What might someone steal from your phone, computer, doctor’s office or favorite retailer? If you’re not careful, they could take your entire life.
As more people and devices become connected, the risk of identity theft rises. According to 2014 statistics published by the U.S. Department of Justice, a whopping 11 million people fall prey to identity theft each year.
Naturally, fraudsters employ many techniques to carry off their heists. Here are four of the most interesting identity theft strategies we’ve heard about:
1 Targeting Where You Shop
No longer do identity thieves have to hunt through your trash can for mail with your name on it. Now, they just steal your credit card, address and personal history data from Amazon, PayPal, PlayStation, eBay and any other companies you patronize.
Think you’re immune? Perhaps your favorite retailer isn’t quite as trustworthy as you believe. In early 2015, for instance, the world learned that Moonpig, a huge online retailer based in the UK, had failed to fix a known security vulnerability for more than a year. While the company denied that anyone’s data was stolen, it essentially left millions of credit card account details open to hackers for 18 months.
2 Robbing Those Who Fit the Profile
In 2014, a pregnant woman in the UK assumed the identity of another UK mom so that she could keep her children from being taken into state custody. Reports said the woman committed the deception by taking details about her victim’s personal life from a social media profile. While this case probably bears a few lessons about using social media safely, it also goes to show anyone could be at risk.
3 Aiming for Low-Hanging Fruit
Each year, countless fraud victims are dismayed to learn their identities were stolen by their own family members. Personal knowledge of a victim makes it way easier to steal from them, and as a result, thieves can include everyone from parents and siblings to children and grandkids. One divorced father even discovered that his ex-wife had been applying for credit cards in their children’s names for five years following the split!
4 Using You as a Scapegoat
Your identity thief may not even try to take advantage of your personal information until it becomes unavoidable. If you end up in police custody for a crime you’re certain you didn’t commit in a state you’ve never visited, a fraudster may have given your name to law enforcement instead of their own. While this kind of criminal identity theft is well-known, each jurisdiction has different requirements for clearing your name. Sadly, having a police record doesn’t make things any easier for victims.
Did we miss something? Tell us about your experiences with identity theft in the comments below.