Three Common Identity Theft Scams and How to Protect Yourself
1. Child Identity Theft
Child identity fraud costs U.S. families an average of $1 billion annually and affects one out of every 50 children. Although child ID theft is not new, the increased use of the internet through social media and remote learning has accelerated the opportunities for fraudsters. Child identity theft, generally involving a child’s Social Security number (SSN) and name, is extremely time consuming to resolve and can have long-lasting consequences.
CapitalCounselor reports that identity fraud incidents reported to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) increased around 45% in 2020, with children often the target, as their unused Social Security numbers are incredibly valuable. Criminals often use these SSNs for years before anyone even realizes it, causing a massive financial headache for parents and their kids. Victims report many devastating consequences, including the inability to obtain financial aid, enroll in college or pass background checks. The Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) recommends freezing a child’s credit in an effort to reduce the risk of child identity theft occurring. These freezes restrict access to the child’s credit report, including access by cybercriminals, who may be trying to fraudulently use your child’s identity. These security freezes are free and remain in place until the parent or guardian takes action to remove it or the child takes action to remove it after their 16th birthday.
Of those who reported being victims of a social media account takeover to the ITRC:
- 85% had their Instagram account compromised
- 25% had their Facebook account compromised
- 48% clicked on a link they believed was from a friend
- 67% reported continued posts to the account after the criminal locked out the owner
- 66% reported experiencing a strong emotional reaction to losing control of their social media account
One of the fastest-growing forms of identity theft involves creating a new identity by combining stolen and fake information to create a realistic fake persona. Aite Group estimates synthetic identity theft losses will reach $2.42 billion annually by the end of 2023. Synthetic identity theft uses a real person’s SSN and other pieces of their identity, often published through data breaches on the dark web, to begin establishing credit with a fake identity. From there, the fraudster may file tax returns, apply for unemployment benefits, obtain credit cards and loans and more, causing serious financial damage for the victim.
This type of fraud is often difficult to detect with traditional fraud monitoring techniques because the identities look legitimate and are not flagged as suspicious. Because of this, victims typically won’t be aware their information has been compromised until it’s too late.
Fraud and cybercrimes are prevalent, but as with most things, prevention is the best protection. Teach your children about cybersecurity and use good cyber-hygiene habits including two-factor or multi-factor authentication when possible, unique passphrases that cannot be easily guessed, logging out of accounts when not in use and always be suspicious of links from known and unknown sources. On social sites, ensure the email associated with your social media account is secure and do not download third-party apps within a social media platform. It’s also a good best practice to secure your Social Security Number and regularly review and monitor your credit reports and credit scores.
Identity theft is incredibly lucrative, and unfortunately, scams are on the rise. Educating yourself about prevalent scams and proactively practicing good cyber-hygiene is key. If you suspect you are the victim of a scam, contact the Federal Trade Commission by calling (877) FTC-HELP (382-4357) or visit their website at reportfraud.tfc.gov.
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