Identity theft is becoming more frequent in our digitalised society, and hackers often use it for financial gain. Here we explain what identity theft involves and what the different types of identity theft can look like.
What does it mean to have your identity stolen?
Identity theft means that there are some malicious actors posing as you. For example, they may have stolen your personal information to set up accounts or purchase things that you did not initiate.
Your identity can be stolen and exploited by, in the "old fashioned" way, a pickpocket stealing your wallet and thus information about you - such as credit card, medical insurance and driving licence. This still happens today, but a newer method to be aware of is identity theft on the internet.
This is where hackers intercept information about you. They may have obtained your information by hacking into your bank, email account or email. In addition, hackers typically use social engineering in phishing emails to get you to click on websites that either install malware, or give the hacker direct access to your device with your personal data on it.
Hackers can also access your data if you have recently suffered a data leak of your personal data. So identity theft is more often seen on the internet, rather than your wallet being stolen and the perpetrator physically using your card.
There are different ways that hackers exploit hacking:
- Malware attack
- Phishing attack
- Ransomware attack
We have posts on all types of attacks, so we'll give you a brief summary here.
The malicious software
Malware is a contraction of malicious software and is a form of malicious software that hackers often use to gain access to your computer. And if hackers gain access to your computer, they also gain access to your personal information, which they need to steal your identity.
Malware infects your computer and is usually done by the hacker sending out phishing emails to many different email addresses. You can look out for various signs that your computer has been installed with the malicious software:
- Your computer slows down
- Data is deleted from your computer
- Unknown programs have been installed
- Your webcam turns itself on
- Your computer is not working optimally and sends you to wrong websites
In addition to phishing emails, hackers can also hack into official websites and alter pop-up messages so users think they are clicking on a legitimate link or message.
Phishing: the fish that bites the hook
Phishing is the most common way hackers lure people into their trap; they pretend to be legitimate people so that you trust them and click on the emails and links they send you.
Hackers often use social engineering as a method to convince people. You can recognise social engineering by looking for the following characteristics:
- Social acceptance
- Time pressure
- Positive evaluation
You can read more about social engineering in our seperate post. There we also give you some examples of what phishing can look like, so you know what to look out for.
Ransomware: ransom for your information
Ransomware is, in short, a hacking method where the hacker takes your information hostage and then demands a ransom for you to get your information back. However, it is often companies that get hit by ransomware attacks as they have information on several people where the hacker can get paid more money if the company agrees to the deal.
It has become more common for hacker groups to collaborate to get ransom payments, thus taking even more information hostage.
There are several examples of known types of ransomware, which we highlight in our seperate post.
The different types of identity theft
As explained, the most common type of identity theft is related to the perpetrator wanting a financial gain. They can achieve this by stealing credit card details, banking information and social security numbers to access the bank. However, security has been increased for online banking logins, with multifactor authentication making it harder to hack into bank accounts.
In some severe cases, hackers can also use your identity to commit criminal acts. It's not a frequent form of identity theft, but some ting you can watch out for is if you receive arrest warrants, summonses to court or similar.
Another type of identity theft is if hackers want to gain medical benefits by impersonating you. Here, the thief obtains medicines or the like that were otherwise written on you and your personal health. Again, this type of identity theft is not common in Denmark, but it is still something to be aware of.
The next type of identity theft and misuse is synthetic theft, where the thief/hacker creates a false identity with the information they have stolen from you. Here, it is often social security numbers that are exploited to create the fake identity. The false identity can then be used to open new bank accounts, take out loans, etc. - it is therefore linked to the financial gain for the hacker.
Precautions you can take in identity theft
There are some precautions you can take to reduce the risk of identity theft.
You can make a backup of your most important documents on an external drive, so that if, for example, you were to suffer a ransomware attack, you would have the documents held hostage by the hacker. That way, you're sure not to lose any documents or money.
You should always be careful who you share personal information with. A rule of thumb is that you should only share with people you know and trust - and not people who might pose as an authority or something else. This is where you can be aware of social engineering.
You can protect your data with an extra layer of security. Here you can install security software, including password managers that keep safe track of your codes for various websites.
Avoid using public networks as they are not as secure as private ones - here hackers can easily access your data and infiltrate your devices.
In addition, you can also keep an eye on your bank transfers and whether there are any suspicious circumstances you should be aware of. Additionally, if you find that accounts are being set up under your name, but you didn't set them up yourself, you've most likely also been the victim of identity theft.
We encourage you to be aware and not share your personal information with others unless you know for a fact that they are legitimate and will not exploit the information shared.
Caroline is a copywriter here at Moxso beside her education. She is doing her Master's in English and specializes in translation and the psychology of language. Both fields deal with communication between people and how to create a common understanding - these elements are incorporated into the copywriting work she does here at Moxso.