Unless you are a victim of theft, you have never given thought to the question, “how does identity theft happen.” We wish that you are not a victim and concerned about this growing issue and came here to protect yourself. But if you are affected, then there must be one question in your mind: where was that weak link that allowed the identity thieves to steal your personal information.
Now the question is how they manage to steal your identity or how identity theft happens. However, you need to know what the thieves need to commit to identity theft to understand the answer. They need data, which can potentially be used to identify an individual, including full name, social security number, address or driving license, etc. Each of these documents involves your PII, making it easier for the thieves to steal your identity.
Top 10 Ways Identity Theft Happen
1. Wallet Stealing
Some so many people always carry their social security card or driving license in their wallets. If an identity thief steals it, then he or she has your full name, address, date of birth, of course, and social security number. Think about how easy it is for thieves to commit identity fraud on your name.
2. Mailbox Theft
Identity thieves are stuck about their jobs in the digital era, and grabbing mail from an unsecured mailbox is absolutely a tried-and-true method to steal someone’s personal information. If your mailbox involves emails from your financial institution, then it’s a jackpot for identity thieves. They can easily steal your credit card and bank statement. If there is a tax form, it is worse, as it includes your social security number.
3. Public Wi-Fi
Public Wi-Fi is truly unsecured, as there are a lot of chances that someone is monitoring your activities on the internet while using public Wi-Fi. Imagine you are at an airport or some coffee shop, and you are using the Wi-Fi network of the place, which is open to the public. You make an online transaction from your bank or login into your internet banking; there are a lot of chances of stealing your PII through the same unsecured public Wi-Fi network. It’s a bad idea to think a password-protected Wi-Fi is safe, as the identity thief may also use the same network by sitting near you.
4. Data Breaching
Data breaching often makes headlines in the USA newspapers, as many reputed organizations have become the victims. It could be anything, accidental or intentional. If the employee leaves a computer working that contains PII, they accidentally allow the thief to steal it. On the other hand, the thieves trick the employee into clicking on the link that creates an attack to steal PII from their computer.
5. Sim Card Swapping
Sim card swapping means someone takes over your phone number and applies for a new sim by requesting the last sim lost. The user stops getting calls and texts and may get a notice that your new sim is activated. The scammer will automatically start receiving the texts from your financial institution, and it becomes easier for them to apply for a new credit card or loan. But for issuing a new sim card, they must have any of your identity proof such as driving license or social security number.
We can call Phishing a traditional way of working for the scammers, as they act by tracking someone with the name of an organization and try to get you to disclose personal data. Just like this, sometimes the scammers use a callerId to trap someone, and the number appears to be a trusted company or government agency.
Skimming means using a card swiping machine to steal someone’s identity. It happens when a person uses their credit or debit card to pay at a brick-and-mortar location such as a petrol or gas pump. Skimming can also be done through the ATM. Therefore, the authorities have started issuing chip-protected debit and credit cards that are highly authenticated and secured.
8. Phone Scam
Phone scams refer to a process when a scammer calls any individual and tells them that you have won something. After that, they ask for your personal information, such as bank details, for where to send your winning amount.
9. Looking Over You
The identity thieves are so clever and focused on their work. They can be anywhere around you and looking over you. However, they also look like a normal individual, and it is next to impossible to spot them between a huge crowd. They used to capture the finger activities of someone using their phone or computer at a public place. They can learn your passwords by just watching your finger’s movements on the keyboard of your laptop or phone. Apart from this, the information on your credit card can be photographed by the identity thief at a public place.
10. Malware Attack
Opening an email or visiting an infected web page may cause malicious software or malware in your computer. The identity thieves use keyloggers as malware to attack someone’s computer and steal their personal information. With malware attacks, they can access someone’s passwords, account numbers, etc.
Click on the link to read the real stories of the victims of identity fraud. You will get more idea of how the thieves trap the victims.
What is Child Identity theft, and why is it the favorite of scammers?
Child identity theft refers to fraud when an identity thief uses the social security number to commit fraud. These frauds involve applying for a credit card or taking out loans. The unique identity theft is attractive to thieves for several reasons, and that’s why as per FTC records, around one million children are victims of identity theft so far. There are some major reasons why it is a favorite crime of the identity thieves, as given below.
Chances of Clean Credit History
There are many chances of a child’s clean credit history, as only one out of 100 may have used a credit card and didn’t repay it. Most parents give their credit cards to their children for several uses. If the scammer got the PII of a child and applied for a new credit card or took out a loan, then it may be sanctioned easily by the authorities.
Doubt on Family Members
The second major reason is that when a child is a victim of identity theft, the first doubt goes to the family members or the person close to them. It is easy for a family member to use their identity or social security number and use it for anything such as opening bank accounts or applying for a new credit card. It seems in many cases when parents accuse friends or other family members of stealing their child’s identity.
Easy to Steal Identity From School
Sometimes parents also become careless and fill out forms mentioning their child’s school name. They didn’t try to know where the information was going or the form sent by the school. Identity thieves use these kinds of tricks mostly to steal a child’s identity. However, the school is the safest and feasible place for identity thieves to steal a child’s identity.
No one is Watching Credit Report
Most adults are concerned about only their credit reports and check them regularly. They think there isn’t any loan or credit card issued in their child’s name, and it is not important to check their credit report. However, the children are also not concerned about it, as they only need a good credit score when they apply for a study loan.
May Not be Realized for Years
As we mentioned earlier, no one is watching their child’s credit report, and they need it only when they have to apply for a study loan or employment. Therefore, the crime stays hidden for years until the debt collectors come to them or don’t receive notice from the honorable court.
You can visit the official website of Equifax to know the exact records of child identity theft in the past years. You will get to know how dedicatedly the scammers are following the children for their business.
How does Child Identity theft happen?
Child identity theft happens like adults, as someone steals their PII or social security number to commit the fraud. Here are two major ways of committing identity theft used by scammers.
1) Social Security Number
Parents apply for the social security number of their children soon after they are born. They do it because they need the number to claim the child as a dependent on their income tax return and open a bank account or get medical coverage. However, the parents can also sign a savings bond or apply for a government job for their child with a social security number. The identity thieves try their best to find out the social security number through many ways and commit identity theft.
2) Data Breaching
If they find the full name, address, and date of birth of a child through a data breaching method, they can easily get the social security number by paying some charges. If the parents haven’t applied for the social security card of their child, the thieves can do so with the name, date of birth, and address of the child.
Warning Signs of Child Identity Theft
However, child identity theft remains hidden for years, but the signs may alert the parents after a few months of the crime. Here are the warning signs, which many parents can’t avoid.
Pre-approved credit card mails
If you or your child receives a pre-approved credit card or loan mails often, then do not avoid it. As maybe someone has applied for this by stealing your child’s identity.
Turned Down for government benefits
You might have applied for a government benefit for your kid and found it is already paid on another account. It is a critical situation, as someone is using your child’s security number.
A letter from the IRS saying your child isn’t paid their income tax is also a warning sign of identity theft. However, if your child isn’t working, as he or she is still studying in school, do not think that the IRS has made a mistake. An organization like the IRS never sends a false notice, and if it contains the name of your child, then the time has arrived to be concerned about it instead of avoiding it.
Suppose you or your child receives calls or texts from any collection agency saying that your child has borrowed the money from any financial institution and didn’t repay it. These calls indicate that your child is a victim of identity theft. Collection agencies also send emails; if you receive these emails, be concerned about it immediately.
What Should You Do as a Parent?
As a parent, if you find your child is a victim of identity theft, then immediately take the below-given actions.
Contact Credit Bureau
Immediately contact any of three major credit bureaus, Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion, as the one will inform the other two. Ask them to remove the information associated with your child’s name and place a fraud alert. If there is any bank account opened in the name of your child, then ask them to close it as soon as possible. Furthermore, if your child is a minor, then the process will become much easier, as you just have to prove its minor status.
The next step is contacting the businesses where your child’s identity is misused. Ask them to close all the fraudulent accounts by presenting the note of identity theft. However, they will do something to recover their amount, but you can save your child from a critical situation.
Immediately freeze your child’s credit file, so no one can take it over. The credit bureaus will provide you a pin or password so that only you can access or make any activity in your child’s credit files.
Whenever you know that your child is a victim of identity theft, immediately file an online report with the FTC. Here is the link
You can also file a fraud report by a phone call – 877-438-4338.
As one can see from the facts above, it is not easy and not hard to steal your identity. Your careless behavior can put you at a huge loss. The scammers are active everywhere in the USA and passionately looking for their next victim. We hope you aren’t a victim of identity theft yet, and if you want to protect yourself or your children from these scammers, then read our other article on how to prevent identity theft. We have discussed their easiest ways to prevent identity theft.
Furthermore, if you or your child is a victim of this serious crime, immediately take the actions discussed above. It is suggested not to avoid the signs of identity theft.