In 2019, 14.4 million Americans were victims of identity theft. That’s around one in every fifteen people. So, it’s no wonder that many are becoming increasingly concerned about criminals stealing their personal information. Identity theft involves thieves stealing personally identifiable information like your name, address, date of birth, Social Security Number, and bank account number. They use the information without your permission for financial gain. There are many different types of identity theft schemes that criminals use, both online and offline. Here’s a look at three common schemes and how you can prevent them from happening.
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There are lots of different types of phishing schemes, but all of them trick you into giving your personal identifying information. Phishing schemes are the most common type of online identity thefts. The thefts could come via a number of different methods, such as email, cell phone voice messages, text messages, and online social networks. Two of the most-used phishing schemes are:
To protect yourself from pharming, check the padlock symbol in the right-hand corner of the website URL to check that it’s secure. If you need further assurance, contact the website administrator via phone or email. As for malware-based phishing, you can protect yourself by using caution before downloading or installing anything from the internet. Always make sure an item is from a trusted source and has security certification. For further protection against phishing and other identity theft methods, it’s a good idea to use identity theft protection software that monitors your online behavior and checks for any suspicious activity. With identity theft protection, you can make it more difficult for hackers to steal your personal information, and if identity theft should occur, the situation can be resolved quickly.
With so much focus on internet security these days, it can be easy to forget identity thieves also operate offline. One of the most common ways thieves gain access to your personal information in the non-digital world is by simply going through your garbage. This identity theft scheme is known as dumpster diving. In people’s trash, thieves can find things like credit card bills, bank statements, utility bills, and medical insurance statements; all of which contain personal data.
Thankfully, it’s easy to protect yourself against dumpster diving. Make sure you shred any documents that contain sensitive information before you dispose of them. You could also stop using paper statements altogether and instead complete all of your transactions online.
Identity thieves can use the social engineering scheme either via email, over the telephone, or even in person. In order for scammers to use this scheme, they need to already know some information about you, such as your name and address. By making you aware that they know such details, you can be fooled into thinking you’re talking to a legitimate company. The schemer will then lead you to divulge more sensitive information such as your bank account number.
To prevent social engineering, stay diligent every time a company contacts you; even if it’s a company you’re registered with or are expecting a call from. If you have any doubt about the genuineness of the caller, hang up and call back the company’s official number to verify the call was genuine.