In this article, we’re going to talk about a huge problem affecting nearly 1 in 4 Americans- Identity thefts.
Next, we’re going to cover what identity theft is, how it happens, what are the major identity frauds for 2021, how commonplace it is becoming, and finally, we’re gonna give you some initial steps you can take to help protect from account takeover attacks. Keep reading to understand the major identity theft frauds for 2021 and how to prevent these frauds.
What is Identity Theft?
The idea of identity theft is rather simple and conventional. However, the only simple element of the increasingly sophisticated, and complex methods of identity is how nefarious they can be.
Identity theft is a broad term used for any time someone uses your personal information to your financial disadvantage. Personal information would typically be something like your social security number or your credit card number. For example, you might pay for a certain service online or offline for one time, and then your credit card is charged for the same service or other services multiple times without your knowledge or consent.
Here are some other common ways in which your information and identity can be used against you in 2021.
Data breaches are a major culprit when it comes to your information getting out there on the Internet. Unfortunately, there isn’t as much you can do about these. In fact, in 2018 there were over 2900 data breaches of companies in the United States, and over 400 million records were put out for anyone to get access to, according to the Identity Theft Resource Center.
Where do these data breaches end up? Well, oftentimes they’re going to end up on the dark web. The dark web marketplace is essentially the upside-down version of the Internet, where you’re gonna find all the people willing to buy and sell your personal information.
Another way people get your information is through unsecured web browsing. This is where you go to a site that you believe is secure and legitimate but in fact, it’s just a fake version or it’s just some website that really is not a place you should be putting your information.
Phishing and Spam Attacks
Complimenting unsecured web browsing, we have phishing and spam attacks. This may look like an email or a text message from someone you already know in terms of a brand, a company, or an organization that you work with. They usually require additional information for you in order to resolve an issue, get you access, etc. You agree and now you’ve handed over your sensitive information through tags or through an email.
The final major digital theft method of 2021 is malware. Malware is a malicious software, generally made by somewhat malevolent actors in order to steal your information. This happens when you think you’ve just downloaded, for example, a program or you’ve downloaded something that someone has sent to you but in fact, you’ve downloaded a program that’s going to record every single keystroke on your computer and is gonna send it halfway around the world, so people can spy on you and get all of your personal information.
Beyond these digital strategies, you also have physical items that can be used against you. For example, you have credit cards- your credit card can be lifted by someone and people can generally buy a ton of things before anyone knows anything about it. You could have your mail intercepted and it may have sensitive information, where people can use that to start an account in your name or start a credit line in your name. You also just have your mobile phone, where you most likely hold a ton of crucial sensitive information about who you are.
Unfortunately, identity theft and credit card fraud are growing problems in the United States. According to the Federal Trade Commission in 2021, over 4.8 million fraud reports were made and identity theft topped the list. In fact, nearly 1 in 4 Americans have been victimized by identity theft and nearly 9% of Americans had it happen to them in 2020 alone. When it comes to credit card fraud, nearly half of all Americans have experienced this and 21% of them had it happen to them in 2020.
How Common Place it is becoming in 2021
This trend has not gone unnoticed. In a 202 Digital privacy study, 71% of consumers that have been surveyed said they were either concerned or very concerned about how protected their personal and financial information is or is not. Additionally, 14% of consumers said that they were planning to buy either identity theft protection or credit monitoring services in the next 12 months. Some of the key findings are that nearly 40% of Americans are just using their personal computer for their work, they’re not using a business computer and many of them are not using VPNs. In addition to that, it has been found that record numbers of Americans are ordering their food and groceries online downloading new apps, and signing up for new services, but very few of them are actually following the recommended digital privacy guidelines like using different passwords, using a VPN, disabling geolocation data and really doing themselves a disservice when it comes to privacy.
What to do if your identity has been stolen?
Say you’ve checked your credit monitoring report or your free annual credit report and you see that your number has just diminished when you haven’t opened any credit cards or you haven’t paid anything lately. In this case, you may be a victim. What should you do in this situation?
For one, you’re gonna want to begin assessing and mitigating the damage. That means contacting your banks, financial situations, or any organizations with which you’re involved to require them potentially locking your account. You’re going to want to check all three major credit bureaus, you’re gonna want to reach out to the Federal Trade Commission and file a report. If necessary, you’re going to reach out to the proper legal authorities.
How to Prevent Identity Theft
What steps can you take to protect yourself? The main thing you need to do is just having great online hygiene, doing things that we’ve implied throughout this article, like using different passwords for different sites, making sure that you’re on a secure network, or making sure a site is legitimate. You want to verify that you’re at the authentic page for that organization, bank, or financial institution before you supply it with any of your personal information.
Next, there are also some commercial options to supplement these practices. There are identity theft protection services, credit monitoring services, and credit reporting. Just remember that you can be as diligent as you can be and still slip up, so ensure that you’re taking all the steps you can and all the percussion necessary to keep yourself safe.
Overall, make sure to keep your personal information out of any dangerous place and opt for minimal theft protection measures to ensure great identity safety.