Would you believe that incidents of identity fraud increased by more than 40% from 2019 to 2020? A report created by GIACT titled U.S. Identity Theft: The Stark Reality found financial loss related to identity theft rose by approximately 42% in 2020.

With that huge increase, how can you protect yourself? The answer is education is your best defense. If you’re aware of the most common identity theft scams, you can take simple actions to eliminate some of your vulnerabilities. Keep reading to learn how you can help protect yourself from becoming an identity theft victim.

Child Identity Theft

Some of the youngest identity fraud victims are children. In fact, more than 23,000 reports of identity theft reported to the Federal Trade Commission last year were for those under the age of 19. Criminals obtain names, birthdates and Social Security numbers for minors under the age of 18 and use their information to get a variety of financial services and goods from bank accounts to utility services.

Senior Identity Theft

Some people use obituaries as tools for identity crimes. They obtain names, SSNs, birthdates and other personal information for people who are deceased. They can then use that information for a variety of identity thefts, including applying for driver’s licenses and bank accounts that can help them secure credit cards, homes, cars, utility services and other financial assets in the future.

Tax Identity Theft

Tax fraud occurs when someone uses another person’s identity to obtain a tax refund. For example, the identity thief files a false tax return in the victim’s name and provides a different bank account for direct deposit or address to receive a check by mail. Last year, there were more than 89,000 cases of tax identity fraud reported to the FTC.

Financial Identity Theft

There are two ways criminals commit financial identity fraud:

  • They use your personal information to apply for new accounts and then use those accounts for their benefit.
  • They take over accounts that you have already established. That may mean quickly stealing money in a bank account or gaining an unauthorized access and changing the login credentials to lock you out of your account.

Financial identity theft crimes can involve bank accounts, credit cards, mortgage or car loans and many other financial accounts. Credit card fraud alone increased more than 50% between 2019 and 2020, according to FTC data.

Medical Identity Theft

Medical identity theft occurs when someone uses a stolen identity to obtain medical services. The FTC received only 806 reports of medical services identity theft in 2020, but that reflected an increase of nearly 30% from 2019. Medical identity fraud is one of the most dangerous types because it can do more than destroy your financial life. The fraudulent medical services are entered into the victim’s medical records, potentially endangering their lives during future medical services.

Mail Identity Theft

Stolen mail is often used to gain personal information needed for other types of identity theft. If you throw away bank and credit card statements, you’re giving criminals part of the information they need to steal your identity. Even if you throw away junk advertisements offering you personal loans or insurance, criminals can use those ads to file false applications on your behalf.

Employment Identity Theft

Employment fraud occurs when someone uses another person’s identity to obtain a job. In many cases, they use someone else’s name because they cannot pass a background check with their own identity. There were more than 1,100 Federal Trade Commission reports of employment identity fraud in 2020, which was up 36% from 2019.

Criminal Identity Theft 

According to FTC data, at least 364 people were victims of criminal identity theft in 2020. Criminal identity theft fraud are designed to evade the law. The criminal is often released with a court date, and they never show back up for court. The identity theft victim often ends up in handcuffs, explaining that they were never arrested or charged previously. Fingerprints collected at the time of arrest are often proof of what happened, but the criminal is often never apprehended.

Simple Strategies to Help Safeguard Your Assets

  • Never give your personal information in response to an unexpected request. You may receive a phone call, email or text message from someone saying they are associated with your bank account, credit card or mortgage loan that requests identifying information. Always hang up or delete the message and then contact your financial service provider directly.
  • Sign up for identity theft protection. A credit and identity theft monitoring service constantly monitors your credit report and scores and alerts you when it detects unusual activity. A service that actively monitors your identity and scans the dark web for your personal information is essential.
  • Move your mailbox as close to your home as possible. Shred unwanted mail and then toss it into the trash. If you go away on vacation, have someone you trust to pick up your mail daily.

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