How Personal Information Can be Used for Identity Theft
Identity theft is a major problem in the United States, with millions of Americans falling victim to it each year.
Identity theft occurs when someone uses your personal information without your permission, usually for financial gain.
This is how Identity theft can have a devastating effect on victims, leading to financial ruin and even ruining their credit score.
Most identity theft cases involve the unauthorized use of personal information to obtain financial benefits.
15+ Ways Identity Theft Can Happen to You
There are a number of ways that identity thieves can obtain personal information. They may find personal information in the trash, on social media sites, or through data breaches.
They may also purchase personal information from data brokers or insiders.
You can accrue a virus or malware on your computer.
You can be tricked to give your private information through phishing tactics.
Your information can be hacked through old or simple passwords or even the cookies on your computer.
You could even be careless about protecting your financial information when in public or online.
Even today, your private information can be obtained right from your mailbox.
A modern way of obtaining your information is using all the combined information you post and share on social media.
Once they have obtained this information, they can use it to apply for credit cards, take out loans, or make other large purchases in the victim’s name.
In some cases, identity thieves will use victims’ personal information to apply for jobs or rent apartments, in order to commit other crimes or simply to live under a false identity.
In some cases, identity thieves will use your personal information to obtain medical services or insurance coverage.
Personal information can include your name, Social Security number, date of birth, address, and bank account information.
Social media can be used to get answers to security questions such as schools you attended when you graduated, and family members.
There are a number of ways your private, personal and financial information can be used without your approval and without your knowledge.
Let’s look deeper into how your information can be used so you know how to protect your identity and data.
Courses of Action
Identity thieves may use this information to open new credit accounts in your name, take out loans, or make other large purchases.
Criminals may also use stolen personal information to obtain employment or lease apartments, in order to commit other crimes or simply to live under a false identity.
In some cases, identity thieves will use your personal information to obtain medical services or insurance coverage. They can even use your information so they can avoid paying taxes.
Let’s look at individual means of how your identity can be ruined:
Criminals stealing identities love obtaining credit cards in others’ names. Today, upon approval, the credit card number can be provided instantly by credit card companies. This allows thieves to start using your new credit right away to make purchases.
This could be for electronics, groceries, entertainment, paying bills, and even getting cash advances.
These cash advances have higher interest rates and enable the criminal to spend money in cash so you are not knowledgeable of what or where they used the cash.
Some may even use the card for a period of time as if they are building their credit, making small payments, and waiting for credit increases. Then they may utilize the maximum credit (max out) and run. Then you are left with a high credit balance for a card you were not even aware of.
Some identity thieves open bank accounts in your name. This may sound the opposite of credit cards. Rather than taking money in the beginning, they are adding money in your name. But this isn’t the full scheme.
They may not be able to open a bank account in their name for various reasons. This may be an illegal immigrant, not having a social security number, owing taxes, child support, or alimony, or even having a warrant in their own name.
So they will want to be under the radar for sure and they are looking for just one person who does not pay attention to their own identity.
They may open an account in your name for a while. Then they may request lines of credit. Whether cash, equity, or credit cards through banks.
They later overdraw the bank account(s). The overdraft fees accrue still in your name. The identity thieves then default on the other accounts at the bank they opened, ruining your credit.
Further, banks do their own credit report monitoring and may close any accounts you have with other banks. This leaves you stranded without the ability to do any real banking.
It’s scary when identity thieves obtain mortgages in your name. It’s worse when so much time has gone by since you may have checked your credit only for them to buy, rent, and earn profits from the property. They can also accrue taxes and liens against the property and you may not discover until it’s too late.
Whether you are aware or not of any identity theft activity occurring with your name and credit, YOU are still responsible for any activity. This is why preventing such crimes from taking place with your name and credit is critical.
Auto loans opened in your name are more challenging than a mortgage. Mortgages are attached to a specific address and can locate the property. Vehicles are mobile and can be anywhere. Even transported overseas. Worse, vehicles can be crashed, and then you may be liable for any insurance claims or even lawsuits.
Personal loans can be obtained for various situations. These may be home improvement, trips, shopping, events, medical, or just to obtain cash. Many identity thieves like to apply for multiple loans at the same time to maximize the amounts they seek. Especially if they may know you have good credit. They then just take the money and run.
Medical Identity Theft
Medical identity theft occurs when someone uses your personal information without your permission in order to obtain medical care or services. Identity thieves may use this information to apply for Medicaid or other government benefits. This benefits them especially if they need a multitude of various medical services.
If you have insurance, they may use your maximum benefits leaving you stranded during an emergency.
Further, should you need a specific medical service, you may be denied due to any diagnosis the medical identity thieves incurred. Further ruining your situation.
Employment Identity Theft
Employment identity theft actually happens more often than people think. This can take place in part or in whole with one’s identity. Especially with those with common names.
One example is “Bob Smith” who may have worked at an insurance agency. The employment identity thief uses “Bob’s” resume’ to obtain employment at a hospital in medical records and insurance claims. He gets more money in salary and further gains access to Personal Identifying Information (PII) of patients and is able to further commit more identity theft.
There are various reasons identity thieves may use someone else’s identity instead of their own. These reasons could be:
- Avoid child support
- Avoid alimony
- Avoid taxes
Many times, there is usually a financial gain. It may be to greatly increase their salary.
Other times may be for trade secrets or obtaining inside data of a company. The value of such information can be in the millions and higher.
Businesses need to do their due diligence when selecting candidates to ensure the person is who they state they are. This includes background checks, facial images, and fingerprinting. The more valuable the company, the stronger the need to protect all assets. Including other workers.
Insurance Identity Theft
With all types of insurance, there are multiple ways identity thieves can take advantage of you. From home, rental, auto, health, funeral, life, and more. There are many areas for criminals to find opportunities.
Especially when it comes to life and death. Ensure to conduct credit checks on yourself and encourage family members to often do the same. Especially when your assets are higher in value than the average person.
Criminal Identity Theft
These situations can be embarrassing and humiliating. Criminal identity theft is when one may create a false ID with your credentials and then commit a crime. It can even be as simple as getting into a small accident or even getting a speeding ticket. They use your identity and create a criminal record.
This can destroy your reputation. You may even lose your employment or not gain a job or new position because of your criminal wrongdoing. You may even be arrested due to their conduct.
It’s best to do a background check on yourself from time to time just to ensure no one has tainted your name. This may need to be done monthly especially if you have a common name to ensure no one is mixing information.
Wouldn’t it just be nice to get a “free ride”? That’s what getting a free education might be. Imagine, finding out you obtain a complete education with degrees from a prominent college worth over $100,000.
Due to paying minimum payments and continuing interest, student loans grow to big amounts before you know it. That original $100,000 can easily turn to $225,000 before one knows it.
If you are not aware of student loans being added to your credit report, these amounts add fast. Worse, student loans are federal obligations in the United States. Even your Social Security can be attached for money owed.
There is no real way of getting out of student loans. These have to be fought the instant you discover them.
Wouldn’t it be nice if someone opened a retirement account in your name? One might think of it as a gift. That’s not always the case.
Let’s go back to “Bob Smith”. An identity thief discovered the real Bob had a large amount of money saved in a retirement account.
The fake “Bob” opened another retirement account.
Fake “Bob Smith” had the 2 accounts merged, closing the real one. He then took all the money and disappeared.
Further, the real Bob had to pay taxes on the money he originally had because of the withdrawal.
Bob can no longer retire at the time he intended because now he needs more money.
Check all your financial statements often. Do not wait any longer than 30 days to check all your finances. Usually, all your financial statements should be checked weekly.
There are many financial apps available today and the list will just keep growing. These can be for banks, credit unions, credit cards, financial investments, stocks, retirement accounts, and even shopping.
There are many options available to make payments for purchases. These options can be Klarna, AfterPay, PayPal, Sezzle, ZipPay, Apple Pay, Samsung Pay, and more.
Hacking into these apps can be done as easily as Bluetooth. If the identity criminal knows your credentials, then they can use multiple payment option apps without you knowing until later.
They can make purchases of various sizes. The first payment is usually deducted from your bank account instantly. Then the following payments may be every 2 weeks or monthly until paid in full.
If you see questionable amounts deducted from any of your bank accounts, notify your bank immediately.
Cryptocurrency is a digital currency that is being sought after and also accepted by many merchants. The currencies have value and can increase and also decrease. Because they can function digitally in a seamless manner, they have caught the attention of many. Even those with FOMO.
Cryptocurrency accounts are sought after not just because of the value but because of the ability to have anonymity. The value of the coins may be very high compared to when first obtained.
Hackers would love to get into one’s accounts and transfer digital coins to themselves. The chances of knowing who is not easy in cryptocurrency. Basically, once you lose your coins, they are gone. There is little if anything that can be done to recoup your losses.
Celebrities incur fake social media accounts all the time. We may think this is not as harsh as having money stolen from you. However, hackers and criminal identity thieves may pose as celebrities to obtain information from naive victims. This could be getting victims boasting they also have money and are therefore worthy of being in the celebrities’ presence.
Many fake celebrity accounts may be used by stalkers. They may know of one’s favorite celebrity and attempt to get private information from them or even stage a fake meeting. This can be a critical mistake for young women who may be in danger from an ex.
Never give private information on the internet. Talk to the person and confirm who they are. Even if you “think” you know who they are. Socialize offline.
Some identity thieves create fake dating profiles. There can be various reasons for this taking place. We may commonly think of pedophiles and Registered Sex Offenders (RSO’s) looking for victims. Further, an angry ex may create a fake profile of their ex to see who they converse with. They may also seek revenge.
Some may use fake dating profiles to scam others to become emotionally attached to them and scam them with fake stories that they are out of the country and need money. Big red flags there!
Nevertheless, fake dating profiles do not have positive outcomes.
Everything You May Apply For Can Result in Identity Theft
To make a long story short, everything and anything that you may apply for is where identity theft can occur.
Identity theft is a serious issue that can have a major impact on your life. Everything from your credit score to your employment opportunities can be affected if your identity is stolen.
It’s become more critical to do everything you can to prevent identity theft.
One way to do this is to be careful about the information you share online. Don’t post personal information like your Social Security number or address on social media or other public websites.
In addition, be sure to use strong passwords for all of your online accounts and never give out your password to anyone. You should also keep an eye on your credit report and be alert for any suspicious activity.
While identity theft can happen to anyone, identity theft can be devastating for victims. There are steps that can be taken to minimize the risk of becoming a victim.
These steps include being vigilant about who has access to personal information, keeping personal information secure, and monitoring financial accounts for unusual activity.
If you think you may have been a victim of identity theft, If you believe you have been a victim of identity theft, it is important to act quickly in order to minimize the damage. Contact the authorities immediately.
Taking these steps will help you protect yourself from identity theft and prevent it from happening in the first place.
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