5 Unusual Ways Stolen Identities Can be Used Online
The need to verify identity in the digital space has arisen rapidly in the past few years. Here’s a scenario that will make it clear:
Imagine this you’re sitting at home relaxing and watching TV, suddenly there is a knock on the door and you ask who it is and you hear a voice that says, “Open up, this is the FBI”. Well, that would be something that would get your heartbeat racing. When you open the door to let them in and they speak to you and say that you are involved in suspicious activities related to a terrorist organisation. Now, that’s something to give you a heart attack especially if you have no idea what they are talking about. When you tell them exactly that, they show you your social media page. You look at it, see its your picture and your name, but you don’t recognise the cover picture or the multitude of posts that show your support for a popular terrorist group. That’s when you realise that your identity has been stolen and used to create this fake social media profile.
The case above is based on a true story that was a revenge scenario but still it is a crime. Although, social media sites are working towards KYC verification processes it still needs a lot of improvement before they can put an effective stop to such incidences.
As we proceed in this article we will look at five unusual ways stolen identities can be used online. This will make the case for the need to verify identity online. Some of the cases mentioned below have actually happened.
Free Airline Rides
Imagine this you have been accumulating bonus miles with your favourite airliner and then you see after a while that your miles have been utilised and that you have taken flights and upgrades that you never knew about. You check through the details and find out the address and other account details are changed. Well, guess what your identity has been stolen and the thief has changed the email to a fake one. One would think that there would be an added layer of security, especially when you are about to make changes to your profile; like a system that would verify identity online.
Free Doctor Checkup
The Internet is a powerful medium where more and more businesses and service providers are turning to cater their customers and clients. For example, did you know you can get an online consultation with a medical doctor? Well, that is the case, a person started getting bills on his credit card for doctor consultations. I mean this is something you would remember, no? Somebody had impersonated him and using his credit card had had consultations with an online doctor. Eventually the impersonator was caught but the idea in itself was pretty new.
Getting Away with a Crime
Imagine you knew a secret about someone. You know that they would pay for something like that to go away. Yes, we’re talking about blackmail. There have been reported cases where a stolen identity was used to extort money. A fake bank account based on the victim’s identity was created and extorted money was transferred and used via cards made on the name of the stolen identity. If identity theft wasn’t a crime on its own they went on to go for extortion and blackmail as well. The awful part is, this was done online without the presence of any individual.
Profiting on Your Taxes
One person’s loss is another person’s gain. In this case loss of identity critical information such as your social security number to a stranger. This type although unusual is very much common. People use the stolen identity of a person including their social security number and use it to request a tax return claiming a fraudulent refund. Usually, if the IRS receives the fraudulent return before you file, the IRS will send your refund check to the first person in this case the identity thief. It is the thief who profits from the claim and the victim looses out on money. All this can be easily countered if there is a mechanism to verify identity easily.
Identity thieves take advantage of people with good credit score to secure free electricity. Using a fake billing address, the stolen identity and financial details of the victim they apply online for a change of electricity service provider. As is with most companies they see the score and start supplying the electricity. The victim never realises that their information has been compromised until the collectors come knocking by that time the thief has already moved on to another victim. If only these online utility service providers would verify identity online.
How you can Verify Identity to Protect Yourself
Having mentioned some of the unusual ways that identity thieves use stolen identities we need to discuss upon the importance of keeping one’s information safe and secure:
As a general rule of thumb, do not give away information over websites unless you know them to be trustworthy and secure. Also, be aware of individuals representing government agencies and companies asking for your social security number over the phone. Do not give sensitive information over the phone.
Review your credit report at least quarterly.
Keep your Social Security number private.
If your information has been compromised, contact your bank, the companies in concern as well as the collection agencies and credit score companies. Contact your lawyer for further legal advice.
Inquire About Security Measures
Ask companies that store your personal and sensitive information regarding what security measures they have placed to prevent online identity theft and impersonation. Get two-step verification wherever there is an option. Financial institutions as well as utility bill providers that have online account opening services have the option of opting for third-party ID verifiers. Such companies check for forgeries through live documentation checking and matching via their KYC verification process.