Protect Yourself from Identity Theft: Common Scams Used
Identity theft is a serious issue that can have significant consequences. Fraudsters can steal your personal information to commit fraudulent activities that can harm your credit score. It can be a real nightmare and can take a lot of time and money to sort out.
If these criminals get hold of your sensitive details, such as your name, address, or Social Security Number, they could use it to apply for credit cards, withdraw money from your bank account, or even make illegal purchases.
Here are some of the most common scams that identity thieves use, so you can be aware and take action to protect yourself.
Phishing is a fraudulent practice where scammers try to obtain sensitive information by posing as reputable companies or organizations. This is often carried out through the use of spoofed emails and websites that appear to be genuine and require urgent disclosure of personal information. The consequences of falling for these scams can be severe, and identity theft is among the most serious outcomes.
Phishing emails and text messages often tell stories to trick people into clicking on a link or opening an attachment, according to the FTC. Some common phishing attempts may claim that:
- There are suspicious activity or log-in attempts on your account.
- There’s a problem with your account or payment information.
- You are asked to confirm or update personal information.
- There’s a fake invoice attached.
- You are asked to click on a link to make a payment.
- You’re eligible to sign up for a government refund.
- You’re can get a coupon for free goods or services.
Explore this list of the 20 Most Spoofed Brands.
The term “smishing” refers to a new type of scam that cybercriminals use to deceive individuals through text messages rather than email. It is a social engineering attack that aims to manipulate people’s trust and induce them to give away sensitive information.
Smishing is not a result of any advanced technological exploit; instead, it is a ploy to exploit human vulnerabilities. One common tactic used by cybercriminals is sending text messages that ask for personal information to online accounts. The message often contains a link that supposedly resolves a problem or provides access to a service or prize.
Fraudulent messages may also claim to be from government agencies. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has advised against responding to such messages. Here are some ways to avoid falling victim to smishing scams:
- Don’t reply to texts from anyone claiming to be a certain company or organization. Instead, contact companies or orgs using a known number or website.
- Report spam or scam texts and consider using tools to block unwanted messages and unknown senders.
- Don’t give out personal or financial info or click on links in suspicious texts.
- Don’t reply to the message, even if it says “text STOP.”
- Don’t assume a text is legit just because it looks familiar.
Fake Tech Support Scams
Tech support scams are a pretty common problem. Essentially, scammers will use all sorts of scare tactics to convince you that you need to pay for tech support services to fix problems with your device or software that don’t actually exist. Tech support scammers use various methods to trick victims, such as:
- Pop-up warnings that look like legitimate error messages, urging victims to call a phone number or click a link to download fake antivirus software.
- Unsolicited phone calls where scammers impersonate trustworthy tech companies like Microsoft, Comcast, Norton, and Dell, and claim the victim’s computer is infected or hacked, creating a sense of urgency to pay for a solution.
- Scam websites or ads that direct victims to fake tech support sites, where scammers remotely connect to the victim’s computer and offer an expensive security package to fix a non-existent malware issue.
Unfortunately, it gets even worse – in some cases, they might try to steal your personal or financial information. And if you make the mistake of letting them remotely access your computer, they can install all sorts of nasty stuff, like malware or ransomware. Here are some quick tips to avoid falling victim to tech support scams:
- Never call the phone number or reply to one of these messages. If in doubt, call the organization directly. For example, if you get an email that looks like it came from PayPal, find PayPal’s contact details on their website and contact them through that method, not through the number in the email.
- Ignore pop-up warnings. Don’t click on links or phone numbers in pop-up messages. Instead, contact your security software provider directly.
- Hang up on unsolicited phone calls. If someone calls claiming to be from tech support, just hang up. Don’t rely on caller ID, as scammers can spoof legitimate numbers.
- Seek trusted tech support. Stick to official support from well-known companies, and beware of sponsored ads online.
- Protect personal information. Never share sensitive information like bank accounts or Social Security numbers.
- Keep software up-to-date. Keep your operating system and security software up-to-date to protect against malware.
- Spread the word. Talk to friends and family about how to avoid tech support scams.
Employment scams are a type of scam where con artists post fake job listings or send bogus emails to innocent job seekers. These fraudsters often impersonate legitimate companies or government agencies to gain your trust. Once they pose as a recruiter or employer, they may ask for your personal information, such as your Social Security number or home address, which can be used for identity theft or other illicit activities.
Be cautious of work-from-home jobs that promise quick cash with minimal efforts, such as reshipping products or selling things to people you know. Scammers may also offer opportunities to be your own boss or start your own business. But instead of earning money, you could end up spending money on worthless starter kits, training, or certifications, or even fall for a fake check scam where you’re asked to send back money due to “overpayment” but the check bounces.
- Employment advertisement promises high commissions, flexible hours, and little to no experience required for work completed at home.
- The interview process is conducted via telephone or online, with unclear or no video of your recruiter.
- Referees were not contacted as part of the recruitment process.
- Required to provide copies of personal identification documents, such as driver’s license, passport, and bank account details.
- After submitting documents, there is no further communication from the recruiter and they cannot be contacted.
- Required to make an upfront payment as part of the application or recruitment process, or before commencing employment.
- The job requires receiving money into a personal bank account and then transferring funds to other accounts, with a percentage kept as a commission.
- Business offering employment is based overseas, but looking to expand into other countries.
- Employer encourages recruiting friends or family into similar roles.
Ways to Protect Yourself From Identity Theft
Identity thieves can strike at any time, that’s why it’s important to take the security of your personal data seriously.
Unfortunately, anyone can become a victim of identity theft. Even large companies that you would expect to have serious online security can face these problems. However, most victims are children and older adults. The vulnerability of children and seniors stems from their reliance on others to manage their finances and healthcare, making it easier for malicious actors to obtain their personal information. But, by taking these precautions, you can rest easy knowing your information is secure.
- Password-protect your devices.
- Use a password manager to create unique passwords.
- Watch out for phishing attempts and suspicious links.
- Never give out personal information over the phone.
- Regularly check your credit reports for discrepancies.
- Protect your physical documents by shredding them and limiting paper mail.
- Limit your exposure by carrying fewer credit cards and not carrying your Social Security card with you.
Protect Your Identity Through Better Email Security
Your email account can contain a lot of sensitive information you don’t want to fall into the wrong hands. But don’t worry, there are ways to protect your identity through email security.
Email security measures include two-factor authentication, encryption, spam filters, and malware protection. Two-factor authentication requires users to provide two forms of identification to access their email account, while encryption encodes the data in emails so that only the intended recipient can access it.
Using an authenticator app or hardware key such as a YubiKey is generally considered more secure than using text message as a form of two-factor authentication (2FA). Text message-based 2FA has been shown to be vulnerable to SIM swap attacks, where an attacker can take control of a victim’s phone number and receive their 2FA codes, potentially granting access to sensitive accounts.
Authenticator apps generate 2FA codes locally on your device, which makes them less susceptible to attacks that intercept communication between your phone and the service. Hardware keys like YubiKeys provide even stronger protection by generating unique codes that can only be used once and can’t be intercepted remotely.
Spam filters block emails from suspicious or unknown sources to prevent phishing attacks, and malware protection helps to prevent viruses and other malicious software from infecting email accounts and compromising sensitive data.
Remember, taking proactive steps to secure your email account is an important part of safeguarding your identity.
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With 24/7 support, you can report suspicious emails directly to our expert analysts and get real-time responses. Best of all, Sangu Mail is user-friendly and all the security happens in your inbox. You can use your existing email accounts and clients and we’ll make them safer than ever before.
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