Look at any identity theft definition and you can see that there are many ways in which your personal data can be accessed by unauthorized persons and misused to your detriment.
For example, your social security number can be used by someone to impersonate you and the same goes for your driver’s license numbers too. When you shop online and use your credit card to pay for merchandise, these sensitive details can be captured and used by others to pay their bills or make purchases on your account.
It is not just financial loss that you can incur when you are a victim of identity theft; things can get far more drastic. Consider this, if your identity is used by someone to commit a crime or fraud, you could be facing some serious legal charges and repercussions.
All of these can happen if you fail to protect your personal data in an efficient and effective manner.
Two ways in which identity theft happens
Identity theft is often a complex issue that may not even come to your notice for a substantial time period after the loss has actually taken place. There are two categories of identity theft that can arise from poor data protection. One, your identity is used by someone else to open new accounts and enjoy the benefits for which you are held responsible.
For example, a new bank account may be opened and cash that should be flowing into your account may be diverted into the new, fraudulent one. This commonly happens with IRS identity theft where refund checks that should be yours are credited into an unknown account.
The thief may open credit card accounts using your credentials and run up huge bills that you end up having to pay for. Or the thief may sign up for services like cellular phone service and leave you with the bill since your name is being used to set up the connections.
The second way in which identity theft happens is when the thief accesses your personal data, either from your computer or phone or directly, by stealing your credit card or social security card. This data is used by them to gain entry into your existing accounts and profiles. Imagine, that an unauthorized person has access to your accounts. The first thing they do is change the address and contact details so that you do not get immediate intimation of any transactions. Next, the accounts can be misused in any way, either by wiping out cash balances or using the account or profile to make payments or sign up for services and products.
It may take quite a while for you to realize that someone other than you is using your account for fraudulent purposes. Often, you may be completely unaware until you start getting bills for purchases you never made or even notices for unpaid balances.
Identity theft has become far easier today because we heavily rely on hand held devices to carry out critical activities. Think about this, a person who gets hands on your mobile phone also has access to a veritable treasure trove of personal information about you that can be misused in innumerable ways.
There is little doubt that prioritizing data protection, for instance by installing anti- theft software on the phone, is a very important thing for you to do and equally important is to learn about the ways to prevent identity theft so that you can safeguard yourself effectively before any such event occurs.
Have you been a victim of a data breach? Tell us your story and we’ll post it on our blog. Otherwise, if you have and you want to ask some questions about protecting your identity we can put you in touch with a few amazing companies.