Identity theft stands as one of the most common offenses in the United States, affecting over a million new people every month, and there are several factors that make it so widespread. To start with, it’s quite simple to commit. Criminals can generate a handsome profit with hardly any effort, and there’s often not much probability of them getting caught.
A primary reason it’s so difficult for individuals to guard themselves against identity theft is due to there being several kinds of identity theft that may occur in a wide variety of ways. Methods for identity protection may help decrease the threat, but a few forms of identity theft just can’t be averted at all.
Listed below are a few of the more prevalent kinds of identity theft, ways to reduce the likelihood that it will happen, and what should be done if it does happen.
Existing Account Fraud
This is probably the most frequent type of identity theft. Rather than stealing or duplicating someone’s identity and pretending to be them, thieves just get hold of a debit or credit card number and start racking up purchases. According to Identity Theft Resource, credit card scams increased in 2014, comprising one-fifth of all identity thefts.
How can it be prevented? The best strategy for anyone hoping to avoid this kind of identity theft is to just be cautious of where they use their credit card, and to use a credit card rather than a debit card.
How can it be spotted? The best and possibly way only way is for people to carefully and frequently scrutinize their bank account statements. This means investigating even small charges that seem unfamiliar, as it may be identity thieves checking the card to see if it’s valid.
New Account Fraud
This is a more dangerous form of identity theft since it often means the crooks have their victim’s Social Security number or other extremely vulnerable data. With adequate facts, thieves can convince creditors and banks that they are their victim, and may then start up credit cards with their name. Aside from credit cards, they can even sign up for mortgages, utility services, house rentals, car leases, and plenty of other kinds of credit. Even though new account scams appear to have dropped in 2014, the 2015 Javelin Strategy and Research Identity Fraud Study reveals that it usually takes much longer for new account fraud victims to realize that their identities are being stolen in contrast to other kinds of identity theft, like existing checking account fraud.
How can it be prevented? This can also be quite challenging to avoid, since a lot of businesses that might have data such as Social Security numbers don’t adequately protect it.
One definite method for consumers to prevent new account fraud is to freeze their credit reports. While this is fast, easy and usually cheap or free, it also means people cannot sign up for authentic credit in their own names. Another alternative is for people to constantly monitor their credit reports in order to spot early warnings that crooks are attempting to start new credit accounts with their names.
How can it be spotted? A credit monitoring company will notify consumers when somebody tries to start up an account in their names, and some lenders will also want verification that it is actually the consumer applying for credit. Sadly, many victims first discover it after it’s happened and appeared as an unpaid debt on their credit reports, or when a collection agency makes contact.
Tax Identity Theft
This still-expanding form of expensive identity theft occurs when criminals use a consumer’s data to file a bogus IRS tax return in order to obtain a sizable refund in place of the victim.
It’s very profitable for identity thieves, and the IRS reports that it loses billions of dollars annually to this kind of offense. Consequently, the IRS has been forced to employ a huge workforce to catch it, and has reported receiving calls from over a million tax identity theft victims in 2014.
How can it be prevented? People can file their taxes as soon as possible each year in order to outpace tax thieves. They may also apply for a special PIN from the IRS which must be used whenever they file a tax return. Without this PIN, thieves can’t file for a fraudulent refund.
How can it be spotted? The only true way to discover this sort of identity theft is to have a tax filing rejected after somebody has already submitted one under the same Social Security number.
Criminal Identity Theft
Criminal identity theft specifically involves an offender masking their own identity with that of someone, such as if somebody is arrested and provides another person’s identity or information. In this case, victims are tied into that person’s criminal history, which may cause them to be denied a driver’s license due to someone else’s DUI or even arrested as a result of another person’s crimes.
This variety of identity theft is often very tough to reverse. It may require a lengthy legal course of action in order to have the false offenses expunged from the record, and if the courts reviewing the case are in another state or country they may be reluctant or slow to take action.
If tangible proof like fingerprints or photos of the identity thief is unavailable, it may even be impossible to correct. According to the Federal Trade Commission, identity theft using government documents and records accounted for more than 1 in every 3 cases of identity theft last year.
How can it be prevented? Just like detecting it, it’s nearly impossible to avoid. Victims usually won’t know how or when thieves steal their sensitive information until it’s already happened and resulted in much misery and heartache. This stands as one of the biggest issues of coping with identity theft, and in some instances there are no solutions. It can’t really be prevented, and all a victim can do is act in response to it and piece their life and identity back together.
How can it be spotted? Unfortunately, most victims only learn about this kind of theft once they’re denied a driver’s license, declined for a job due to an unfavorable criminal background check, or when they’re imprisoned owing to another person’s outstanding warrants.
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