A common misconception about identity theft is that lazy and careless people are the only ones affected. Due to the number of people with access to your information at various points, including stores and offices, there are numerous opportunities for strangers to gain access to your private information. Identity theft can be executed remotely and without your knowledge. What’s more, your data can be sold online, and in-person, and the perpetrators of such activities cannot be caught.
What is Identity Theft?
To understand the idea of identity theft, it is imperative first to know what identity theft is. According to a 2018 study on Identity Fraud, 16.7 million individuals were victims of identity fraud. This figure is believed to have increased from 15.4 million the previous year. Identity theft, according to the Department of Justice, takes place when a person wrongfully obtains another individual’s data or information to be utilized towards a fraudulent end. Identity thieves are usually keen on credit card numbers, passwords, bank account numbers, or any other piece of information concerned with the victim’s finances.
How much of a Problem Has it become?
Avoiding identity theft involves understanding its depth. There are so many reasons why criminals today work so hard to advance their fraudulent activities. However, the two main reasons include the use of chip-enabled credit cards and the advancement of two-factor authentication security procedures. Credit-card chips have made it more difficult for criminals to access personal information. Now that this has become difficult for criminals, their focus has been shifted to online fraud in what is today referred to as “card-not-present” fraudulent activities. These kinds of activities mainly take place on e-commerce websites and are today 81 percent more likely to take place compared to POS fraud.
On the other hand, the two-factor authentication schemes utilize SMS text messages which are usually submitted to users’ cellphones. Therefore, criminals who are looking to advance their activities by accessing privileged accounts are utilizing all means necessary to break into these cell-phone accounts. As a result, they are in a position to intercept SMS text and beat the two-factor system of authentication.
Growth of synthetic ID theft
The growth of synthetic ID theft also complicates the problem further. Criminals are able to match up different identity pieces to come up with an entirely new “person” whom they use to steal and apply for credit. Stolen data is used with other kinds of personal information in different permutations. Depending on how the activities have been executed, such new accounts may not be included in your credit report. However, in the event of an unpaid bill, agents searching for potential lead may end up looking for you.
What to do
So, how do you protect yourself from identity theft?
The most important step is to be vigilant at all times. Go through your credit score and report every chance you get. More often than not, a sudden decline in score can be an indication that you are a victim.
Also, make sure you turn on the two-factor authentication for all your accounts. Sign up for account alerts and get emails or messages about the activities taking place in your account.
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