In today’s day and age, it can seem like our personal data is at constantly risk of theft. From high-profile security breaches to online scams, we could fall victim to identity theft at any moment. To understand these risks and to protect yourself against these crimes, it is important to be aware of the most common types of identity theft.
#1: Social Media Identity Theft
Many of us have social media accounts across multiple platforms, and often share very personal information about ourselves on them, including photographs, locations, and family information. Social media identity theft occurs when someone either hacks into your account and impersonates you, or duplicates your account.
Social media identity theft can be incredibly harmful. For example, the hacker could ruin your reputation by sending inappropriate or harmful messages to others, posting inappropriate content, or engaging in hateful activities online. The hacker could also uncover your passwords and use them to access other private accounts on other sites. To avoid this theft, keep your passwords secure and refrain from sharing too much personal information on these sites.
#2: Tax Identity Theft
When you fall victim to tax identity theft, someone uses your social security number to either get a job or to file a tax return using your information. Sometimes, the thief can attempt to collect your tax return – and you may be unaware that this occurs until the IRS notifies you of a previously-filed tax return. To avoid this theft, file your taxes early, shred old tax documents, and ask for direct deposits for your refunds.
#3: Credit Card Identity Theft
Credit card identity theft is one of the more well-known types of identity theft. It involves someone else using your information to open bank accounts, take out loans, or get new credit cards in your name.
This can wreak havoc on your financial health, ruining your credit and impacting your ability to take out mortgages or open new financial accounts. To avoid falling victim to credit card identity theft, review your credit reports regularly and use a financial service to freeze your credit as soon as you notice unusual activity.
#4: Social Security Number Identity Theft
Social security number identity theft is another well-known form of this crime, and a common one as well. Your social security number can unlock a number of financial pathways for identity thieves, and ties into many other forms of identity theft. They can use your social security number to sign up for government benefits, open financial accounts, and steal your tax refunds.
You can prevent this crime from happening by keeping this number safe. Keep your social security card in a secure location at home and do not carry it in your wallet. Never share your social security number unless it is necessary, and shred all documents that display the number.
#5: Banking Identity Theft
This type of identity theft involves your bank account, and can lead to significant financial crisis. Typically, banking identity theft occurs when a thief steals your credit and debit cards or your bank account information, allowing him or her to access and withdraw your funds. It can occur as a result of a data breach, unsecure internet connection, or even special devices called skimmers which could collect your card information at an ATM.
To prevent this crime from happening to you, make sure to keep your bank account information safe. Monitor your transaction history regularly to look for any unusual transactions and shred any documents that contain your card information. Avoid using unsecured internet networks and protect your computer with antivirus software, firewalls, and strong passwords.
Identity theft is a crime across the United States, and the penalties for committing it can be severe. If you are facing charges for identity theft in Washington state, it is important to contact a Tacoma criminal defense attorney who can represent you in the courtroom and at the negotiating table. If you have not done so already, contact a defense lawyer as soon as possible following your arrest.