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The digital age has allowed many people to stay more connected than ever. However, technological innovations have also created more opportunities for cybercriminals to commit identity fraud and other sophisticated attacks on individuals and businesses. 

The Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) 2021 Annual Data Breach Report showed there has been an alarming increase in data compromised this year, even breaking previous years’ records with 1,862 reported incidents

Dealing with a stolen identity can happen to anyone, anytime. Act quickly to reduce the risk of identity fraud and its damages, and familiarize yourself with what to do if your identity gets stolen.

How Does Identity Theft Happen?

1. Data breaches

It’s important to distinguish data breaches as a result of a cyberattack, rather than the threat itself. A data breach occurs when unauthorized individuals penetrate security computer systems to gain access and possibly steal sensitive or personal data. 

Financial and medical information are commonly stolen through data breaches to make fraudulent purchases or get illegal access to another individual’s medical insurance. However, criminals may also steal email addresses or log-in credentials to sell on the dark web. 

2. Phishing attacks

Phishing is one of the most used identity theft schemes. It happens when a criminal deceives their victim into disclosing personal details by pretending to be a legitimate staff of an organization, such as a government agency, insurance company, or payment-services institution. 

Attackers have discovered various tactics to come off as authorities to their victims. There have been reports of phishing via text messages, standard emails, social networking sites, and even telephone calls. 

3. Confidence fraud

In confidence fraud, cybercriminals rely on appearing trustworthy to their targets. They may even look into their victim’s public accounts to gain information that may seem like they’re genuinely involved in their personal life. 

If an individual is deceived in a confidence fraud, thieves may convince them to disclose private information, send or launder money, or make fraudulent purchases. 

4. Skimming

Illegally accessing and copying card information is only one swipe away. In skimming, criminals capture your debit or credit card data encoded into the magnetic strips at the back of your card and input it onto a blank card for their use.

Skimming can happen when thieves tamper with electronic card readers in payment counters or place recording devices on the automated teller machine (ATM) keypads and card slots. 

5. Low-technological theft

Even low-tech methods of identity theft persist in today’s highly technological world. Criminals may look through your trash bin to look for bank statement bills, utility bills, and receipts of purchases to obtain personal information. They look for your full name, user account number, or social security number. 

Shoulder surfing occurs when criminals obtain your PIN or password by looking over your shoulder when you use an ATM, payment counter, or mobile device. 

An Overview of the Fair Credit Reporting Act

The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) is a federal law in the U.S. enacted to protect information collected and stored by consumer reporting agencies. Tenant screening services, medical information institutions, and credit bureaus must limit access to the information in consumer reports to anyone who doesn’t have a specific purpose registered in the Act. 

Regulation V of the FCRA includes provisions on Identity Theft Red Flags and reviews the regulations that financial and crediting institutions must observe in detecting, responding to, and preventing identity theft in ‘covered accounts.’ Business accounts may also be included in the term ‘covered accounts’ under the FCRA identity theft provisions. 

Below are U.S. federal laws that can further help consumers and businesses protect themselves from the damaging effects of identity theft:

1. Crime Victims’ Rights Act

2. Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act of 2003

3. Fair Credit Billing Act

4. Identity Theft Assumption and Deterrence Act

5. Identity Theft Penalty Enhancement Act

6. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act

6 Things You Need to Do When Your Identity Gets Stolen

If a criminal accesses your private information and takes over your identity to commit fraudulent activities, here are ways to reduce its damage to your reputation, personal relationships, and financial security: 

1. Call the companies where the identity fraud happened

If you notice unfamiliar purchases on your card statements or new accounts registered under your name, immediately contact the company’s fraud department or customer services, where someone used your identity without your consent.

Explain to the staff that someone may have stolen your identity. Upon reporting the fraudulent account under your name, the company may start an investigation to track down the perpetrator. You may ask to close or freeze said account to prevent further damage. 

Keep in mind that closing or freezing suspected fraudulent accounts is primarily free if you provide legal documentation, such as government IDs.

2. File a claim with the Federal Trade Commission

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) compiles valuable information on stolen identity cases. The agency primarily aids criminal prosecutions. FTC partners pursue criminal charges, like the U.S. Attorneys and the U.S. Department of Justice. You may file an identity theft report through their website

In assisting you in the recovery of your stolen identity, you’ll receive a recovery plan based on your initial interviews and pre-filled paperwork, which you may need in disputing fraudulent charges and police reports. 

3. Put your credit report on a security freeze

Under the FCRA law, you have the right to a security freeze on your credit report. This security measure prohibits credit bureaus from releasing any information related to your credit report. A security freeze will cut off all further access to your credit information. 

Even prospective creditors may not have access to your files to prevent consumer credit reporting agencies from approving new loans, credit, and bank accounts in your name without proper authorization. 

4. Request a fraud alert 

A fraud alert is a free security measure from credit bureaus that can make it more challenging for someone to open a new account or request new loans under your reported name for a year. 

The three nationwide credit reporting agencies—TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian—are obligated to contact each other and share information about cases of stolen identity. However, you may report an identity theft case in each agency to ensure they’re on alert for further fraudulent activities as soon as possible.

Get in touch with the three credit reporting agencies with the contact information below:

5. Contact law enforcement

A paper trail supported by legal documentation is important to secure your personal information against further damages. For example, a criminal may use a stolen identity to commit a crime. Exhibiting evidence of a previous identity theft record can help your innocence claim.

Acquire a copy of your police report by providing the following documents: 

  • Copy of your FTC Identity Theft Report
  • Government IDs with a photo 
  • Proof of your current address (utilities or rent bill, mortgage statement, etc.)
  • Evidence your identity has been stolen (bills, collection or IRS notices, etc.)

6. Look into credit monitoring services

Companies that offer credit monitoring services observe patterns in an individual’s credit history to detect suspicious activities or purchases. While some are free, these services are typically available on a subscription-basis scheme. 

The paid services include alerting customers when credit inquiries, new accounts, employment changes, and adjusted public records are made. 

Best Practices to Protect Yourself from Identity Theft

Although no security measure or protocol can fully guarantee the protection of your personal information against identity theft and other cyberattacks, here are some ways to strengthen your defenses:

1. Don’t share your personal information

Never give out personal information to strangers. You can extend the principle of this rule by avoiding account and password sharing, as this can weaken your information’s security against cyberattacks.

Oversharing on social media can give prospective identity thieves more details about your life. Remember to shred documents containing confidential data like receipts, billing statements, and utility bills before throwing them in the bin. 

2. Keep your card information safe

In restaurants, service people may take your card away to register your payment. This protocol may be inevitable, but keep an eye out for unnecessary swipes of your card, as this may show that the card reader is digitally copying your information. 

You can also reduce the risk of identity theft by logging out of unregistered websites that request your card information for making payments and avoiding sharing credit card data through phone calls. 

3. Review your credit reports

By law, you’re entitled to acquire at least one copy of your credit report each year. Carefully Inspect your credit history and look for unauthorized search inquiries, incorrect or edited personal data, and foreign accounts recently opened under your name. Criminals may even make a small purchase from your account to ensure it’s available before making large check-outs. 

4. Be wary of unsolicited telephone calls

Telephone calls provide fewer security measures than online websites. Criminals can get a hold of your information by urging you to disclose them under the guise of winning a prize or an emergency that has occurred to a person related to you. 

A reverse telephone search allows users to match a phone number to its owner’s details online. You can certify if the person calling is a legitimate worker of a legitimate institution. You can do a reverse telephone search with an unknown number through Whitepages’ free reverse phone lookup service. 

5. Check links before clicking

Criminals can get your data with a simple click of a corrupted link. Avoid risks of encountering security threats and bugs by being mindful of the links you’re clicking and the websites you visit. Don’t click on strange links or photos sent by foreign accounts on social media or unlisted phone numbers. 

6. Improve your cybersecurity measures

Social network bugs have threatened the security of online users for years. Your online accounts contain personal and financial information. Keep them secure by regularly changing your passwords. You can also improve your protection against cyberattacks by enabling multi-factor authentication and identity and access management solutions where possible.

Secure Yourself Against Identity Theft

Identity theft doesn’t only risk your financial information. Criminals pursue personal details that they can use against you or somebody more vulnerable. Stolen identities, whether through security breaches or deepfakes, have enabled thieves to be more sophisticated with their crimes.

Individuals and businesses are always plugged into technology and need to implement security measures against cyberattacks. Spare no money on security infrastructures to keep you and your employees safe from identity theft by investing in Q5id’s multi-factor authentication solutions.

Contact us today and get the proper identity and access management solution for your needs.

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