In a 2019 Internet Security Theft Report conducted by Symantec, it was reported that cybercriminals have come up with new ways of stealing people's identity. These frauds, that involve Social Security theft, are more common than you might think. Unfortunately, no one is immune to identity theft. However, if you know the ways social security information gets stolen, you can better protect yourself.
How Personal Data Is Stolen
From the simple to the elaborate:
- Plain old wallet theft
- Digging and searching through trash cans in search of mail that contains personal data. Credit card statements, health insurance information, tax information, and more.
- Purchasing personal information from third parties. For instance, purchasing financial data from credit company employees.
- Skimming information from ATMs by using electronic devices that attach to the ATM and can steal information.
- Accessing free Wi-Fi networks; when you use free Wi-Fi, you are extremely vulnerable to identity theft. If you use passwords or enter websites that require you to input personal data – someone can be stealing that data by swiping the network.
- Pretexting – an elaborate scheme that involves the thief getting to know you. With pretexting, scammers will obtain bits of information about you to use to their advantage. They will then call you and pretend to be speaking on the behalf of a business or other entity and ask you to provide additional personal data.
- Phishing – one of the most common identity theft tactics. With this one, the identity thief will contact you via email. They will send you an email that looks official and legitimate, supposedly from an official authority. For instance, you will receive an email from the IRS, asking you to confirm your personal data or pay outstanding debt. Once you provide your personal info – the thief will steal your identity.
How to Protect Yourself from Identity Theft
The best thing you can do for yourself is to be suspicious. Whenever someone contacts you, via email, phone, or even in person, ask them necessary questions: why are they contacting you, is there a phone number you can call back, what is the purpose of the call, and so on.
Also, you should contact the entity that supposedly called you by yourself. If, for instance, someone claims to have contacted you from your health insurance provider, do not provide any data. Instead, call the official phone number of the health care provider and ask if they are the ones who contacted you.
Performing a background check on people and businesses can also provide you with accurate data about them. Be alert, be suspicious, be aware.