Cybersecurity is becoming an increasingly critical issue in 2022. Today, cyber threats are everywhere, endangering both companies and private individuals.
Last year alone, cyber criminals caused $400 billion worth of damage.
For individuals, one of the biggest hazards in the virtual world is identity theft. It can lose you several thousand dollars, and cost you hundreds of hours of administrative work to recover from.
But what does identity theft look like exactly? What different types should you watch out for? And, most importantly, how can you protect yourself?
Here’s the run-down.
Financial Identity Theft
To start with, the single most common type of identity theft is financial identity theft.
This means that hackers hijack your identity to gain access to your credit cards, bank account, or government benefits.
Basically, they make cash off you directly.
Usually, you become aware of this kind of identity theft when you start seeing unusual charges on your credit card or when your credit rating changes. In the worst-case scenario, debt collectors might even start showing up on your doorstep.
Criminal Identity Theft
A second kind of identity theft is criminal identity theft. Here, someone uses your identity to commit a crime. Or rather, they use your identity if they are apprehended while committing one.
At the very least, you might suddenly get cited for traffic violations you never committed. If worse comes to worst, though, police might turn up with a warrant for your arrest.
Child Identity Theft
Next up, there is child identity theft. This kind of identity theft targets children in particular, with hackers hijacking their identity for their own gain.
Children are easy targets. Often, they fall for basic online scams and hand information over to cyber criminals. Even if they don’t, the extensive information parents often post about them on social media makes it easy to reconstruct their identity.
Criminals then use your child’s identity to open accounts, engage in financial transactions, or even commit fraud.
One aspect that makes child identity theft particularly dangerous is that it is rarely noticed. For instance, you might not realize that your kid’s credit rating is terrible until they apply for student loans and are refused.
Medical Identity Theft
The fourth and final type of identity theft is medical identity theft. Here, your identity is used to cover treatments that you never needed.
Criminals use your name, social security number, and Medicare number to submit claims for surgeries, medication, and therapy.
In most cases, you’ll remain unaware of this problem until your insurance company alerts you to irregularities.
How to Protect Yourself
All these different kinds of identity theft can cause you major financial and reputational damage. That’s why it’s paramount to protect yourself.
As a first step, secure all of your accounts. Enable two-factor authentication and step up your password security.
Next, adjust the settings on your social media profiles. Increase your privacy and make sure that sensitive data isn’t visible to cyber criminals looking to hijack your identity.
In addition, make it a habit to carefully check your credit card statements for unknown transactions. Plus, regularly request credit reports to monitor your ratings for any unusual changes. Do this even for minors.
Finally, you can consider subscribing to an identity theft protection service. They typically offer features such as account and credit monitoring. Many of them also include insurance in case cyber criminals do get hold of your identity.
Having your identity stolen can be catastrophic.
To protect yourself and your family it’s crucial to know what the different types of identity theft look like.
By watching out for the warning signs and taking steps to secure your identity, you’ll be able to stay safe and leave cyber criminals frustrated.