorized charges. Check that your online accounts haven’t been compromised. Be wary of using public Wi-Fi to shop or bank online or connect using a VPN. The network may not be secure, and hackers can steal data of anyone who connects.
Social engineering is the art of exploiting human psychology, rather than technical hacking techniques, to gain access to accounts, information or systems. Criminals are master manipulators. They can be as convincing as they’ve got the knowledge, skills and patience to be, if it means they’re successful in getting what they want.
Beware of unsolicited emails, texts or calls requesting personal details. The cover stories may vary. Criminals may impersonate banks, the police, tax office or government agencies. Either they want you to open attachments that contain bad software – malware – or to click on links to websites that are often clones of legitimate ones. The malware and fake websites are set up to harvest personal data, such as usernames, password, login IDs, or tax reference numbers, which are used for identity fraud.
Insurance Identity Fraud
Insurance identity fraud occurs when someone uses your identity to obtain medical care, prescriptions, or receive payment for healthcare services under your name. Insurance identity theft can impact your health records, insurance costs and credit report over time.
To avoid this, do not share your insurance information with anyone and pay attention to your insurance costs and credit.