The Different Types of Identity Theft

Several different types of identity theft may be perpetrated against an individual through several different modes. Knowing the different types of identity theft will provide you with knowledge for protecting your personal information and accounts from being compromised by identity thieves.

Identity theft complaints account for one-fifth of all complaints to the Federal Trade Commission. In 2010, the agency reported that 250,854 identity theft complaints were filed through the FTC. An estimated one in 10 people will be the victims of identity theft. Theft of personal and account information is a growing problem in the U.S. and across the globe.

The FTC also reports that the states that have the highest frequency of identity theft include:

  1. Florida
  2. Arizona
  3. California

What is Identity Theft?

The term “identity theft” actually covers some diverse methods of criminal behavior, all of which involve obtaining personal information from a victim and using this information to commit fraud. The fraud ranges from unauthorized access to credit and bank accounts, to obtaining employment or collecting benefits using an individual’s Social Security number.

Benefits Fraud

The FTC reports that the most common fraud reported to their agency was the fraudulent use of a victim’s Social Security number to obtain federal benefits.

Credit Account and Utility Fraud

Another common use of illegally gained personal information from identity theft victims is to use their Social Security numbers, names and credit histories to open utility and phone accounts.

Credit Card and Bank Account Fraud

Yet another avenue of identity theft is the use of pre-approved credit card applications or a victim’s personal information to open fraudulent credit card or bank accounts.

Jobs, Apartments, and Loans

An individual’s personal information may be stolen for the identity thief to use to obtain employment, get an apartment or apply for a loan. If you believe your Social Security number has been stolen, it is important to immediately take measures to ensure that you notify the appropriate authorities, such as the Social Security Administration and the IRS, to ensure that you are not responsible for taxes or other costs that may be incurred due to fraudulent use of your information.

To Avoid Criminal Prosecution or to Commit Crimes

Some identity thieves steal victims’ personal information and literally attempt to become the victim. These people are often attempting to avoid criminal prosecution and are running or hiding from the law.

In other cases, an identity thief may assume a victim’s identity in order to commit a crime. This type of identity theft is most frightening as the victim may have warrants for their arrest when they have committed no crime.

Fraudulent Use of Your Credit Cards or Bank Accounts

Many identity thieves simply gain access to your credit card account or bank account numbers, and then use these account numbers to make fraudulent purchases. This is also considered identity theft, even though the perpetrator has not stolen your identity, per se.

To avoid having your personal information stolen, take great care when it comes to using your Social Security number, especially online or over the phone. Make sure that you keep your SSN private and ask that none of your accounts utilize this number to verify your identity over the phone or online. Most companies will allow you to set a PIN in order to avoid using your SSN.

Many people do not realize that their cell phones are just as easy to compromise as are their computers. Cell phone calls may be intercepted by criminals and your identity information stolen during a phone conversation.

However, in order to eavesdrop on cell phone conversations, criminals must be in close proximity to the caller with their interception equipment. Hacking and cracking accounts via computer access may be performed by an identity thief across the country or even across the world.

Make sure that when you provide credit card, bank account or any other personal information over the internet that you are using an Secured Socket Layer (SSL) to do so. The SSL connection begins with https:// versus http:// and the locked padlock will appear in most browsers indicating that your connection is secured.

In addition to protecting your personal information while online, make sure to never leave your Social Security card, or any documents with the Social Security number listed, where others may gain access to this information.

Make sure you secure all credit card and bank statements. Never throw these documents in the trash. Instead, shred them with a paper shredder or keep them on file in a locked file cabinet.