Identity Thieves Are Continuously Evolving

It’s safe to say most adults are familiar with identity theft. But despite heightened public awareness, this insidious practice remains a popular and ever-evolving method of separating innocent people from their hard-earned money. The reason is simple: scammers are always devising new ways to steal.

Scammers are constantly searching for personal information such as your bank account data, date of birth, home address, and most importantly, your social security number, using them to impersonate you, steal your money, or pay for goods and services in your name.

What makes Identity Theft so lucrative and unfortunately dangerous is just how many forms it takes. The same person who knows not to give out personal information when receiving a suspicious phone call, email, or text may not be aware that scammers often resort to impersonating government agencies, or physical means like stealing purses, wallets, and mail. This makes the trap of Identity Theft an easy one to fall into, and a very important one to educate yourself about. 

Know The Methods Identity Thieves Use

To reach the nefarious end-goal of stealing your personal information, there’s virtually no method scammers won’t try. However, the first step to foiling their schemes is knowing how scammers separate people from their personal information in the first place. When it comes to stealing personal information, here are just some of the many methods scammers use:

  • Stealing your purse or wallet to obtain your I.D. or Credit Cards.
  • Stealing your mail or packages off your porch.
  • Hacking the databases of banks, retailers, and other businesses that store client information.
  • Impersonating utility companies (such as plumbers and electricians), or banks to acquire your identifying information.
  • Texts and emails that attempt to trick people through fake inquiries, giveaways, or other means as a front to gain personal information. This practice is known as “phishing”.
  • Claiming to belong to government agencies like the IRS to solicit personal or financial information.
  • Simply watching you type in sensitive information at a bank terminal, or even eavesdropping on your phone conversation.

8 Ways Identity Thieves Can Use Your Information

It’s common knowledge that scammers will use stolen personal information for monetary gain, but it’s important to understand that your identity is attached to so much more than just your bank account. 

The credit reporting agency, Equifax, has compiled a list of eight different types of identity theft scams, outlining eight different ways scammers can use stolen personal info, and how to avoid them. In order to stay better informed about how dangerous and varying Identity Theft can be, here’s a brief summary of each type. 

1. Financial Identity Theft: Through various means, scammers will gain your personal information, and use it for their own financial gain. Commonly scammers will steal your credit card or bank account numbers to either take your money or make purchases in your name. 

2. Tax Identity Theft: This occurs when a scammer uses your own personal information, such as your social security number, to file a tax return and fraudulently claim your tax refund. To learn more about Tax Identity Theft visit the IRS website.

3. Medical Identity Theft: Despite heighten HIPPA regulations, some scammers are able to use your personal information to receive health/medical care in your name, leaving you or your insurance company to pay for it. 

4. Employment Identity Theft: Scammers have been known to fraudulently apply for a job or pass a background check using someone else’s stolen personal information to do so. 

5. Child Identity Theft: Considering most children under 16 don’t have credit reports, it’s possible for a scammer to actually open credit accounts in their name undetected. 

6. Estate Identity Theft: Sometimes fraudsters will steal the identity/personal info of a deceased person, stealing their money or opening posthumous accounts in their name. 

7. Criminal Identity Theft: Make no mistake, all identity theft is criminal, but sometimes scammers who have been arrested will fraudulently provide someone else’s personal information to the authorities. This kind of theft is difficult to detect, but they leave the victim stuck with the legal consequences of the scammer. 

8. Synthetic Identity Theft: To make their deception harder to detect, scammers will combine the stolen information of multiple individuals to commit their fraudulent acts, such as using one person’s social security number in conjunction with the name of another person. 

Avoid Becoming a Victim:

With the staggering array of methods Identity Theft Scammers employ, it can seem like no one is truly safe from becoming a scammer’s next victim. However, for every scam identity thieves have come up with, there are steps you can take to stop potential scams before they’re allowed to occur. When it comes to avoiding identity theft scams, the best defense is knowing how to protect your information from being stolen in the first place, and there are many simple but effective ways to do that:

  • Set up online access to your bank and credit card accounts, that way it is much easier and faster to monitor your activity.
  • Consider switching to paperless billing services, that way you get less sensitive information sent through your mail.
  • File your tax returns as soon as possible, otherwise scammers could beat you to them.
  • It’s always good practice to refrain from answering unfamiliar phone calls and suspicious-looking emails.
  • Never share your phone number, social security number, bank info, or any other sensitive personal information online.
  • Store your social security card in a safe place, avoid carrying it around with you in your wallet.
  • Carefully review your credit card and bank statements to watch out for suspicious activity, such as payments you don’t recognize.
  • Make sure to collect your mail every day, and to place a hold on it when you are away from home for more than a day.
  • Make sure your passwords are difficult to guess. A good way to do this is by avoiding personal info like your last name or birthdate. It may be harder for you to recall them, but the added security is really worth the momentary inconvenience.
  • Remember, most banks, government agencies like the IRS, and other institutions will never initiate contact with you via text or email. If they do call, they will never threaten you with potential lawsuits or arrests.

Knowledge is Your Best Defense

If you want to understand and stay informed of the ever-evolving tactics, schemes, and language that scammers use to avoid falling victim to a future scam, DART, Deception Awareness and Resilience Training is here for you. The DART Collective is an organization of researchers, security experts, game designers, and community-based organizations who have combined their talents, knowledge, and abilities, to develop a resource platform, empowering older adults to protect themselves from scams. For more information on Identity Theft and other scams, refer to our resources page.

Empowering Yourself Can Be Fun

DART offers many strategies to help people protect themselves from the criminal efforts of scammers, but one that’s as useful as it is fun and engaging is our mobile game; DeepCover. By immersing players in a world of espionage puzzles, DeepCover familiarizes players with the language and scenarios common amongst scammers and their wide array of schemes, making the game a fun way to encourage critical thinking while promoting greater scam-awareness literacy. DeepCover’s Play to Protect energy equips people with the knowledge they need to stay one step ahead of those who wish to take advantage of them for monetary gain in a way that makes learning exciting and fun. 

Whether you are looking to educate yourself or would like to learn about opportunities to volunteer or partner in DART’s mission we would love to hear from you, contact us.

Let’s Learn More Together

By understanding the manipulative tactics employed by scammers, we can work together towards creating a safer online environment for older adults seeking companionship and connection. Through awareness, education, and support, we can empower our older generation to navigate the digital dating world with caution and resilience. There is always strength in numbers and every action matters in this fight to protect each other from scammers.

Whether you are looking to educate yourself or would like to learn about opportunities to volunteer or partner in DART’s mission contact us.