In this post, our friends at the Identity Theft Resource Center share some information taken from actual phone calls they’ve received from identity theft victims.
Identity theft has been around for a long time, but there’s a lot of ways it can manifest itself, ways you may not have considered. And with identity theft now broken up into different categories based on what criminals do with the victim’s information, it can be difficult to get a clear picture of how this crime affects people.
Sources like the Identity Theft Resource Center and the Federal Trade Commission work to keep tabs on the types and prevalence of various identity theft crimes. These are the top three categories of calls the ITRC has received so far this year to its toll-free call center:
1. Financial Identity Theft
This form of the crime is almost without exception the most common type of identity theft that we see—and it’s what most people think of when they envision ID theft. In cases of financial identity theft—as the name implies—someone has used your existing accounts without authorization or has opened new accounts in your name to make purchases or steal funds.
In any given month, financial identity theft accounts for more than fifty percent of the call volume to the ITRC’s help line.
2. Government Identity Theft
Government identity theft encompasses a few different problems that are seemingly unrelated, but that all fall under the auspices of someone using your identity to defraud the government. While many criminals have filed for unemployment, disability, or assistance benefits, there’s another form of government identity theft that strikes hard at this time of year—identity related tax fraud.
Tax return fraud occurs when a criminal uses your information to file a false tax return in your name. And it’s not just a matter of filing your legitimate return and pocketing your refund. The thief can file for any fraudulent amount of refund owed. When the IRS catches up with the mistake, clearing your name can be challenging—as can trying to file your legitimate return. Victims of tax return fraud often find out after they attempt to file their real return, only to have it rejected because their Social Security number has already been used in a filing that year.
3. Internet Takeover
This form of identity theft is truly the stuff of Hollywood cyberthrillers. You go to log into your email address, but all of your password attempts fail. You get a text message from your bank telling you that your account has insufficient funds. Your loved one texts you that she doesn’t know what’s going on, but never to call her again.
It’s straight off the big screen, but for too many people it’s also the reality of a crime called Internet takeover. Essentially, the criminal gained access to enough of your information, such as your email username and password, to go on to conduct even more intrusive violations with your online accounts. He (or she) changes your Facebook password, your Amazon password, even your iTunes password. And now, the criminal can send out messages that appear to come from your phone or device.
The frightening thing is watching the alerts pop up one-by-one, telling you something’s wrong, but you’re unable to stop or correct any of it because someone has locked you out of your accounts. In these cases, you’ll need to contact the companies directly to restore access and reset your password.
While there are other forms of identity theft, such as medical, employment, child, or criminal, the three highlighted above are the issues that have topped consumer calls to the ITRC in 2016. By first understanding what types of this crime are causing the most problems, the better we can help the victims who contact us.
This LifeLock UnLocked post is courtesy of our partners at the Identity Theft Resource Center.