Identity theft is the fraudulent or unlawful use of another person’s name, identification, address, Social Security number, credit card, or other personal information without that person’s knowledge or consent. Identity theft is a federal offense, and other states have also implemented legislation banning it.
Credit card details may be saved on a computer, in a web browser, or in a pre-filled form on a website. If a hacker gained access to it and used it to make transactions, it would be seen as identity theft.
Identity theft may also result when someone is careless with their personal information in public. Someone giving out information over the phone in public, such as their credit card or social security number, could be easily overheard by a thief.
As you can see from the aforementioned examples, the internet has greatly increased the chances available to thieves. It is crucial to apply protections in order to protect your personal information, both offline and online. Your identity could be stolen, resulting in a criminal record, false tax returns, and a low credit score.
How Do Identity Theft Criminals Work?
Even though identity theft can happen to anyone, it mostly affects two demographics: youngsters and the elderly.
Child identity theft is a serious issue. This is because impersonators are more inclined to target them. For instance, most kids don’t have a credit card, driver’s license, tax history, or any other form of identification. Therefore, thieves can establish credit lines, get government IDs like passports or licenses, and secure a mortgage using information about minors.
Identity thieves can obtain a child’s information by questioning them in person, communicating online, or accessing them. If a parent or guardian has access to the child’s information, they can use it to apply for a loan or start a credit card account. The thieves may also assume official roles (such as administrators at the child’s school) to make the kid feel compelled to reveal information.
How Can I Safeguard Myself from Identity Theft?
Identity theft occurs when criminals get hold of your personal information, like your name, address, Social Security number, banking information, or credit card information. This is done through a number of techniques, including robbery, mail theft, trash diving, computer fraud, and phishing.
The best defense against identity theft is to keep your credit card and bank information private. This typically involves adding a few privacy-protecting practices to your regular routine.
How Can Someone Steal My Identity?
There are various ways to steal someone’s identity, including taking someone’s wallet, which typically contains personal information like a driver’s license and credit cards, which constitutes mail theft.
Dumpster diving is the practice of searching through the trash for documents holding personal information and/or account numbers.
Hacking into computer systems and stealing personal information are examples of computer fraud.
Phishing is the practice of obtaining personal information from victims while posing as a trustworthy company representative, such as an employer conducting a job interview.
Advice on How to Prevent Identity Theft
Look over the credit card statement. Your credit card statement is a key sign of if someone is using your credit card information fraudulently. Regularly review your statement to check for any odd expenditures. Notify your credit card provider right away if you stop receiving your credit card statements in the mail. It’s conceivable that an identity thief has ordered a change of address, so you won’t notice any suspicious charges.
Keep your mail, both inbound and outbound, safe. Bring your mail in on time every day to reduce the chance of theft. When you are traveling, either put a hold on your mail or ask a trusted friend to pick it up for you. Take your mail to the post office rather than leaving it in your mailbox when you’re mailing it out.
Documents holding financial or personal information should be destroyed. Before throwing away critical documents, shred them to reduce the possibility that dumpster divers can find your personal information. Any bank or credit card statements, medical records, and even credit card applications should all be destroyed.
Immediately cancel credit cards that have been lost or stolen. This will lessen the chance that an identity thief will use your credit card to open new accounts if your card has been compromised.
Additionally, keep in mind not to leave your credit cards in plain sight, including on your desk at work or in your car.
Use your Social Security number only in emergency situations. Avoid keeping your Social Security card in your wallet or bag, avoid writing your number on checks, and always be sure only to provide your Social Security number when absolutely essential.
Don’t give out private financial information when contacted by phone or email. A trustworthy financial institution would not ask for critical information over the phone or via email. A reliable and secure website is the greatest medium for delivering this kind of information. It’s one thing to call your bank or credit card company on your own, but you shouldn’t believe callers who identify themselves as from a financial organization and ask for personal information over the phone.
All electronic gadgets should have passwords and virus protection. If any of these devices are taken, having passwords for your PC, laptop, smartphone, and tablet will ensure vital information is unavailable.
What Must I Do if I Am an Identity Theft Victim?
You should report the theft to Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion if it has the potential to impact your credit rating negatively. These are the top three credit reporting agencies in the US. Make sure to notify the local police about the theft as well. Be sure to contact the Social Security Administration by phone or online if the theft involved your Social Security number.
Is Having an Identity Theft Attorney Important?
Yes, having legal counsel for identity theft is crucial. An attorney can guide you through the difficult challenges that result from identity theft. A lawyer can also facilitate communication with organizations like banks, prosecutors, and credit bureaus. An expert attorney will be aware of the actions that must be taken to safeguard your interests and make an effort to undo the harm caused by an identity thief.
An attorney for identity theft can assist with the criminal case. The federal or state governments will receive any fines imposed as a result of the prosecution. The victim can obtain restitution with the aid of a lawyer, which will include the perpetrator paying the victim for out-of-pocket expenses incurred as a result of the crime.
An identity theft attorney can aid a civil claim for damages. A victim may be entitled to seek injunctive relief, punitive damages, emotional distress damages, or compensatory damages.
The most frequent kind of damages granted are compensatory damages. These will compensate for any monetary losses due to identity theft.
Rarely are punitive damages granted in identity theft cases. These damages, which also include additional money, are aimed at penalizing and deterring the offender from committing similar offenses in the future.
A victim who experienced emotional distress as a result of the crime may be eligible for emotional distress damages. This could involve both depression and anxiety. It is frequently challenging to recover these damages.
A court order known as an injunction tells someone to stop doing something specific. In identity theft cases, a court may compel the offender to apologize, inform people about data exposure, and release the victim from any financial obligations resulting from their actions.