When the U.S. Director of National Intelligence called cybercrime “the number one national security threat” facing Americans, it should have been a wake-up call. When we learned that a data breach affecting one of the three major credit bureaus compromised the personal data of over 143 million people, a lot of us took notice.
But incredibly, very few average Americans are actively taking steps to protect themselves from identity theft. As technology continues to improve and our lives become ever more automated and connected, it’s only a matter of time before apathy makes us targets. And if you do become a victim of identity theft, you can expect to face years of difficult credit repair, frustration, and even criminal records.
So, what sort of identity theft scams are most popular right now? How can you protect yourself from these, and what’s coming next?
The most popular ID theft scams being used right now
It’s far too much for this article to list all of the ongoing scams identity thieves are using and describe all their various methods in detail. For an up-to-date accounting of known identity theft scams, you can always visit the Identity Theft Resource Center online.
However, there are some tried-and-true types of scams that are incredibly popular. And, if a scam is popular or has been around for a long time, it’s because it works. Here are a few of those types of scams below.
Synthetic ID theft
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) estimates that as much as 85 percent of all identity fraud involves “synthetic” or fictional IDs. In this type of identity theft, the thief will use real stolen details (like a social security number and birthday) along with real details from another individual or details they’ve created, to make a brand new person. This new identity can then take many actions, such as applying for loans or credit cards, without raising as much suspicion or alerting authorities as quickly, due to the mixture of data being used.
The best way to catch synthetic ID theft is to monitor your credit report closely. If you see anything out-of-the-ordinary, such as addresses you’ve never lived at or jobs you’ve never had, it’s possible you’re a victim of synthetic ID theft.