Updated: Apr 18, 2022
Author Jose-Miguel Maldonado
When you hear the phrase “Identity Theft” you may think of someone using your social security number to open up a new line of credit or someone taking your photo and creating a fake ID card. The truth is that identity theft is actually a broad term that can encompass several different mediums by which an identity is used.
Here is a quick primer on six different types of identity theft:
1. SSN Identity Theft
a. SSN is used to open lines of credit/new credit cards
2. Financial Identity Theft
a. Bank accounts and credit cards are accessed and used illegally
3. Child Identity Theft
a. A child’s SSN is used maliciously
4. Medical Identity Theft
a. Medical and health insurance fraud
5. DL Identity Theft
a. Using someone’s Driver’s License # to create a new identity
6. Synthetic Identity Theft
a. Combining info from multiple victims (e.g. photo from one, DOB from another, SSN from another) to create a new identity
Regardless of which identity theft we’re referring to, they all have negative implications for the people whose identities have been compromised. A report from 2014 stated that occurrences of identity theft happened every two seconds. In 2018, it was reported that there were roughly 16.7 million victims of identity theft – this was just what was reported and it’s safe to say there were probably more victims.
How Can Your Identity Get Stolen?
Credit card skimmers
Whenever identity theft occurs, the impact could be long-lasting. Some potential effects are: emotional or financial stress, reputation is tarnished, physical repercussions, and feelings of vulnerability or self-blame may occur.
The good news is that there are things you can do to help combat and also prevent identity theft from happening in the first place:
Enable alerts for financial accounts/credit cards
Put a fraud alert, or better yet, a credit freeze with all four credit reporting agencies (Experian, Transunion, Equifax, Innovis)
Use a secure PO Box/mailbox
Leverage USPS Informed Delivery
Add a verbal password to your bank/credit union accounts
Add a pin/password with your cell provider to prevent porting scams
Confetti shred physical PII (e.g. mail with your SSN or account numbers)
Check your credit report for unknown/fraudulent accounts
Use a password manager + MFA for all online accounts
Use a credit card instead of a debit card for purchases, as you’re only liable for $50 for fraudulent charges according to the FTC
Don’t carry your social security card with you
While it is impossible to completely prevent identity theft, you can set yourself up for success by limiting your PII exposure and also staying on top of new potential fraud by following the tips mentioned above.
About the author: Jose-Miguel Maldonado is the VP of Business Ops & Security at Rubica, a cybersecurity startup, and has acquired a reputation for creating cybersecurity champions out of non-technical people.