"Someone stole my data and opened a bank account in my name" is one of today's most common (and horrifying) digital identity theft stories. And it is just the beginning of a nightmarish journey to recover from the damage and hopefully minimize the long-term consequences, such as a bad credit score.
Victims of identity theft learn too late that their personal info has been used for bank fraud – when they receive notifications for payments for loans they didn't take, confirmations of money transfers they didn't make, or have their credit score checked for a loan.
When you are planning to buy a house or a car, you'll put in place all kinds of financial strategies to increase your credit score so you can qualify for the loan. Imagine what it’s like to discover that all your efforts and sacrifices were in vain.
Digital identity theft can ruin your credit score. Keep reading so you can learn how to protect yourself from it.
A good credit score is typically considered anything above 650. This means you have a history of making payments on time and a low debt-to-income ratio. This can help you qualify for loans with low-interest rates, which save you money over time.
Identity theft is the fraudulent acquisition and use of your personally identifiable information: name, address, date of birth, phone number, Social Security number (SSN), online passwords and credentials, credit card numbers, and other financial information.
Breaches including sensitive PII: 80%
Top 2021 data exposed:
Name: 96% (97% in 2020)
Date of Birth: 60% (49% in 2020)
Medical History: 48% (22% in 2020)
Home Address: 39% (54% in 2020)
Full SSN: 33% (41% in 2020) - via Sontiq
The bad news is that fraudsters can get much of this data with little or no effort at all. For example, if your email and password, full name, address, and credit card number are saved with an e-commerce website and the merchant suffers from a breach, your data is leaked on the internet or for sale on the Web.
A fraudster can use this information to shop with your card, empty your bank account, open new accounts in your name, and make illegal transactions, leaving you with a hefty bill.
U.S.: AN IDENTITY IS STOLEN EVERY 30 SECONDS
Here are some key facts, not to scare you but to put you on guard:
The frequency and velocity of today's data breaches have made us all forever vulnerable to cybercriminals and fraudsters.
Whenever someone finds your personal information, you run the risk of getting ripped off.
A thief could:
Javelin Strategy reports that 1 in 3 data breach victims later fell victim to identity theft.
28% of victims have to borrow money from family or friends
83% of victims were unable to rent an apartment or find housing
33% of victims did not have enough money to buy food or pay for utilities
54% of victims felt violated due to misuse of their identity
67% of victims could not pay their bills
(SOURCE | ITRC, Consumer Aftermath Report, 2021)
The first step in being safe online is knowing if you are at risk. Here are some examples to help you with that:
The more "yes" answers you have, the more vulnerable you are in case of a health data breach.
What you can you do to protect your credit score
There's not much you can do about breaches. Instead, you can regain control of your personal information by limiting the amount you provide to companies and monitoring it. Sticking to good security practices is free, and it pays off:
If money has been taken from your bank account, you get bank letters, bills or letters from debt collectors that you know nothing about, there are certain steps you should take:
All fraud and scams should be reported, even if you are embarrassed or feel the amount of money is too small to worry about. While you might not be able to get your money back, you can help stop the con artist from scamming other people.
How can Bitdefender Identity Theft Protection help you?
Bitdefender Identity Theft Protection is our way of helping you fight identity theft and the losses and damages it inflicts.
We combined advanced detection technology, real-time alerts, 24/7 US-based support, and identity recovery in a unique solution. It monitors your SSN, email address and phone numbers in places where they should not be listed (including the Dark Web) and alerts you to changes in your address, court records in your name, and payday loans taken out in your name.
Don't wait until it is too late. Start protecting your digital identity today!