Common Identity Theft Scams – What to Know

Thanks to the digital area, it’s easier than ever to take care of your finances on the go. However, this easy accessibility does come at a cost. In our connected world, every single one of us is at risk of having our identity stolen by a stranger.

Identity theft isn’t a confined issue. In 2017, nearly 6.64% of consumers became a victim of identity theft, nearly 20 million Americans (1). So how can you fight identity theft? Understanding these common scams can make it easier to change your habits in order to keep your personal information more secure.

Mail-Identity Theft

Low-tech identity thieves rely largely on mail to steal a person’s private information. If a criminal wants to steal your new credit card through the mail, they have a variety of options. One of the more common scams includes re-routing a person’s packages and letters by filing an address change with your local post office.

This typically starts with a criminal gaining access to your old address from discarded pieces of mail, such as a credit card promotion. The thief then has all of your future mail sent to an address and location they control.

Of course, stealing mail from a mailbox also serves as a common method for would-be identity thieves. The USPS has released statements urging consumers to not leave mail in their mailbox for an extended period of time. If you plan on traveling, have the post office hold your mail for you so it doesn’t accumulate in your mailbox. This can be a tell-tale sign to criminals that nobody is home.

Vishing

Vishing is the term given to voice phishing, a scheme where a criminal is able to convince you to provide them with confidential and private information through the phone. Just like mail fraud, vishing can be hard for most consumers to detect. Professional identity thieves can pose a customer service representative or other professionals. They may even use stolen account information to present you with false credentials in order to gain your trust.

One common vishing trick used by criminals is calling you to let you know your identity has been stolen. This can often lead the victim to provide any information possible in order to remedy the situation. However, many fail to realize that the person on the other side of the line is not an agent of a company you work with, but an identity thief.

In order to gain a consumers trust, thieves may take a multi-pronged approach. This can include both emails and phone calls from a phony company or from a compromised employee account. Be wary of any odd phone calls or emails with hidden or disguised links, as clicking on a malicious link can likely have dire consequences.

Senior Citizen Identity Theft

Unfortunately, some of the most vulnerable people in our society are also the ones most prone to identity theft scams. Criminals like targeting senior citizens because many seniors have larger savings accounts or retirement pensions than a younger person would have. Seniors are also entitled to certain government benefits such as Social Security, which is a check mailed to seniors. These government benefits are large targets for many identity thieves.

Seniors also pose as a prime target since they are not as technology savvy as younger generations. This can lead many seniors to blindly listen to the instructions of the identity thief, without any knowledge of their malicious intent. Seniors are also considered to be less likely to check their credit scores since most have made all of their larger purchases already. A person who does not check their credit score can serve as a prime target since they may not notice that their credit was stolen until it is too late.

Senior identity theft can come in many different forms. This can include criminals tricking older individuals into providing them with sensitive information. According to the Department of Justice, a senior becomes the victim of identity theft every four minutes. (2)

Click Pharms

Identity thieves who are pharming use coded language to redirect your web traffic to fake websites. Unfortunately, many scammers have technological knowledge of how computer files or company server files can be changed remotely.

When you search for a website, your computer relies on special files to tell it where to go. If a scammer is able to compromise your machine, they can send you to a website that gives them total control. Due to their keen awareness of all things technical, many of these tech-savvy thieves have no issues completely duplicating a legitimate companies website

Like the other forms of identity theft, people who fall victim to click pharms are those who fail to take appropriate precautions. This can include installing a firewall on your PC, updating the anti-virus, and more.

How to Tell If You’re at Risk

Identity theft scams have come a long way in the last 30 years, however, this does not mean you need to become another statistic. Even though criminals are using more advanced techniques, identity theft protection services are two steps ahead.

Identity theft protection can come in many forms, like complete packages that can let you know about any potential vulnerabilities you have when it comes to your identity. An identity theft protection company can also help to ensure that your credit score and report are protected against identity thieves.

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Sources:

  1. https://www.worldometers.info/world-population/us-population
  2. https://www.identityforce.com/blog/circle-identity-theft

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