Identity Theft in The Digital Age

Identity theft is a serious crime that goes way back to as early as the 18th century when people forged documents for financial gain and impersonated veterans to claim benefits. As time went on, identity theft evolved but nothing made this crime more widespread than technological advancement.

The tail end of the 20th century saw many people be the victims of credit card scams, fake IDs, and social security number misuse. Unfortunately, it only got worse in the digital age and the scope and scale of identity theft skyrocketed, impacting millions of people globally.

Identity theft comes with financial, legal, emotional, and reputational damage. It’s a serious issue that’s getting more dangerous with technological advancement, which is why we need to address the issue.

The Evolution of Identity Theft

Modern tech inspires modern tricks for scammers and thieves, and the only way you can keep yourself safe is if you stay informed and know all the latest schemes powered by technology.

Deepfake Deception

Deepfakes have been around since 2017, so even though they’re not fresh and new technology, they have become more widespread over the past few years. Fraudsters use this tool to clone someone’s voice and likeness, which makes identity theft easier and more believable than ever.

With deepfakes, scammers can do a lot of harm, but the most common thing they do is create fake IDs that look very authentic and genuine. These forged identification papers can then be used in many different ways, including financial and medical abuse, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

There have also been accounts of deepfake doxing, during which a person’s real identity is used for fabricated images and videos. Depending on how serious the doxing is, it can put innocent individuals at risk of online harassment or even physical harm.

The SIM Swap Scam

In this modern age, smartphones are more than just phones, they’re tools that contain personal information, bank and credit card numbers, important account details, and so much more. These phones have become an extension of us, and scammers can use this to their advantage.

There are a couple of different ways to get into someone’s smartphone, but the most common one identity thieves use is SIM swapping. 

This type of identity theft occurs when a scammer contacts your mobile phone’s carrier, convinces them they’re you, and transfers your phone number to a SIM card in their possession. With this simple move, they have access to every message and call you receive.

This gives scammers the gateway to your financial apps, all kinds of online accounts, and even one-time passwords and verification codes. They also have access to all of your personal details, financial data, and your entire online footprint.

This is more than enough for them to steal your entire identity. The scammers can then take out fraudulent loans in your name, empty out your bank accounts, and cause reputational damage.

Juice Jacking

As we already mentioned, smartphones have become a treasure trove of personal data scammers and identity thieves would love to put their hands on. SIM swapping is a more advanced method and while many people have already fallen victim to it, those numbers fail in comparison to victims of juice jacking.

Imagine this. You’re traveling and find yourself at an airport, or possibly a hotel, and your phone is running out of juice. Luckily, there are many free USB port charging stations all around you. Most people would see this as a convenience, but the truth is that too many of these charging stations have been embedded with malware.

Scammers who are looking to steal personal data off phones often load malware into any and all public USB stations they can get their hands on. As soon as someone hooks up their phone, the corrupted port serves as a gateway to the malicious software.

It doesn’t take long for the malware to export personal data and passwords straight to the scammer without the victim even noticing something is wrong.

Biometrics Hacking

When biometric authentication such as fingerprints and face IDs were introduced, its main purpose was to make our devices safer. And at first, it was serving its purpose extremely well. Not only was it an additional layer of security, but it was also praised for the convenience it brought to its users.

Unfortunately, scammers and hackers have found a way to exploit this technology and get unauthorized access to this personal data through biometrics hacking.

No matter how safe we think our devices are, foolproof security doesn’t exist, not even biometrics data. One of the most common ways scammers get access to biometrics data is through a device called a skimmer. 

They place this device on fingerprint scanner machines, and as soon as someone uses the machine, the skimmer collects the information and then generates a fake fingerprint.

There have been real-life cases when millions of people became victims of this type of hacking, one of the most notorious ones happening in 2015. A group of hackers were behind a serious data breach of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, stealing personal data of more than 21 million people including fingerprint data of 5.6 million.

And since fingerprint scans and facial recognition are unique to everyone and can never be changed like passwords and PINs, if you become a victim of biometrics hacking, it will lead to serious and irreparable damage. 

Bonus: How To Tell You’re a Victim of Identity Theft

Identity theft is a serious scam and there are a few telltale signs that you were probably a victim of this crime. If you notice any of the following, alarm bells should be going off inside your head:

  • Credit card charges and transactions you know that neither you nor any of your authorized cardholders have made.
  • New bank loans and credit cards that were taken out in your name.
  • An unexplained and sudden decline in your credit score.
  • Receiving calls from agencies that deal with debt collecting when you have no known debt in your name.
  • A maxed-out health insurance benefit. 
  • Unfamiliar bills arriving at your address.

Final thoughts

We’d all like to believe that scammers could never get a hold of our personal data and that we’ve done everything to keep our private information private, but that’s not always the case. Identity theft is no joke, and scammers are getting smarter and more creative with this crime. So the best all of us can do is stay on guard.

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