Identity fraud is a significant risk that we live with on a daily basis. Unfortunately, like death and taxes, it’s inevitable, and while you can take all the steps to protect your information at home, there’s always a chance your bank could get hacked.
So what happens if your ID card is stolen? How can you tell if you’ve been a victim of identity fraud? And what happens next?
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Your ID may already have been stolen
There is a high probability that your ID card has already been stolen. Over the years, a large number of data breaches have resulted in millions of records being leaked across the internet. Banking details, PayPal accounts, social media logins, mortgage applications, even medical records — pretty much every type of data you can think of has been leaked. These events occur because hackers find vulnerabilities in data servers, exploit them, and reap the rewards.
At the same time, there is a risk of phishing from e-mails, SMS and instant messaging. One wrong click will take you to a fake website that looks like a bank or online store and end up giving your details to a scammer.
Add to that the problem of targeted theft, either through wallet theft, dumpster diving (for discarded bank statements and letters) or even outright theft of your documents.
In relation to any involvement in a data breach, you can verify this by visiting was i pwned (opens in new tab). Enter your email address (check them all if you have more than one) to see if your records have been leaked.
Then change your password.
As for identity theft overall, let’s assume your identity was somehow stolen. What happens next?
How to know if you are a victim of identity fraud
We live with the constant risk of identity fraud. You may not even know if you are a victim. However, you will usually find out when it is too late to do anything about it.
Warning signs of identity fraud include:
- Unexplained credit or debit card charges
- Missing Statements
- Declined credit card
- rejection of a new loan
- Calls from collection agencies
Other telltale signs include the arrival of strange packages (the scammers may plan to collect them before you spot them on your doorstep) and the takeover of your social media accounts – particularly Facebook.
The effects of identity fraud are almost always devastating.
What happens if someone steals your identity?
Typically, identity theft occurs entirely online. First, your records are traded and available for criminal groups to browse like a catalog on the dark web. Then, with huge databases available for searching likely targets, automation is used to simultaneously target thousands of potential victims at once. This is how phishing operations work.
However, there are instances where identity theft occurs offline or uses data collected from the internet in a physical context. For example, instead of impersonating you online, an identity thief can impersonate you at a bank or use your information to try to buy a car (possibly using a fake driver’s license).
The end game is always to get as much money as possible as fast as possible before moving on without getting any smarter. It’s unusual for identity fraud to span more than a few weeks – after all, it’s game over as soon as the credit card statements come in. However, targeted identity theft can happen over a longer period of time, especially for high-income “brands”.
Regardless of the intricacies of the case, identity theft is extremely distressing. Finances are in shambles, reputation may be ruined. Long-term relationships and marriages have been damaged and made worse by identity theft.
Overcoming Identity Theft
Dealing with identity theft has two sides:
- rebuild your finances
- Dealing with the emotional impact
Perhaps the easiest thing to do is get your finances back on track. Banks, credit card companies, and other creditors have procedures in place to deal with victims.
- Contact your bank (and other creditors) to report missing cards and fraudulent activity.
- Check with credit bureaus like Equifax and Experian. You can add an ID fraud alert to your reports.
- Victims in the United States should contact the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to complete the Identity Theft Affidavit and obtain a confirmation of identity theft.
- UK victims can get in touch action cheating (opens in new tab).
- Contact your local police to report the theft if physical documents have been stolen.
If you are a victim of identity theft, you should not be held responsible for the money stolen. ID theft must not be the result of your own mistakes, which is why it is important to follow proper security practices.
The emotional impact of identity theft is another matter entirely.
Luckily you are not alone. There are several services that you can turn to to help you deal with the upheaval that identity fraud is bringing into your life.
US readers can contact us American consumer credit advice (opens in new tab) (ACCC), which specializes in financial education and related services.
If you are in the UK, contact an advice centre Consulting directory (opens in new tab). The Citizens Advice Bureau is also helpful, although its advice can be enlightening rather than comforting.
Don’t let ID fraud ruin your life
Almost all of us are victims of identity theft, but not all of us have been hit by identity fraud. Maybe you’ve had your credit card stolen or misappropriated – that’s bad enough, but pales in comparison to the impact of identity fraud.
If you’ve been the victim of identity fraud, you know how much work it takes to solve the crime. There are forms to fill out, phone calls and weeks of uncertainty. Will the money be refunded? Will the perpetrators be caught? Can you handle the upheaval?
Identity fraud can turn your life upside down. Please utilize all law enforcement services, bank action lines, and advisory resources to help you report, resolve, and manage the case.
- We also highlighted the best protection against identity theft
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