Anyone – no matter the age, gender, race, or class – can be a victim of identity theft. Since it’s a crime that can devastate a person’s financial life, it’s crucial to understand its basics. Read through the rest of this article to learn how perpetrators commit it and how you can protect yourself against it.
Identity theft refers to a crime in which someone obtains the personal data of another individual. The thief can use the information they gather to steal other properties of the victim, such as money from the bank, home title, and even business assets.
There are many ways for the thief to acquire the data they need. In some cases, they literally dig through trash cans and dumpsters to find papers that may contain credit card details, bank account numbers, and other personal information. It’s why people are encouraged to shred receipts, official documents, and forms before throwing them away.
Perpetrators can also retrieve data from discarded computer equipment, phones, tablets, and laptops. These devices may have been disposed of or sold at recycling shops but may still contain contact details and bank account numbers. And, by tracing the gadget’s GPS history, the thief can also obtain the victim’s home address, workplace, and even frequently visited locations.
A more advanced form of identity theft involves using computer software for hacking and wiretapping. Sending phishing emails and anonymous messages that ask for personal info is also common.
In a worst-case scenario, the victim will only learn that their identity has been stolen when it’s too late. The funds in their bank may have been swept already, or their business has suffered a significant loss through credits made under their name. So, it’s necessary to check some warning signs to avoid being in this situation.
People should always be wary if their bills aren’t arriving as expected. If this happens, there’s a possibility that their account statements for their utility and credit card expenses are being accessed by someone else. Traces of online shopping from a store abroad can be another sign of identity theft. The perpetrator may have purchased several products using money their victim’s bank.
Vigilance is crucial to avoid being a victim. Don’t reply to emails from anonymous sources. Put those messages in your spam folder right away. Also, unless highly necessary, don’t access public Wi-Fi networks because you don’t know who’s watching while you’re connected to it. You can also invest in a stronger home internet security that sets up a firewall against hackers.
Signing up for bank alerts is also a good practice. You’ll be notified in case unauthorized transactions to purchase goods or obtain credit are made under your name. You can also enlist services from identity protection companies. This way, you’ll be shielded against more dangerous effects of the crime, like home title fraud or commercial property theft.