More than one million cases of identity theft were reported in 2022, according to the FTC. Overall, more than $8 billion was lost to fraud last year, increasing by more than 30% from 2021. With identity theft and fraud continuing to rise in 2023, it’s more important than ever to know how to recognize scams and protect yourself from identity theft. Keep reading to learn what identity theft is, how to spot it, and how to avoid falling victim to it.
What is Identity Theft?
This type of fraud occurs when someone uses your personal information for financial gain, to obtain healthcare, or another reason. For example, a scammer could use your identity to open a new credit card in your name and rack up charges that you get the bill for. In order to steal your identity, scammers may hack into your accounts, steal your credit or debit card information (through skimming devices on ATMs, fuel pumps, or POS terminals), or use phishing to trick you into sharing your account number, social security number, or login credentials.
Types of Identity Theft
Learn about these six common types of identity theft so you can spot a scam–before you fall for it.
Financial Identity Theft
This is the most common type of identity theft and probably what you think of first. When your identity is stolen for financial gain, you may discover unauthorized charges on an existing credit or debit card, a new card opened in your name that you weren’t aware of, or have funds stolen directly from your bank account.
Medical Identity Theft
This is when your name and insurance ID are used to fill prescriptions, receive healthcare (doctor’s visits, surgeries, etc.), and get medical devices or supplies.
Criminal Identity Theft
This is when someone uses your real (stolen) driver’s license/state ID or a forged copy to show law enforcement when they are arrested or get a ticket.
Child Identity Theft
Believe it or not, scammers can even steal a minor’s identity and use it for financial gain, to get a driver’s license, apply for government benefits, and more.
Synthetic Identity Theft
This is when a scammer makes a new, fake identity using your real information such as your social security number, birth date, address, etc..
Taxpayer Identity Theft
This is when someone files a tax return in your name in order to pocket your refund.
How to Avoid Becoming A Victim of Identity Theft
West Shore Bank knows the risk of fraud for our customers firsthand because we see it every day. We decided to do something about it and add fraud protection into your checking account. View our secure checking accounts to learn more about the added benefits of identity theft protection, credit file monitoring and more. Follow these tips for identity theft prevention both online and off.
How to Prevent Identity Theft Online
Practice safe habits online:
- Create Strong Passwords. Don’t use public information such as your birthday or pet’s name. Avoid common sequences such as “abc” and “123.” Use letters, numbers, and special characters.
- Enable Multi-factor Authentication (MFA). This is when you have to enter a second credential, such as a one-time passcode, in addition to your username and password.
- Shop Securely Online. Only shop from reputable retailers. Look for the padlock symbol before the URL. Type in the retailer’s web address yourself instead of following a link.
- Avoid Public Wifi. Open networks are inherently unsecure because anyone can access them. Don’t shop online or log into financial accounts while using public WiFi.
- Install Software Updates. This includes operating systems and especially anti-virus software. Don’t ignore those notifications that a software update is ready to be installed!
- Donating Old Electronics? Wipe all your personal data before donating.
- Know What Banks Never Ask. Learn to spot the red flags that indicate a phishing scam. Here’s what we’ll never ask you–the same or similar goes for legitimate companies, the IRS, etc.
How to Prevent Identity Theft Offline
Credit card fraud is one of the top three reported types of identity theft. Protect yourself by practicing safe habits offline:
- Review your bank and credit card statements regularly. If you see any suspicious transactions, contact your bank immediately.
- Get a free credit report from Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Check your credit report regularly and report any incorrect information or suspicious activity, such as a new account you didn’t open.
- While a more extreme option, you can also freeze your credit to prevent new account openings or loan applications. Just make sure that you yourself won’t need to open a new credit account for a while.
- Collect and review your mail daily. Report any billing statements you receive for accounts you didn’t open.
- Check ATMs and gas station pumps for signs of tampering before you use them. It’s best to stick to bank ATMs as much as possible. You can also add your debit and credit card to your digital wallet for secure contactless payments.
- Shred mail and documents with personal and sensitive information on them–don’t just throw in the trash.
- Safeguard your social security number–don’t carry it in your wallet or use it as a password. Never share it with anyone–companies may ask for the last 4 digits, but no legitimate institution should ask for the whole number.
Signs You May Be A Victim of Identity Theft
If any of these things happen, investigate immediately.
- There’s a charge on your credit or debit card for something you didn’t buy.
- Debt collectors call you about a delinquent account you didn’t even open.
- Your credit report shows new account openings you didn’t authorize.
- You get turned down for a new loan or credit application and realize your credit score is lower than it should be.
- Mail isn’t showing up or you’re missing certain pieces of mail.
How to Report Identity Theft
To report suspected identity theft and fraud, call your bank immediately. If you think your West Shore Bank accounts have been compromised, contact us at 231-845-3500 or (888) 295-4373.
Next, contact the three major credit reporting agencies to request a fraud alert and credit freeze on your account.
Finally, you can contact the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at 1-877-438-4338 or online at IdentityTheft.gov.
Learn more about fraud prevention and cybersecurity!
Check out our resources and blog posts to learn more and stay informed about identity theft and other online scams.
- Fraud Prevention and Alerts | West Shore Bank - West & Northern MI
- Password & Security Guide
- User Guide For Two-Factor Authentication
- Guard More Than Your Heart This Valentine's Day
- A Dose of Cybersecurity Measures: 10 Tips to Enhance Cybersecurity for Your Small Business