In 2017, 16.7 million people were victims of identity fraud. The total amount of money thieves stole was $16.8 billion dollars.
While you can’t prevent becoming a victim of identity theft entirely, there are a lot of steps you can take to prevent it. One way is to know the signs of identity theft.
The more quickly you take action, the easier it is to get back your money and your life. With more people having access to the internet, identity theft is becoming more prevalent.
If you’re like to understand the effects of identity theft and how hackers make money, keep reading. We’re sharing with you how to protect yourself and see the warning signs.
Check Your Credit for Signs of Identity Theft
It’s incredibly easy for a thief to get your information. Thieves can even steal your frequent flyer miles.
Which is why it’s so important for you to be diligent about checking your statements. That includes your credit card statements, social security statements, and your credit score.
If you spot purchases you’re unfamiliar with, you should immediately report it to your credit card company. If your credit card company or bank denies you credit, there’s a good chance someone else has been using your information and has ruined your credit history.
Check your credit score at least once a year. It’s free and it’s worth it to see if there are any unfamiliar accounts listed there. And if your credit score falls suddenly and unexpectedly, you could also be a victim.
Your social security number is used for a wide variety of purposes. If your social security number was stolen, you could end up with a lot of problems.
A thief can use your social security number to open up accounts. If you don’t realize it, you could be on the hook to pay off thousands of dollars for merchandise you never purchased.
Thieves also use social security numbers to file false IRS claims in order to receive a refund. And if a thief uses your social security number after they’ve been arrested, you may end up with the police showing up at your door with an arrest warrant for a crime you never committed.
Medical ID theft is another way thieves use your social security information. Suddenly, you may have creditors calling you at all hours trying to get you to pay them back.
Even utilities aren’t safe when it comes to stolen SSN numbers. Thieves use your information so they can enjoy free cable, phone, gas, and even water.
How Hackers Get Your Information
There are various ways hackers obtain your information. They can use social media to learn information on you, including when you’ll be on vacation. Then all they need to do is try your door and let themselves in.
They can also go through your garbage to find personal information.
They can hack into your computer system and do a scan for personal information. Maybe they saw a news story about a merger or an IT swap over.
Hackers will even befriend your friends and employees online. All they need to do is ask the right questions to get the answers they need.
How Hackers Make Money
Hackers make money in a few different ways. If they sell your credit card information, they’ll either sell it or trade it for something to other hackers.
If a hacker has access to your banking information, they’ll transfer your funds into an account with a fake them. Then they’ll transfer it a few more times to make the trail go cold.
Your e-mail address, employee and customer data are also worth something on the black market. They use this information to spread malware and botnets.
All of these schemes are bad, but it can get worse.
Hackers can use your information to extort you and the people around you. They can commit fraud using your accounts.
They may sell or publicize your intellectual property and online content or attack your reputation while spreading lies about your business. They can sell the programs they use to exploit the vulnerability in your system or use a botnet to monetize more data.
And while they’re trading your data for service, they’re building up their reputation as a hacker.
How to Keep Yourself Safe
There are quite a few things you can do to keep yourself safe. Investing in a shredder to destroy all your private work and personal documents is a good first step.
And check your mail. Open up all correspondence to ensure your statements are correct and that no one has opened up accounts in your name.
How to Stay Safe Online
You can also stop using the same password for every account you have. Use a combination of numbers, letters, and symbols. Having a unique password makes it more difficult for them to access your accounts.
When you’re online you’re at risk. Make sure you only visit secure sites. Look to the top left-hand corner to make sure all sites you visit start with an “https”.
Learn how to secure your business WiFi. You can read more on how to do that.
Everywhere you can enable a two-factor authentication. This forces you to enter a code that’s sent to your phone to access your accounts making it difficult for thieves to access any information.
Most hackers don’t want to work that hard. They’re more interested in pursuing the low-hanging fruit. Making it slightly more difficult for them to access your information helps keep you safe.
The Effects of Identity Theft
Being a victim of identity theft affects you negatively socially, emotionally, financially, and even physically.
It can take years for you to sort out your finances. In the meantime, you’re stuck dealing with the credit score agencies, IRS, social security, and banks.
Socially speaking, the thief can ruin your reputation. They may also leave you financially destitute leaving you to ask friends and family to help you out monetarily.
Emotionally speaking, it’s exhausting, frustrating, and scary to be an identity theft victim. Physically speaking, you may fear for your safety or the emotional trauma may begin to negatively affect your health.
There are many signs of identity theft that if you’re paying attention, you can easily spot. This can be a little more difficult when you’re browsing the internet.
One way you can prevent malware is by using our Google Malware check tool. Click here to ensure you only visit safe sites.